2013 was an amazing year for LGBT rights in America, with multiple historic victories; here’s a look at what 2014 might bring.
To begin with, the surprise ruling for marriage equality in Utah may extend to other states; the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which made and upheld the decision, also has jurisdiction over the likely battlegrounds of Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, and Colorado. Both Oklahoma and Kansas have anti-equality amendments written into their constitutions—but until December 20, so did Utah.
Things look even more hopeful in Wyoming, which has neither a ban on nor recognition of same-sex relationships. According to Freedom to Marry, technically the Wyoming legislature did once approve a statute forbidding the recognition or performance of marriage equality—but that was in 1977. In the last decade, constitutional amendments to limit the definition of marriage have come up several times, but never passed. Wyoming does recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
There is a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Colorado, passed in 2006, but as of May 2013, the state now offers civil unions to all couples, which are virtually identical to marriage, including the ability to adopt children. However, they still remain legally distinct; the Act decrees, “The provisions of this article shall not be construed to create a marriage between the parties to a civil union or alter the public policy of this state, which recognizes only the union of one man and one woman as a marriage.” With true equality this close, groups like One Colorado plan to continue the fight.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, activists’ plans to put the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative on the 2014 ballot are right on track; on December 7, Oregon United announced that it had collected more than the required 116,284 signatures. Voters passed a state constitutional amendment in 2004 that bars same-sex couples from marrying; should it be overturned, Oregon would become the first state to repeal a marriage ban by popular vote.
In Virginia, Lambda Legal is working towards winning the nineteenth state to legalize marriage equality as soon as possible—even on the last day of the year. On December 31, the group asked a federal court to “rule swiftly” for three same-sex couples who want the right to marry; as of press time, there has been no word on the court’s decision.
According to the Washington Post, “Judges in 17 states are considering at least 31 cases seeking to allow gays and lesbians to marry, according to a private count kept by one LGBT group and shared with The Washington Post.” Same-sex couples across the nation are turning to the court system to demand their rights: “in states ranging from deep red Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi to purple North Carolina, Nevada and Virginia are suing, many citing this year’s Supreme Court decisions, which other federal judges have recognized.”
Most significant of all could be the Respect for Marriage Act; if it passes, the state-by-state fight for equality would become effectively moot. The Act, potentially this generation’s Loving v. Virginia, would amend United States Code to read, “For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State”—in effect, legalizing marriage equality in every state. It was assigned to a congressional committee for study on June 26, 2013.