Nel's New Day

June 4, 2014

Marriage Equality throughout the United States

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:21 PM
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Oregon, my own state, is keeping its status as one of the 19 states legalizing marriage equality, according to a decision delivered today by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. After a U.S. district judge ruled in favor of removing the state constitutional ban, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) appealed to both the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the Kennedy refused to give NOM any standing in the case. Since Judge Michael McShane issued his ruling on May 19, hundreds of same-sex couples have married in Oregon.

NOM’s case opposing McShane’s ruling is on behalf of three Oregonians: a county clerk, a wedding provider, and a person who voted to ban marriage equality in 2004. All the individuals, who refused to give their names, would not publicly explain how they would be harmed by legal same-sex marriage in the state. State officials are fighting NOM’s appeal in the circuit court.

The issue of marriage equality throughout the nation has continued to be in great flux in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court made its decision allowing legally-married same-sex couples federal rights. At least 13 consecutive U.S. District Court rulings have overturned state same-sex marriage bans, and at least five federal appeals courts are dealing with ten nationwide marriage equality cases.

Republicans are even backing off on their rejection of marriage equality. In Pennsylvania, the nineteenth state in which a judge overthrew the ban on marriage equality, Gov. Tom Corbett said that he wouldn’t oppose the ruling. Fifty-six percent of the voters agree with him. “We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage,”– U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III said in his decision to strike down the state’s marriage equality ban.

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker has said that he doesn’t know if the ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution as a lawsuit goes to the federal court about the state’s amendment.

Ultra-conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has said that legal gay marriage is almost certain to become a reality throughout the United States.

Maggie Gallagher, NOM leader, predicts that all 50 states will have legalized marriage equality within 18 months.

As of today, 19 states permit same-sex marriages, and 30 states have pending lawsuits to overturn the states’ bans. North Dakota plans to have a similar lawsuit within the next few weeks. Federal judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, and Arkansas have rejected marriage equality bans. In Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, judges have ordered the states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

marriage_map_insert The Idaho governor wants the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review his appeal to speed up the process. That ruling would decide the level of scrutiny from the lowest, rational basis, to the most rigorous, heightened scrutiny. That court is also hearing appeals from Nevada and Oregon.

Courts have scheduled dates to hear cases from Texas, Nevada, Michigan and Idaho within the next few months. Briefings are due in Texas in early July, and oral arguments in Michigan are in early August. After a judge upheld a marriage-equality ban in Nevada, an appeals court ruled in a different case with a decision that changes how courts examine anti-LGBT laws. That ruling gives a good chance to overturning the ban after oral arguments are held in September.

In one of Florida’s lawsuits, Attorney General Pam Bondi is arguing that allowing LGBT people to marry will decrease the number of non-LGBT families. She doesn’t explain how.

An Arkansas ruling may be the most confusing of the year. A county circuit judge ruled for marriage equality in early May, and clerks in five counties issued licenses. The state Supreme Court didn’t halt the licensing, but a state law threatened fines to clerks issuing marriage license to same-sex couples. The judge barred enforcement of all laws in the state against same-sex marriages and refused to stay his decision pending appeal. At that point, the state court closed down same-sex marriages after over 450 couples had taken advantage of the week following the judge’s ruling.  The most bizarre marriage-equality lawsuit is in North Carolina, the first state in the nation to criminalize clergy for expressing their religious faith. One provision of Amendment 1, passed in 2012, is to fine ministers and put them in jail if they married anyone without a legal state marriage license. The law is so vague that even blessing a marriage could be considered a criminal act. The United Church of Christ (UCC) church, founded in North Carolina in 1748 and with over 150 congregations in the state, initiated a lawsuit and have been joined by Unitarians, Lutherans, Baptists, and a group of American rabbis.

The new register of deeds in Orange County (NC) plans to sign same-sex marriage licenses although the state has a ban against marriage equality. In doing so, Mark Chilton joins Drew Reisinger, register of deeds in Duncombe County (NC), one of the first officials in the South to sign licenses for same-sex couples.

Alaska may not be marrying same-sex couples, but the state’s Supreme Court ruled that they get the same special property tax exemptions given to senior citizens and disabled veterans who live with their spouses in their homes. Previously, the state allowed same-sex couples an exemption for only half the value of their homes because it does not recognize same-sex marriage.

At this time, 44 percent of people in the United States live in a jurisdiction that recognizes marriage equality. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 59 percent of the voters in the United States accept same-sex marriage. Yet in 29 states and Puerto Rico, at least 70 court cases are challenging discriminatory marriage bans in the country; 44 of these are in federal courts, and 27 are pending in 29 state courts. Not one state marriage ban has survived a court challenge in the last year. Of the ten federal district judges striking down marriage bans in that time, seven were appointed by Democrats, and three by Republicans. Five federal appeals courts are presiding over ten marriage cases.

Samesex_marriage_in_USA.state law

  • Black – Same-sex marriage allowed
  • Dark blue –  Domestic partnerships or civil unions granting privileges similar to marriage for same-sex domestic partners
  • Light blue – Limited/enumerated privileges granted by state
  • Tan –  Judicial ruling against a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and similar unions stayed pending appeal
  • Yellow – Judicial ruling against a ban on recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages stayed pending appeal
  • Pink – Statute bans same-sex marriage
  • Red – Constitution and statute ban same-sex marriage
  • Magenta – Constitution and statute ban same-sex marriage and similar same-sex unions  The rulings of rabidly anti-LGBT Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia are increasingly appearing in decisions recognizing marriage equality. U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale used his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark case that struck down an anti-sodomy law,to overturn Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban. In 2003, Scalia wrote that “‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples.” Federal judges in Utah, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan also cited Scalia’s Lawrence and Windsor v. United States dissents.

Oregon has more good news. A proposed measure to allow business owners to deny same-sex couples services for their weddings has been withdrawn.

While lesbians and gays rejoice over the number of states recognizing marriage equality, Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation to make the state one of a few to extend anti-discrimination laws for employment and housing to transgender people. Conservative opponents have failed to obtain enough signatures for a fall referendum vote. In Pennsylvania, Corbett said that he would not oppose legislation to stop LGBT discrimination in housing and employment.

All this good news is reported in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, so proclaimed by President Barack Obama, the sixth time he has done so during his presidency.


  1. Was it really just 20-odd years ago that these NOM chacacters were stomping us gays? Their defeat is dizzyingly gratifying.


    Comment by Lee Lynch — June 4, 2014 @ 11:23 PM | Reply

  2. Reblogged this on Civil Rights Advocacy and commented:
    Thank you Nel for a great summary of the current status on marriage equality in the US. Twenty states recognizing same-sex marriages. And the remaining thirty states with pending lawsuits. As you quote the misnamed National Organization for Marriage (NOM), all 50 states are likely to recognize same-sex marriages by the beginning of 2016.


    Comment by civilrightsactivist — June 4, 2014 @ 9:38 PM | Reply

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