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The legalization of same-sex marriage (SSM) --
a.k.a marriage equality, mainly -- in North America

2014-MAY: The status of
marriage equality, mainly in North America

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wedding ringsAs of 2014-MAY-24, about one year before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in DC and across all 50 states and five out of six territories:

outline map of the U.S. In the United States:

  • Massachusetts: The tenth anniversary of Massachusetts' legalization of same-sex marriage was on MAY-17. That was the first state in the U.S. to allow same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts continues to have the lowest divorce rate in the U.S.

  • star 19 U.S. states and the District of Colombia had redefined the marriage laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. These states are: CA, CT, DE, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, ME, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NH, RI, OR, PA, VT, & WA. Adding the District of Columbia makes a total of 20 political jurisdictions that have attained marriage equality. In these states, same-sex couples routinely went to their county clerk's office, obtain their marriage licenses, and marry after the waiting period expires -- no differently from opposite-sex couples. Some states allow couples to marry immediately.

  • The most recent states to have reached marriage equality since mid-2013 were: California, Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

  • The most recent two states to legalize SSM occurred during 2014-MAY:
    • Oregon: This state was special because there was no person or group allowed at the District Court trial to argue in favor of marriage inequality. The National Organization for Marriage tried but was rejected. This makes a group of four western states -- Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii -- where couples of any gender combination can marry .

    • Pennsylvania: This state was also special for a number of reasons:
      • This makes another swath of 11 contiguous political jurisdictions in the Northeast that have attained marriage equality, including: all of the six New England states -- Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont -- Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania along with the District of Columbia.

      • The Attorney General, Kathleen Kane (D) has long favored SSM. But the Governor, Tom Corbett (R) has strongly opposed marriage equality. Most commentators expected that the Governor would definitely request a stay to prevent couples from marrying, and also appeal the case to the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. But, perhaps because he is being personally faced with a difficult re-election campaign later this year, he decided to take no action. Same-sex couples are free to marry.

  • star About 44% of Americans lived in a political jurisdiction where same-sex couples can marry. However, same-sex married couples are restricted in their vacation plans and relocation decisions. It can cause a catastrophe if they happen to be in a state that does not recognize their marriage when they have a medical emergency.

  • star National polls routinely indicated that 55 to 59% of American adults favor marriage equality. Support has been recently increasing by 1 to 2 percentage points a year. That is a barely detectable shift. However, over a decade, this increase amounts to 10 to 20 percentage points.

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  • Lawsuits: In 2014, there were over 70 lawsuits seeking marriage equality in a state and in Puerto Rico. Of these, 44 are in federal courts, 27 in state courts, and 1 in Puerto Rico's territorial court.

    star Between 2013-JUN, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Windsor v. United States and 2014-MAY-21, not a single state marriage ban -- whether by marriage statutes and/or by amendments made to the state constitution -- has survived a court challenge.

    The courts' rulings have either legalized SSM in the state or have required the state to recognize marriages performed out-of-state, or both. However, almost all of these court decisions have been stayed pending appeals to a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal or, in the case of lawsuits in state courts, to the state Supreme Court.

By mid-2014-MAY, at least one lawsuit was active in almost every state that does not currently allow same-sex marriage. There were three exceptions: Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. By 2014-MAY-24, two additional lawsuits had been filed. This left North Dakota as the only remaining state that bans SSM and did not have an active legal case seeking marriage equality. Such a lawsuit was filed in North Dakota on MAY-26. It may be a largely symbolic act. This is because another case may be decided in the Supreme Court which affects the entire country before the District Court in North Dakota has a chance to rule. Also a decision by the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals for a nearby state could be sufficiently broad to require North Dakota to abandon its opposition to SSM.

  • Terminology: The Roman Catholic Church has long taught that if either the bride, or groom, or both, are unbaptized, then they are entering into a natural marriage. Where both have been baptized, it is a sacramental marriage. Recently, some religious and social conservatives have adopted the Catholic term "natural marriage" and are now using it to refer to any civil or religious marriage between a woman and a man. This implies that a marriage between two women or between two men is an "unnatural marriage."

    An earlier practice of enclosing the word marriage in quotation marks, as in referring to a same-sex "marriage" appears to be fading from use.

    The term "gay marriage" is fading in favor of "same-sex marriage." The latter is a more inclusive term. Most same-sex marriages are composed of two women or two men. However, some include one or two bisexuals.

  • Constitutional dispute: The conflict over marriage equality has exposed a difference in beliefs concerning the basic nature of the U.S. federal and state governments:

    • Many religious or political conservatives appear to believe that the U.S. is a pure democracy; they teach that the highest authority in the land is the vote of American public. So, for example, if the majority of people voting on election day passes an amendment to the state Constitution that bans SSM, then this becomes the law of the state, no matter how restrictive the amendment is. Conservative commentators have accused the dozen or so judges who have overturned state marriage statutes and constitutional amendments since mid-2013 as acting in a lawless manner, legislating from the bench, forcing their personal biases on the people of the state, etc.

    • Many religious or political liberals appear to believe that the U.S. is a constitutional democracy; they teach that the highest authority in the land is the U.S. Constitution. So any state law or amendment to the state constitution is only valid if it does not conflict with the federal Constitution.

The Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution require that the federal and state governments treat the American people equally. When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling that legalized interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia (1967), it found that all of the anti-miscegenation state laws were unconstitutional and void because they violated the 14 Amendment. The District Court decisions on SSM since mid-2013 have also been decided on the basis of the 14th Amendment. More details.

The conservative-liberal conflict could be resolved through dialogue, but little or none appears to be taking place.

  • What does the future hold? A leader in the fight against marriage equality, Ryan T. Anderson, said that the first round of the battle to restrict marriage to one woman and one man is essentially lost as an increasing number of states extend marriage to same-sex couples. But he feels that time is on his side. He said:

    "... in the long run, those who defend marriage as [restricted to] the union of a man and woman will prove to be prophetic. ... the argument for [banning same-sex] marriage simply hasn’t been heard. ... we must make that argument in new and creative ways."

    Mark Joseph Stern of rejects this belief. He suggests that people are hardwired for empathy, particularly towards people that they know. During the past decade a very large percentage of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has come out of "the closet" and revealed their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity to friends, family and beyond. Stern writes:

    "Michael LaSala, an associate professor of social work at Rutgers University, ... notes that:

    '... the more people realize that somebody close to them or somebody they love is gay, the more sensitive they become to issues of social injustice surrounding sexual orientation. ... [Their prejudices, stereotypes, and] tendencies to project negative qualities [onto gay people is diminished, and replaced by a] transformative [desire to support their loved ones]'."

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Outline map of Canada In Canada:

  • star The ninth anniversary of Canada's legalization of same-sex marriage will occur on JUL-20. Back in 2005, Canada's parliament legalized same-sex marriage (SSM) everywhere in the country -- in all ten provinces and three territories. At first, the province of Prince Edward Island did not comply; they said that they didn't know how to prepare a marriage license for a same-sex couple. However, a threatened lawsuit motivated them to quickly find a way.

  • An incident occurred in 2013 involving a same-sex couple returning as visitors to Canada to obtain a divorce. But otherwise, same-sex marriage is a inactive topic as far as the media is concerned. The term "Same-sex marriage" is not really used much; such relationships are simply referred to as "marriage."

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outline map of the world In the rest of the World:

  • star By 2014, marriage equality has been attained by 17 countries worldwide, mainly in Australasia, South America and western Europe. Most recently, this has included England, France, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales. Interest is building in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It could become a reality in Australia very quickly if the Prime Minister would allow a free vote in Parliament.

  • star Update: By 2019, same-sex couples could marry in 28 countries:

    • 2000: Netherlands
    • 2003: Belgium
    • 2005: Spain and Canada
    • 2006: South Africa
    • 2008: Norway
    • 2009: Sweden, and 12 states and Mexico City in Mexico.
    • 2010: Portugal, Iceland, and Argentina.
    • 2012: Denmark
    • 2013: Brazil, France, Uruguay, New Zealand, and England & /Wales
    • 2014: Luxembourg and Scotland
    • 2015: Finland (signed; became effective in 2017), Greenland, Ireland, and the United States (with the exception of the Territory of American Samoa) 1
    • 2016: Colombia
    • 2017: Germany, Malta, and Australia
    • 2019: Tiwan

At the start of the century, same-sex marriage was legalized at the rate of one country a year. By 2017, the rate was about three per year. Support for marriage equality has been continuing to acellerate in "... all developed democracies and in some developing democracies." 2

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  1. In American Samoa, most people are American residents, not American citizens. Thus, decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are not necessarily applicable there as they are in the U.S. mainland, Alaska, Hawaii and the other five territories.
  2. "Same-sex marriage," Wikipedia, as on 2019-OCT-09, at:

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Copyright © 2014 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2014-MAY-24
Latest update: 2018-OCT-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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