Thursday, May 22, 2014

Across the U.S., Anti-Marriage Equality Laws and Amendments are "Toppling Like a Line of Dominoes"


Perhaps, like me, you've had a hard time these past few weeks keeping up with the many advances in marriage equality that have been made across the U.S. It really has been quite something, hasn't it? I mean, in state after state, same-sex marriage bans have been either struck down or challenged as unconstitutional.

Since Edie Windsor's DOMA victory last June, there have been 18 consecutive court victories for marriage equality. These victories have come from judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents. In just the past two weeks, courts in four states – Arkansas, Idaho, Oregon, and Pennsylvania – have ruled in favor of marriage equality. A decision is expected soon from the 4th Circuit Appeal Court on the Virginia same-sex marriage ban, which could bring marriage equality not only to Virginia but to all the other states in the 4th Circuit: North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia (Maryland is already an equal marriage state).

Currently, 44 percent of U.S. citizens live in states with marriage equality on the books, including the entire northwest region of the country. More than one commentator has remarked that we are now way past the tipping point for acceptance of marriage equality – observations that have been recently confirmed by a Gallop poll that reports support for same-sex marriage at an all-time high of 55 percent.

Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate and author of Sticks and Stones, provides a helpful summary and analysis of the unfolding situation when, in her May 20 article, "Who Needs the Supreme Court," she writes:

What’s amazing is that so far, all the courts have followed the equality move, and the momentum raises a question no one would have dreamed of a year ago: Will gay marriage become the law of the land without the Supreme Court doing anything more?

Here’s the map and the math (with thanks to my colleague Mark Stern, who had this at his fingertips):

• Three states have legalized gay marriage by popular vote (Washington, Maryland, Maine).

• Seven states got it through the legislature (Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Delaware, Illinois, Rhode Island, Minnesota), plus the District of Columbia.

That’s 10 states, without help from judges. This reflects the smartest tactic of the gay-rights movement, which prioritized winning at the ballot box over winning big in the courts, since persuading voters means changing hearts and minds.

• In seven more states, beginning with Massachusetts a decade ago, gay marriage arrived through the courts (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Iowa, New Mexico, California, Oregon).

• In seven more states, judges have struck down state bans, but the granting of marriage licenses is on hold, because an appeal is pending. And in four more, judges have issued limited pro-marriage decisions (requiring states to recognize a marriage for purposes of a death certificate, for instance).

Add it all up, including Pennsylvania, and we’ve arrived at 29 states where same-sex marriage is legal or on its way there unless an appeals court blocks it—past the halfway point and far past the tipping point. (Yes, 32 states still have laws or constitutional amendments on the books that deny marriage equality to same-sex couples. But those are the laws that are toppling like a line of dominoes.)

We’ve arrived here so much faster and more agreeably than anyone could have predicted even a year ago, when the challenges post-Windsor looked like they would split the district courts, take their time wending their way through the appellate process, and maybe arrive back at the Supreme Court in, say, 2017, safely after the next election. Instead, no judge wants to write the opinion denying the benefit of marriage. Judge John Jones of federal district court in Pennsylvania, who issued today’s ruling, was endorsed by none other than Rick Santorum, beloved of the religious right. Judges aren’t supposed to rule by the polls, but that doesn’t mean they’re unaffected by the rising tide of public support, especially among young people. As Northwestern University law professor Andrew M. Koppelman said to Adam Liptak in the New York Times: "It is becoming increasingly clear to judges that if they rule against same-sex marriage their grandchildren will regard them as bigots."

Of course, the best part of all the advances we're witnessing is seeing real people and families celebrating the legal recognition of the loving and life-giving unions of their same-sex loved ones. And of course, seeing the joy of same-sex couples themselves as, with marriage equality bans struck down, they journey to (and often wait in line at) their state court houses to be married. I'm happy to report that this was exactly the case with my friend and fellow gay Catholic blogger William D. Lindsey who, on May 12, married his longtime partner Steve in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Congratulations Bill and Steve!

On his always informative and insightful blog, Bilgrimage, William has been writing extensively about recent events in Arkansas (and indeed across the nation). He has also shared some wonderful anecdotes and images of his and Steve's marriage ceremony. Following is a sampling of William's recent posts:

Equality, Y'All: Marriage Equality Arrives in Arkansas — A Report from on the Ground

Sealed, Signed, Delivered, and Oh Happy Day: Steve and I Married Today in Little Rock

More Oh Happy Day: In Which I Tell the Rest of the Marriage Story

Photos from Yesterday's Wedding: "Equality is Always an Arc and the Arc of Justice Always Bends Toward Equality"

Hallucinating Arkansas and Our Big Fat Gay (Arkansas) Wedding: A Response to Those Who Have Asked, Why Arkansas?

Catholic Bishop of Arkansas Attacks "Same-Sex Marriage," Calls on State Supreme Court to Close Door Opened to Gay Couples to Marry

Why It's So Important for Same-Sex Couples to Have the Right to Marry in Arkansas (and Similar Places)

"It's Like 1957 in Little Rock, a New Dispensation": An Update on the Marriage Equality Story in Arkansas

Breaking News: Arkansas Supremes Stay Same-Sex Marriages in One-Sentence Ruling

Arc of the Moral Universe Arcs Through Little Old Arkansas, and We Move an Inch: Keeping Hope Alive

Marriage Equality in the U.S.: Where Things Now Stand — Overviews from the Latest News

I particularly appreciate Bill's thoughts on the May 20 tweet from blogger Rocco Palmo on the "shift in strategy" of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), a shift that sees it no longer issuing individual statements on rulings striking down state same-sex marriage bans.

Writes Bill:

It has to be becoming downright embarrassing for [the USCCB] to issue the same tired statements as state after state falls to human rights for a stigmatized minority group, with strong judicial statements noting that marriage is a human right and that the exclusion of gay people from civil marriage is malicious and harmful — not to mention, unconstitutional.

Each statement [the bishops] issue as another state falls only drives home the point, for thinking people with well-formed consciences, that they've placed themselves on the wrong side of history's moral arc, and have painfully and decisively hollowed out their moral authority to teach about human rights and concern for those on the margins. So that now fewer and fewer people listen to them any longer, no matter what the Michael Sean Winters of the church say about how authority resides at the top and should "force" us to "submit."

Amen, Bill! Amen.

Above: William Roletter, left, and Paul Rowe, press close to one another as they apply for their marriage certificate at City Hall in Philadelphia, May 21, 2014. Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage was overturned by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III on May 20. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Related Off-site Links:
Arkansas Judge Strikes Down State's Ban on Gay Marriage – Michael Winter (USA Today, May 9, 2014).
And Oregon Makes 18: Federal Judge Strikes Down State's Same-Sex Marriage Ban and the Nuptials Begin Immediately – Zack Ford (, May 19, 2014).
Judge Michael McShane Writes Unusually Personal Decision in Oregon Gay Marriage Case – Jeff Mapes (, May 19, 2014).
A Rough Day for the Anti-Gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) – Amanda Terkel (HuffPost Politics, May 19, 2014).
Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Same-Sex Marriage Ban – Chris Geidner (, May 20, 2014).
In Pennsylvania, Marriage Equality is Here to Stay – Mark Joseph Stern (Slate, May 21, 2014).
State-by-State: A Frenzied Few Months on the Same-Sex Marriage Front – Greg Botelho (CNN, May 21, 2014).
Gay Marriage Support Hits All-Time High of 55 Percent Nationwide, Gallup Poll FindsHuffPost Gay Voices (May 21, 2014).
Same-Sex Marriage Support Reaches New High at 55% – Justin McCarthy (, May 21, 2014).
Gay Marriage Battle Spreads to Montana, Beyond – Brady McCombs and Lisa Baumann (Associated Press, May 21, 2014).
North Dakota, South Dakota Only States Without Same-Sex Marriage Challenges – Associated Press via Minnesota Public Radio News (May 21, 2014).
Anti-Gay Leaders Incapable of Introspection in Light of Marriage Equality Losses – Alvin McEwen (Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, May 22, 2014).
First Lawsuit To Strike Down South Dakota Same-Sex Marriage Ban Filed – David Badash (New Civil Rights Movement, May 22, 2014).
North Dakota is Now the Only State with An Unchallenged Gay Marriage Ban – Carson Walker and Kevin Burbach (Associated Press via HuffPost Politics, May 22, 2014).
Meet the Guy Who May Take the Last Unchallenged Gay Marriage Bans to Court – Niraj Chokshi (The Washington Post, May 22, 2014).
Legal Fight Over Gay Marriage Spreads to 30 States – Carson Walker and Brady McCombs (Associated Press via ABC News, May 22, 2014).
Which States Allow Gay Marriage?Mother Jones (May 22, 2014).
Federal Judges Now Seeing the Simple Truth About Gay Marriage: It's a Matter of Love and Equality – Nick Wing & Paige Lavender (HuffPost Politics, May 23, 2014).

UPDATES: With Eye on History, Judges Nix Gay Marriage Bans – David Crary (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, May 24, 2014).
U.S. Could Have Nationwide Marriage Equality in a Year, Says Lawyer – Trudy Ring (The Advocate, May 25, 2014).
U.S. Census Bureau to Recognize Married, Same-Sex Couples as FamiliesLGBTQ Nation (May 27, 2014).
The Week Republicans Stopped Fighting Marriage Equality – Chris Geidner (, May 30, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Signs and Wonders
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
"I Want You to Become a Part of Me – Each to Become a Part of the Other"
The Same People
The Same Premise
The Changing Face of "Traditional Marriage"
What Straights Can Learn from Gay Marriage
Dr. Erik Steele and the "Naked Truth on Same-Sex Marriage"
Dale Carpenter on the "Win-Win" Reality of Gay Marriage

Image 1: An unidentified gay couple at Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. (Photographer unknown)
Image 2: Edith Windsor is mobbed by journalists and supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on March 27, 2013. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Image 3: Spencer Geiger, left, and Carl Johansen protest for equal marriage in Norfolk, Virginia, outside the courthouse where arguments are heard in Bostic v. Rainey on February 4, 2014. (Photo: Jay Paul/Getty Images)
Image 4: William D. Lindsey (seated) and his husband Steve. (Photo: Marcus Radhard)
Image 5: Matt Rourke/Associated Press, May 21, 2014.

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