Homosexuality and bisexuality
SSM activity in
U.S. & Canada during the near future
We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this web site 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
developments in marriage equality and LGBT rights from 2011-FEB until now.
Background in the U.S.:
Starting in 2011, national polls consistently showed that a majority of American adults favored marriage equality -- i.e. allowing loving, committed, same-sex couples to marry and obtain all of the rights, privileges and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. Previous polls had shown a rise in support by the public for SSM of about 1 to 2 percentage points a year, and a drop in opposition by about the same rate. This is a similar pattern to support and opposition of interracial marriages during the second half of the 20th century.
In the past, the public in 29 or 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, that state's courts are prevented from legalizing SSM. Also, state legislators cannot create laws legalizing SSM. In order to achieve marriage equality it would be necessary:
- To hold another plebes cite to repeal the constitutional amendment banning SSM, or
- For the U.S. Supreme Court to declare SSMs available across the entire U.S. as it did in 1967 for interracial marriage.
Leading up to election day in 2012-NOV, the battles over SSM were fierce. 1 On election day, the voters in four states passed referendums that:
- Legalized SSM in three states: Maine, Maryland & Washington
- Rejected a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would have restricted marriage to one woman and one man.
2013-OCT-19: Current status of SSM in the U.S.:
By mid-2013, same-sex marriage had been legalized in the District of Columbia and 13 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court had declared that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This is the section that prevents legally married same-sex couples, and their children, from accessing any of the 1,138 federal programs, benefits and protections on a par with married opposite-sex couples.
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, same-sex couples do not receive access to federal programs as noted above, and they are not granted what many such couples regard as the most important right: to call their relationship a marriage.
Most states do not yet allow SSM, civil unions or registered partnerships. Loving, committed same-sex couples in these states are generally considered as "legal strangers" to each other -- as mere roommates -- without basic protections for themselves or their children.
Future activity expected during the rest of 2013 and early 2014:
States with particularly active drives towards marriage equality are:
- Hawaii: A special session of the Legislature has been called for late October and early November to consider a SSM bill. More details
- Illinois: Bills are active in the Illinois House and Senate to legalize SSM. A special legislative session has been called to consider them. Also a lawsuit in state court -- "Darby v. Orr" -- is underway. More details
- New Jersey: Judge Mary C. Jacobson of the State Superior Court in Mercer County found New Jersey's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. The judge issued a ruling legalizing same-sex marriage as of 2013-OCT-21. The Attorney General has appealed this ruling directly to the state Supreme Court. Hearings are scheduled for 2014-JAN, and the court's ruling is expected later that year. By all indications, the court will legalize SSM in the state permanently. More details
- New Mexico: Individual county clerks are following their oath of office to support the state constitution and are issuing marriage licenses. Other clerks are following the same oath of office to support state marriage legislation which some feel prohibits same-sex marriage; they are refusing to issue marriage licenses. The state Supreme Court will determine the legality of same-sex marriages and may legalize SSM across the state. More details
- In many other states, including Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, lawsuits in are underway to legalize SSM. Some involve multiple same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses, being automatically rejected, and launching a lawsuit in state court. Others involve promoting SSM in the state Legislature or launching a plebiscite.
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 had 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 was able to, for the battles in Maine, Maryland & Washington, the three 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 Church 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, all of whom support marriage equality.
- Both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons) and most fundamentalist and other evangelical denominations remain overwhelmingly opposed to equality for the LGBT community in general, and opposed to same-sex marriage in particular. However support for SSM among their younger members is growing rapidly.
Predictions for the future:
We expect that many individual states will gradually legalize SSM, one at a time:
- Via the legislature in those states where the Governor is Democratic or Independent, and the Democratic Party controls both the House and Senate, or
- Via a state constitutional amendment if the state allows citizen initiatives, most of its voters support SSM, and the margin between support and opposition exceeds ten percentage points, or
- Via the state court system.
Eventually, when loving, committed same-sex couples can marry in a significant majority of states, and where national polls show over 60% of adults favor marriage equality, 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 might 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 since mid-1995. However, many more optimistic observers are suggesting that SSM may become available from sea to sea by 2018 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 initiated by a lesbian couple. SSMs have since become a non-issue in the country, as marriages between 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 residents of Alberta, and supporters of the Conservative Party; 46% of both of those groups favor marriage equality. 2 In a few more years, they are expected to also become a majority. With support like that it is most unlikely that any federal party would attempt to tamper with SSM legislation. To do so would threaten their prime directive: to be re-elected.