And then there were three.
Just a few weeks ago, there were five states either without marriage equality or without an active lawsuit for equal marriage rights. But the pace of change continues to accelerate with the filing of a new case for equality in Georgia, and the announcement that South Dakota will be next.
That will leave only three states—Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota—without either marriage equality or marriage lawsuits for the time being. Yet even Alaska’s Supreme Court just issued a unanimous ruling in favor of equal treatment for same-sex couples under Alaskan tax law. In its decision, the Court articulated that “[m]any same-sex couples are … just as truly closely relat[ed] and closely connected as any married couple, in … providing the same level of love, commitment, and mutual economic and emotional support … and would … get married if they were not prohibited by law from doing so.”
You could almost hear former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin exclaiming, “I can see equality from my backyard!”
Equality is also in the backyard of the couples who are stepping forward to challenge South Dakota’s marriage ban. They are marrying in nearby marriage equality states—Minnesota (where the Mayor of Minneapolis is performing one of their weddings) and Iowa (which recently celebrated 5 years of marriage equality since the Iowa Supreme Court’s historic ruling in 2009)—and then challenging South Dakota’s refusal to recognize their marriages.
Ten years ago, during San Francisco’s Winter of Love that brought marriage licenses to over 4,000 same-sex couples in City Hall, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist famously accused San Francisco of igniting a “wildfire” that was “likely to spread through all 50 states.” With equality or active lawsuits in 47 states, Bill Frist’s prediction is coming to pass today. Even deep in the heart of Texas, equality is advancing in unexpected ways as another judge just ruled that a lesbian couple’s divorce case could proceed because the Texas ban on recognizing such unions was unconstitutional. And Bill Frist may have known best when he said, “Recent court rulings have created a legal domino effect.”
It’s interesting to read these words today knowing that the tide has turned. When Mike Huckabee recently addressed the topic of whether he was on the “wrong side of history,” he said, “I’m not against anybody; I’m really not. I’m not a hater. I’m not homophobic. I honestly don’t care what people do personally in their individual lives.” We’ll let you decide whether he doth protest too much. While Gavin Newsom’s comment “whether you like it or not” may not have been well-timed, he did point out a conundrum for those who are against the freedom to marry: seeing historic change happening before their eyes, they have a choice to rage against it, or to embrace our common humanity. We know which side we’d rather be on.
In the meantime, the countdown to equality nationwide continues.
By MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney and MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis
This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, May 1, 2014: http://sfbaytimes.com/countdown-to-equality/
Policy & Legal UpdatesNovember 18 – 24, 2013
MEUSA Summary • News Source TENNESSEE • On 19 November 2013, in Valeria Tanco, et al. v. TN Governor William Haslam et al.,National Center for Lesbian Rights attorneys representing 4 legally married, same-gender couples asked a federal court for immediate protection of their families while their lawsuit challenging the TN marriage ban proceeds. • MEUSA Summary • News Source HAWAII • On 15 November 2013, in McDermott v. Abercrombie, a state judge denied Republican state Representative Bob McDermott's request for a Temporary Restraining Order, allowed same-gender civil marriages to start on 2 December 2013, and did not rule on the underlying case about the meaning of a 15-year old, marriage-related constitutional amendment, which is proceeding. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ARKANSAS • On 7 November 2013, in John Moix v. Libby Moix, the AR Supreme Court considered reversing a county judge’s restriction barring John Moix, represented by ACLU Arkansas, from letting his gay partner stay overnight when John’s son is visiting. On 21 November 2013, the AR Supreme Court ruled in favor of John Moix, and halted the statewide policy of always banning child visitation with any parent who lives with an unmarried partner, regardless of individual circumstances. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TEXAS • On 22 November 2013, Army National Guard Bureau General Frank Grass, under orders from Secretary of Defene Chuck Hagel, met with state generals and notified them that all service members and spouses must receive 100% of the federally funded ID cards and federally funded benefits that they have earned, regardless of any state-level bans on same-gender civil marriage. • MEUSA Summary • News Source PENNSYLVANIA • On 22 November 2013, in Deb & Susan Whitewood v. PA Governor Tom Corbett et al., a federal lawsuit by 23 people challenging the 1996 PA law that bans same-gender marriage for residents, and that ignores out-of-state same-gender marriages, the judge rejected a request to delay the case, and set a trial date of 9 June 2014, but the former state Supreme Court justice defending the state said he is appealing the district court’s refusal to dismiss the case to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. • MEUSA Summary • News Source WEST VIRGINIA • On 22 November 2013, in Casie Jo McGee, et al. v. Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole, et al., a federal lawsuit for three couples challenging the state law that bans marriage equality, the WV Attorney General announced that he will defend the WV ban on same-gender civil marriage. • MEUSA Summary • News Source FLORIDA • On 22 November 2013, in John Becker v. University of Central Florida, FL hired former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Wells to fight the release of over 50,000 public records related to the publication of a widely discredited, anti-LGBT parenting study. Also, Judge Donald Grincewicz who had handled the case since its start in spring 2013, inexplicably recused himself from further involvement, and an appellate court granted a stay in the case until a replacement judge is appointed. The study is cited more often than any other by anti-LGBT groups worldwide, and the author is scheduled to testify in February that children of same-gender parents are less successful than children of mixed-gender parents inApril DeBoer & Jayne Rowse v. MI Governor Rick Snyder, et al. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source ILLINOIS • On 20 November 2013, in Chicago, IL, at a desk once used by President Abraham Lincoln, Governor Quinn signed a bill that upgrades the civil union law to a full marriage equality law, while at a cathedral in Springfield, IL, Bishop Thomas Paprocki condemned equality, called same-gender marriage a grave, demonic, evil sin, and publicly performed an official Roman Catholic Exorcism (2004 Latin Edition) to cast Satan out of Illinois. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TEXAS • On 20 November 2013, Houston, TX began issuing life/health insurance to legally married same-gender spouses of municipal employees, per the city attorney’s legal opinion that it is unconstitutional to deny equal protection under the law. • MEUSA Summary • News Source GEORGIA • On 4 August 2013, Public Policy Polling surveyed 520 Georgia voters on same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 32% support it, 60% oppose it, and 9% are unsure. Separately, 28% of voters support full marriage, 29% support civil unions only, 39% oppose all legal recognition, and 3% are unsure. • MEUSA Summary • News Source GEORGIA • On 23 September 2013, Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper surveyed 801 Georgia adults about same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 48% favor it, 43% oppose it, and 9% don’t know or do not answer. • MEUSA Summary • News Source KENTUCKY • On 21 November 2013, Lexington, KY joined Berea, Louisville, and Covington when the Urban County Council voted unanimously to offer domestic partner benefits to city employees. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source OREGON • On 19 November 2013, Nike created the Nike Equality Political Action Committee, a foundation that raises funds to help Oregon United For Marriage upgrade civil unions to full equality at the ballot box in November 2014. The company and its executives already donated $280,000. • MEUSA Summary • News Source OREGON • On 21 November 2013, two anti-LGBT organizations (Friends of Religious Freedom, Oregon Family Council) filed a ballot measure to legalize discrimination against same-gender couples seeking commercial wedding services whenever the discriminators use religion as their excuse. If the wording is approved by state officials, the sponsors would have to gather 87,213 valid signatures to get the measure on the November 2014 ballot. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
Send questions and comments to: NFlaherty@MarriageEquality.org.