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Marriage equality in the United States
Late 2014 to 2016: Locations
couples were still
Throughout this web site, the term "LGBT" refers to the
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual community.
"SSM" refers to marriage by same-sex couples.
Draft verson. Currently being edited.
A brief glance at the status of gay marriages in the U.S. from before 2014 until late 2015:
- Prior to 2014, gay marriages were not legal anywhere in the U.S.
- Then, in 2004, the Legislature of Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in the state, following an order of the state's Supreme Court.
- Some other states gradually followed suit, either by legislative action, public referendums, or court rulings.
- By late 2014, same-sex marriages were still banned in 15 U.S. states and in all 5 territories.
- On 2015-JAN-16, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted four appeals from states that were within the area that the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had jurisdiction. The merged case was called Obergefell v. Hodges.
- On 2015-JUN-26, the High Court issued a ruling legalized gay marriage across the country. Like the court's decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967) which legalized interracial marriage almost 50 years earlier in 1967, the ruling was based on the equal access and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Those clauses require all levels of government to treat people equally. The Justices ruled 5 to 4 in favor of marriage equality.
- A few months after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, the vast majority of U.S. same-sex couples were able to pick up marriage certificates at their local county courthouse and use them to be married. Exceptions were:
- The Territory of American Samoa, where most people are considered American residents, not American citizens. Decisions of the High Court do not necessarily apply there. As of the end of 2016, the territorial government has taken no action to make marriages available to its lesbian, gay, and bisexual citizens.
- A few counties in Alabama, the lone holdouts in the 48 contiguous states.
Status of gay marriages in the U.S. by the Fall of 2016:
Same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses in Alaska, Hawaii, all American territories except for American Samoa, and almost all of the 3,144 counties, and county equivalents, in the 48 contiguous United States.
On the mainland, a few county clerks in the state of Alabama continue to refuse to issue marriage licenses to all couples. They based this decision on the state marriage law which mentions that counties "can" issue marriage licenses. Some clerks have decided that if they "can" issue licenses, then they can also decide to not issue any. However, to avoid discriminating directly against same-sex couples, they have decided to discriminate against all couples.
During 2016, nine counties from among Alabama's 67 counties were still refusing to issue marriage licenses. They include:
- Cleburne county in the North-East quadrant of Alabama, and
- Autauga, Choctaw, Clarke, Covington, Elmore, Geneva, Pike and Washington counties in Southern Alabama. 1
By 2016-OCT-19, at least eight of these counties were still refusing to issue certificates.
Angi Stalnaker, a spokesperson for Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen, said that:
"Alabama law says probate judges may issue marriage licenses, but doesn't require them to, so Judge Wes Allen got Pike County out of the marriage business altogether a couple of years ago. The Supreme Court said you can't discriminate against individuals. He's not discriminating because he's not issuing licenses to anybody in Pike County." 2
Gary Wright II was a plaintiff in a past same-sex marriage case in Alabama called Strawser v. Strange. He is a gay disabled veteran, the CEO of a media & engineering firm, and the founder of a non profit called Alabama Justice. He said:
"We thought this was over but, sure enough, Alabama will be the last state in the nation to get through this ... Everyone thinks -- especially after the Supreme Court win -- that this was settled and everyone's moved on. But the judges who didn't want to go along with [gay marriage] just said, 'we won't issue licenses to any couple'." 2
Randall C. Marshall, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama, said:
"There is no doubt that the counties that are not issuing licenses to anybody have taken that approach because of the same sex-marriage decision. ... I think there is an argument to be made that because the U.S. Supreme Court talked about marriage as a fundamental right, individuals who live in those counties and are burdened by the refusal of the probate judge to issue marriage licenses may in fact have a constitutional claim. ... They deserve the same rights as citizens in any other county, and I don't buy that they should have to travel or to drive. The Constitution applies to everyone. All I need is a plaintiff in any one of these counties to go ahead and get the state closed out." 2
He hopes to find a same-sex or opposite-sex couple who is being discriminated against in one of the counties and to launch a lawsuit to force marriage license access in all of the remaining counties in Alabama.
Fortunately for engaged couples, they can simply drive a short distance to one or more of their adjacent counties and obtain licenses there.
Readers posted 805 comments to the article in the Alabama Media Group article cited above: 2 Some were:
- "JessieFromAL" posted:
"Fire the lawbreakers running those departments and replace them immediately.
The law is clear."
- "Eric" posted:
"It is very important to ensure compliance with the law in this area, especially since it is so recently established. If these judges are allowed to flout the law others will begin to think it's acceptable as well. These scofflaws need to be made an example of to show that infringement upon the constitutional rights of the people will not be tolerated. These are government employees and they are there to perform a set of duties, if those duties cannot be executed by some individuals then they can be replaced with individuals who will. This is not complicated."
- "ElderHap" posted:
"I love my kids by informing them that practices of homosexual marriage are wrong. It helps their perspective of current events. I'm thinking of a doing a thorough study of the fallacies of those practices. ... I have a civil right to remain protected from homosexuals and those promoting same-sex marriage corrupting my kids with stupid ideas."
- "Fitzpgl1" posted:
"Take the sexual deviants (LGBT+) and quarantine them on a remote island. Problem solved. Normal folks can live happy lives and the deviants can live their normal miserable lives."
- "MrWilmotProviso" posted:
"Back in the 1960s, so many Southern small towns cemented in their public swimming pools to prevent people of all races from swimming in them. These folks have practice at this sort of thing."
Matters involving the LGBT community were not at the top of the list of public concern in most states. U.S. News and World Report reported what topics that residents in each state searched most on the Internet using Google.com during 2016. In Kansas, it was "LGBT." In Virginia, it was "transgender voting laws." Other topics ranged from "2016 worst year ever?" in California, to "Mars" in Oklahoma, to the Zika virus in Florida. 3
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Same-sex marriage in Alabama," Wikipedia, as on 2016-NOV-05, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Connor Sheets, "Eight Alabama counties still refuse to issue marriage licenses despite gay marriage ruling," Alabama Media Group, 2016-OCT-19, at: http://www.al.com/
- Rachel Dicker, "What Each State Googled More Than Any Other in 2016," U.S. News and World Report, 2016-DEC-27, at: http://www.usnews.com/
Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 2017-JAN-06
Last updated 2017-JAN-06
Author: Bruce A Robinson