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Expansion of Same-sex marriage across the U.S.

Part 1: Overview. Predictions by
Ned Flahterty of Marriage Equality, USA.

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The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.

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wedding ringsOverview of DD<:

State-by-state developments towards marriage equality for same-sex couples during 2013, both inside and outside the U.S. may well have had an impact on the hopes of the American LGBT community that SSM will soon become available across the entire U.S. The developments probably also increased the already high percentage of the American public that expects SSM to become universally available in the U.S. 1

Most past activity to legalize SSM has tackled one state Legislature at a time. However, this approach had its limitations. Of the 31 states that do not currently allow SSM (as of 2014-JUN), the vast majority have state constitutional amendments in place that prohibit SSM. These amendments would have to be repealed in public referendums or ruled unconstitutional by courts before the state could achieve marriage equality.

That would take a lot of time.

According to calculations by Nate Silver in his FiveEightySix blog in the New York Times, as of election day in 2012-NOV, there were:

  • 31 states in which a majority of adults would not have passed a ballot initiative to legalize SSM.
  • 6 states where support for SSM was 40% or less.
  • 2 states in the deep South (Alabama and Mississippi) where support for SSM was below 30%. 2

Support for SSM is gradually increasing in every state. It is largely driven by generational effect:

  • An influx of young adults into the voting pool who heavily support marriage equality, and

  • The outflux of seniors who have mainly opposed same-sex marriage and who have left the voting pool.

Silver predicted that by 2020, there will still be six states -- all from the deep South -- in which a ballot initiative on marriage equality would fail. They are: South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. 2 Silver predictd that in 2020, only 42.5% would favor SSM in Alabama, and 37.8% in Mississippi!

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is one of the main national groups promoting marriage equality. In mid-2013, they set an ambitious goal: to achieve marriage equality across the entire U.S. within five years -- i.e., by mid 2018! They hope to attain this with a two prong approach:

  • By encouraging Legislatures to pass laws and/or authorize plebiscites for marriage equality in states that currently ban SSM.

  • By filing one or more lawsuits in either state or federal court in each of the states that does not currently allow SSM. Each lawsuit would be filed by one or more unmarried same-sex couples as plaintiffs. The lower court rulings would be appealed -- eventually perhaps as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. That court might deliver a sufficiently broad ruling that would overturn all of the the remaining anti-equality state laws and constitutional amendments overnight. The high court did this during 1967 over interracial marriage in the famous and aptly named lawsuit: "Loving v. Virginia." 3 "Loving" produced the most recent redefinition of marriage across the entire nation. At that time, 16 contiguous south-eastern states still had anti-miscegenation laws in place when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage was to be made available to interracial couples throughout the entire U.S.

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2013-MAR: Prediction by Ned Flaherty of Marriage Equality, USA (With results described as of the end of 2014):

Ned Flaherty is the Project Manager of Marriage Equality, USA. He had an article published during 2013-MAR in PolicyMic 4 He noted that the first group of 12 states to attain marriage equality took 22 years of advocacy -- from 1990 to 2012. This was about one state every two years. In early 2013, he predicted that the next group of 12 states will take only two years: 2013 & 2014. This would average six states every year. This is a 12 fold increase in the rate of change. He noted also that as of 2013-MAR, there were 42 active marriage equality lawsuits in state and federal courts across the U.S. By mid-2014, this number had grown to over 70.

He predicted the 12 states that he believed would attain equality during 2013 & 2014, and also predicted the order:

  • #11: Illinois: A bill to legalize SSM had passed the House and votes in favor were accumulating in the House, but the Legislature started its summer recess before sufficient votes were found to pass the bill. Meanwhile, a lawsuit in state court was underway. star Result: The House later passed the bill and it was signed into law on 2013-NOV-20.

  • #12: Rhode Island: starResult: RI attained marriage equality in 2013-MAY by legislative action.

  • #13: Delaware: starDelaware also attained marriage equality in 2013-MAY by legislative action.

  • #14: New Jersey: A bill was approved by House and Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie (R). A federal court challenge was filed. A referendum was possible, was urged by the Governor, and was favored by most voters. starResult: the state Supreme Court legalized SSM in 2013-OCT.
  • #15: Minnesota: starResult: The state also attained marriage equality in 2013-MAY by legislative action.

  • #16: Hawaii: A federal court case was active. The Legislature resumed debate on a SSM bill in early 2014. A referendum was being discussed for 2014-NOV. starResult: After a 23 year struggle by equality advocates, the Governor signed a SSM bill into law. Wedding licenses became available to same-sex couples starting on 2013-DEC-02.

  • #17: Michigan: A Constitutional ban was passed in 2004. There was some legislative activity. A federal court case had been filed. starResult: Partial victory. After a favorable decision by a federal District Court, same-sex marriage licenses were available, but only for a day. That decision was stayed, pending a ruling by the U.S. 6th Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel in the Circuit Court ruled 2:1 in favor of the SSM ban. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On 2015-JAN-09, the Justices of the court are scheduled to decide whether to hear the case.

  • #18: Oregon: A Constitutional ban was passed in 2004. There was some legislative activity. A federal court case was filed. starResult: A District Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in the state on 2014-MAY-19. This ruling was not appealed.

  • #19: Colorado: A Constitutional ban was passed in 2008. Some legislative activity is underway. A civil unions law was passed. Although it treats same-sex couples' relationships as second class, and although it does not allow same-sex couples to call their relationship a marriage, it did give same-sex couples and their children most of the benefits and protections of marriage. Nine couples filed a lawsuit in state court on 2014-FEB seeking same-sex marriage. star The case worked its way up to the Colorado Supreme Court which ruled in favor of marriage equality on 2014-OCT.

  • #20: New Mexico: There was no state law or clause in the Constitution that bans SSM. Some legislative and court activity was underway. A referendum was possible. star Result: The New Mexico Supreme Court legalized SSMs on 2013-DEC-19.

  • #21: Nevada: A Constitutional ban was passed in 2002. Some legislative activity was underway. A federal court case was filed. Plaintiffs lost at the District Court in 2002-DEC. star The lawsuit was appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who issued its ruling on 2014-OCT-07, legalizing SSM throughout the state..
  • #22: California: starIt attained marriage equality in 2013-JUN as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry which legalized same-sex marriage again. 4

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Status as of 2015-JAN-09:

Within a few months of the publishing of the first draft of this article in 2013-MAR, SSM had already been legalized in new four states (DE, MN, RI, CA).

Flaherty had predicted 12 states would attain marriage equality in either 2013 or 2014. He was correct in eleven states. An impressive accomplishment. He only missed on Michigan.

Same-sex marriages were legalized in additional states as well, making a total of 36 states and the District of Columbia with marriage equality. Further, same-sex marriage licenses are available in some parts of the state.

Five cases have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court: one each from Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. On 2015-JAN-09, the nine Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled to hold a conference to determine whether to accept one or more of these cases. If they grant certiorari -- decide to hear one or more appeals -- then they will probably hold hearings in the spring of 2015, and issue their ruling in June. Their ruling could legalize same-sex marriage across the entire country, or could have a very different result.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Poll: Gay Marriage Viewed As 'Inevitable' By Most Americans," Huffington Post, 2013-JUN-06, at:
  2. Nate Silver, "How Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage Is Changing, and What It Means," FiveThirtyEight blog, New York Times, 2013-MAR-26, at:
  3. Tim Harper, "Sodomy laws struck down: Highest U.S. court says Texas statute unconstitutional. Dissenter warns of legalized marriage for homosexuals," Toronto Star, 2003-JUN-27, Page A3.
  4. Ned Flaherty, "12 States That Will Probably Legalize Gay Marriage in 2013-2014," PolicyMic, 2013-MAR, at:

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Copyright © 2013 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2013-JUL-15
Latest update: 2015-JAN-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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