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 UpdatesOctober 14 – 20, 2013
- On 18 October 2013, the NJ Supreme Court decided to start same-gender civil marriages on 21 October 2013, so MEUSA updated its National Marriage Map to reflect that 33% of Americans live in 15 states with full, state-level equality (CA, CT, DC, DE, IA, MA, MD, ME, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA), and 17% live in cities, counties, or states with partial equality (mainly CO, HI, IL, NM, NV, OR, WI), but 50% live in 29 states that still ban all types of unions except one-man-one-woman couples. • Map
On 11 October 2013, Pew Research Center surveyed earlier polls, and reported that from 2001 to 2013, support for same-gender civil marriage grew from 35% to 50%, and opposition declined from 57% to 43%. Opposition is strongest among evangelical Protestants, Republicans, and political conservatives, but even in those groups is rising, as older voters die off and younger people reach voting age. • Survey Details
MEUSA Summary • News Source VIRGINIA • On 3 Ocober 2013, in National Organization for Marriage v. U.S. Internal Revenue Service, NOM filed a federal lawsuit claiming that IRS unlawfully released its confidential tax data. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NORTH CAROLINA • On 15 October 2013, in preparation for a lawsuit, Buncombe County, NC Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger began accepting marriage license applications from same-gender couples, and he asked NC Attorney General Roy Cooper to decide whether the NC statutory and constitutional bans on same-gender civil marriage violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ALASKA • On 14 October 2013, in Debra Harris v. Millennium Hotel, et al., Lambda Legal appealed to the AK Supreme Court to obtain survivor benefits for same-gender couples, for whom marriage is banned by AK’s law and its constitution. • MEUSA Summary • News Source OREGON • On 15 October 2013, in Deanna Geiger et al. v. OR Governor John Kitzhaber et al., two couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging OR’s constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, and OR’s refusal to recognize legal marriages from other jurisdictions. • MEUSA Summary • News Source MICHIGAN • On 16 October 2013, in April DeBoer & Jayne Rowse v. MI Governor Rick Snyder, et al., U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman denied both sides’ petitions for summary judgment, saying that he will expedite completion of the case, witness lists will be exchanged in October 2013, and expert testimony will be heard during a trial starting on 25 February 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ARKANSAS • On 12 December 2013, in Kendall Wright et al. v. AR Governor Michael Beebe et al.,11 same-gender couples who are seeking to overturn the AR constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, the state law banning same-gender civil marriage, and the federal law allowing states to ignore same-gender marriages from other states, and also seeking parental rights, birth certificate names, insurance, and other benefits, will request a preliminary injunction and a declaratory judgment. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW JERSEY • On 18 Octobner 2013, in Garden State Equality, et al. v. NJ Attorney General Paula Dow, et al., the NJ Supreme Court ended a 12-year legal battle when it unanimously affirmed a Superior Court ruling that same-gender civil marriages may begin on 21 October 2013. Despite the governor’s appeal which will get decided in 2014, the court concluded that starting marriages now benefits the couples, without harming the state. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW MEXICO • By 18 October 2013, NM county clerks had issued over 1,000 civil marriage licenses to same-gender couples, in advance of the NM Supreme Court hearing on 23 October 2013. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source VIRGINIA • On 16 Ocober 2013, Christopher Newport University surveyed 944 registered VA voters including 753 likely voters, and reported that 56% oppose VA’s 2006 constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, and 36% favor it. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TENNESSEE • On 16 October 2013, Knoxville, TN expanded employee benefits coverage to include same-gender and opposite-gender domestic partners, effective 1 January 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source
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