Your Guide to what’s happening with Marriage Equality across the U.S.


Keeping track of marriage equality across the United States can be a daunting task considering the rapid pace at which the gay and lesbian political landscape is changing.

429Magazine’s round-up informs about which states already recognize same-sex marriage, which states might, and where California is at with Proposition 8.

States that already recognize marriage equality

Currently 9 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was the first to do so on May 17, 2004; then Connecticut four years later (2008) followed by a number of other states: Iowa (Apr. 24. 2009), Vermont (Sep. 1, 2009), New Hampshire (Jan. 1, 2010), District of Columbia (Mar. 3, 2010), New York (June 24, 2011), Maryland (Nov. 6, 2012), Maine (Nov. 6, 2012), and Washington (Nov. 6, 2012). 

As of March 2013, 9 states have created civil unions that offer varying subsets of rights and responsibilities of marriage and an overwhelming 38 states have banned same-sex marriage either through laws, constitutional amendments or both. A list of states that prohibit marriage equality can be found here, in addition to a breakdown of how states passed marriage equality here.

States currently pushing for marriage equality

Now more than ever Americans are accepting of gay and lesbian identities and supportive of same-sex marriage. According to a 2013 NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll 53 percent of Americans believe same-sex couples should be able to marry and an increasing number say they know someone who is gay or lesbian. 

Positive public opinion is leading politicians in some states to push for same-sex marriage more aggressively than before. 

Right now heavily Catholic Rhode Island is primed to become the 10th state to legalize marriage equality. Rep. Arthur Handy and Sen. Donna Nesselbush introduced a marriage equality bill currently headed to the Senate for a final vote that is expected to pass and be signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Additionally, four other states are considering same-sex marriage in 2013. Democratic lawmakers in Delaware introduced a bill the House legislature approved in April, but is awaiting passage in the Senate. A Minnesota bill co-authored by Sen. Branden Petersen—the first Republican state legislature to publically support marriage equality in Minnesota—still needs to pass the House and Senate. 

Sen. Heather A. Steans’ marriage equality bill in Illinois was approved by the Senate in February, but religious opposition has prevented a vote in the House. In Nevada the Senate passed a marriage equality bill in April that is awaiting passage in the House (there will be an additional repeat vote in 2015). Delaware, Minnesota, Illinois, and Nevada could represent the next wave of states that support marriage equality in the United States. 

California and Proposition 8

Although more states are moving toward same-sex marriage, the majority still rejects marriage equality. The California Proposition 8 case, currently at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), will play a pivotal role in how fast marriage equality becomes a reality nationwide. 

Oral arguments for Perry vs. Brown commenced March 26. Several Justices, including Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sotomayor, expressed doubt over whether or not the petitioners defending Proposition 8 had legal standing in the case (the government is no longer defending Proposition 8). 

Furthermore, the Justices appeared divided 4-4 along ideological lines with no indication on how broadly the liberal Justices would rule.

According to Tom Goldstein, Supreme Court Litigation professor at Harvard Law School, two scenarios are likely: a majority could decide the petitioner lacks standing, thus vacating the Ninth Circuit’s decision, but leaving in place the district court decision invalidating Proposition 8. Or the Court may dismiss the case due to its inability to reach a majority which would leave in place the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

“The upshot of either scenario is a modest step forward for gay rights advocates, but not a dramatic one,” Goldstein wrote on the Supreme Court Blog.


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