Homosexuality and bisexuality
2013-APR Expected near-term
SSM activity in North America
We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
We use the acronym "LGB" to refer to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
We maintain a section on this web site describing month-
by-month SSM developments from 2011-FEB until now.
Starting in 2011, national polls consistently showed that a majority of American adults favored marriage equality -- enlarging the scope of marriage to include loving, committed same-sex couples. Previous polls had shown a rise in support for SSM of about 1 to 2 percentage points a year, and a drop in opposition by about the same rate. Support and opposition to interracial marriages followed the same pattern in the second half of the 20th century.
On election day in 2012-NOV, the voters in four states passed referendums that:
- Legalized SSM via citizen initiatives in Maine, Maryland & Washington
- Rejected a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would have restricted marriage to one woman and one man.
Current status of SSM in the U.S.:
In the past, about 30 states (sources differ) had approved constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one woman and one man. By writing discrimination based on sexual orientation into a state constitution, the state courts are prohibited from ruling that marriage laws prohibiting SSM are unconstitutional. Also, state legislators cannot create laws legalizing SSM.
Leading up to election day in 2012-NOV, the battles over SSM were fierce. 1
A referendum to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban SSM failed -- the first one to do so. This referendum will not affect the status of SSM in their state, because the Legislature has not yet authorized SSMs.
As of 2013-MAY, same-sex marriage has been legalized in the District of Columbia and ten states: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State. Rhode Island attained marriage equality However, because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) the couples cannot receive any of the federal benefits, grants, and protections for themselves and their children than opposite-sex married couples receive automatically.
Meanwhile, other states allow loving, committed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions or registered partnerships with some or all of the state rights, privileges and obligations given to married opposite-sex couples. However, they do not receive what many such couples regard as the most important right: to call their relationship a marriage.
In those states without SSM, civil unions or registered partnerships, loving, committed same-sex couples are generally considered by their state government as "legal strangers" to each other -- as mere roommates -- without protections for themselves or their children.
Future activity expected during 2013:
- California: Proposition 8 terminated new SSMs in that state on election day in 2008-NOV by a close vote -- 52% to 48%.
A federal district court later determined that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional because it violates multiple clauses of the U.S. Constitution. That decision was upheld by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals. It was later upheld by an appeal to a larger panel of 11 judges at the same court. The case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court which heard oral arguments in late 2013-MAR and is expected to issue its ruling during 2013-JUN.
Public opinion in California has changed radically since 2008. If the Supreme Court finds Prop. 8 to be unconstitutional, then loving, committed same-sex couples would be able to marry quickly. If they determine it is constitutional, an new Proposition could be presented to the voters, perhaps in 2014. It who would most likely repeal Prop. 8 by a large margin, and restore SSM to the state More details.
- Illinois: Bills are currently before the Illinois House and Senate to legalize SSM. More details
- Minnesota: Civil liberties and gay-positive groups have launched an effort in the Legislature to legalize SSM. Bills have pass both House and Senate committees. More details
- New Jersey: legislature approved a SSM bill during 2012, but Governor Chris Christie (R) vetoed it. The legislature has until 2014-JAN to attempt to overrule the veto. Governor Christie had suggested a referendum to let the public decide the issue on election day in 2012-NOV. A large majority of voters agree with holding a referendum, but no action was taken by the legislature. More details
- Rhode Island: Two versions of a bill to legalize SSM have been passed by the House and Senate to legalize SSM. The Senate version will be presented to the House for a procedural vote, which is expected to pass. The governor supports SSM and is expected to sign the bill into law, making Rhode Island the 10th state to legalize SSM in early 2013-MAY. More details.
- In at least 11 other states, lawsuits in are underway to legalize SSM. These typically involve multiple same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses, being automatically rejected, and launching a lawsuit in state court.
Campaigns for and against marriage equality are expected during the rest of 2013:
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is a broadly based national group that seeks equal rights for the LGBT community. Spokesperson Fred Sainz said:
"The events of past few years are bringing new energy and vigor to our side that allows our messaging to constantly evolve. The other side has remained very stale and stagnant."
Opposition is expected to continue from three main groups:
- The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is the main national organization opposed to SSM. Prior to 2012-NOV, they frequently pointed to the fact that out of 31 referendums in the past, none have supported SSM. They expected this perfect record to continue in spite of public opinion polls that clearly showed majority support for SSM nationally. In one of his "please send money" Email appeals, Brian Brown who heads NOM said:
"It's going to be a big challenge, but I think we're up to it. All we need is enough [funding] to get our message out."
The pro-marriage equality groups collected much more financial support for marriage equality than NOM were able to, for the battles in Maine, Maryland & Washington, states that authorized SSM on election day in 2012-NOV.
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches that certain forms of discrimination against lesbians and gays are moral, including prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference of bishops said:
"It's Democracy 101. Our clergy has a duty to inform our people about the consequences of redefining marriage."
The credibility of the Catholic Church is reduced by the high level of support that Catholic laity has for SSM. Many polls show that they favor SSM significantly higher than the national average, even as the hierarchy and the Knights of Columbus are dead-set against it. The lack of unity in the Catholic Church is also shown by a group of former Catholic priests and retired priests in Minnesota and Washington State, as well as a group of nuns and a dissident Catholic group in Illinois who all support marriage equality.
Predictions for the future:
We expect that many individual states will gradually legalize SSM, one at a time, whenever:
- The Governor is Democratic or Independent, and the Democratic Party controls both the House and Senate, or
- The state allows citizen initiatives, most of its voters support SSM, and the margin of support exceeds ten percentage points.
Eventually, when loving, committed same-sex couples can marry in a significant majority of states, we expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will require marriage equality across the U.S., much as it legalized interracial marriage in its Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967. However, that would probably require a shift of the judicial philosophy of the Court Justices through the replacement of one or two conservative Justices with more liberal appointments.
The author of this essay is currently 76 years of age. He doesn't expect to live long enough to see SSM legal across the U,S, as it has been in Canada for seven years. However, many observers are talking about SSM becoming available from sea to sea by 2023 or sooner.
Recent developments concerning SSMs in Canada:
Same-sex marriages (SSMs) were made available in Canada's ten provinces and three territories in mid-2005 by a federal law. Prince Edward Island initially refused to marry same-sex couples, apparently because they didn't know how to design a marriage license application to handle such couples. They quickly figured out a way when faced with a lawsuit. SSMs have since become a non-issue in the country, as marriages between one woman and one man, or two women, or two men have become routine.
A public opinion poll during mid-2012 showed that two out of three Canadians support SSM. In fact the only groups where a majority oppose SSM are occupants of Alberta, and supporters of the Conservative Party; 46% of both of those groups favor marriage equality. 2 In a few more years, they also will become a majority. With support like that it is most unlikely that any federal party would attempt to tamper with SSM legislation.