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 4 – 10, 2013
MEUSA Summary • News Source FLORIDA & TEXAS • On 5 November 2013, the FL Army National Guard began issuing full benefits to same-gender couples by using only federal facilities to process benefit applications. • MEUSA Summary • News Source CALIFORNIA • On 4 November 2013, in Michael Dragovich v. U.S. Treasury, U.S. IRS and CalPERS,the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated part of an earlier decision, and sent the case back to U.S. district court to reconsider recent legal changes affecting same-gender domestic couples who: live out of CA, can’t marry because of impairment, can’t marry because one partner died, delay marriage, don’t marry, or who want remedies because they were denied marriage in the past. • MEUSA Summary • News Source HAWAII • On 7 November 2013, in McDermott v. Abercrombie, an Oahu, HI circuit judge refused to stop the HI legislature from passing a same-gender civil marriage bill, and told Republican state Representative Bob McDermott that he could return to court once the legislation is passed to pursue his case. • 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 from letting his gay partner stay overnight when John’s son is visiting. • MEUSA Summary • News Source FLORIDA • On 7 November 2013, in D.M.T. v. T.M.H., the FL Supreme Court ruled that a woman who donated an egg to her lesbian partner now has parental rights regarding the 8-year old child, including custody and visitation. • MEUSA Summary • News Source IDAHO • On 7 November 2013, in Sue Latta, et al. v. ID Governor Butch Otter, four lesbian couples, represented by National Center for Lesbian Rights and Boise, ID attorneys Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the 2006 state constitutional amendment and multiple Idaho laws which ban same-gender civil marriage and civil union. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW MEXICO • On 8 November 2013, in Elane Photography v. Vanessa Willock, a photographer asked the U.S. Supreme Court: (1) to reverse prior decisions (NM Civil Rights Commission, NM district court, NM appeals court, NM Supreme Court) that fined her for violating the NM Human Rights Act and refusing to photograph a lesbian wedding, and (2) to approve commercial discrimination against same-gender couples as a religious practice. Equality opponents cite this case more than any other case when arguing that marriage equality reduces religious freedom. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source ILLINOIS • On 4 November 2013, 300 clergy members and faith leaders wrote to IL House members and urged passage of the same-gender civil marriage bill. • MEUSA Summary • News Source SOUTH CAROLINA • On 3 November 2013, Winthrop University surveyed 887 SC adults on same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 52% oppose it, 39% support it, 6% are unsure, and 3 refuse to answer. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ILLINOIS • On 5 November 2013, the IL House approved the equal marriage bill, the Senate concurred, the Governor said he will sign it on 20 November 2013, which would allow marriages to start on 1 June 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source HAWAII • On 5 November 2013, a HI state House committee finished hearing testimonty from over 5,184 citizens, and voted to advance the equal marriage bill for a full House vote. On 8 November 2013, the HI House of Representatives passed the equal marriage bill, 30-to-19. The Senate’s approval of changes made in the House is expected in a 21-to-4 vote on 12 November, followed by the governor’s promised signature, and the start of same-gender civil marriages on 2 December 2013. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source ARKANSAS • On 7 November 2013, the AR attorney general approved the Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equaliy ballot measure to repeal the existing 2004 ban on same-gender civil marriage, and also to legalize such unions, via the 2016 ballot. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
Send questions and comments to: NFlaherty@MarriageEquality.org.