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Religious Tolerance logo

Movement toward gay marriage (a.k.a.
same-sex marriage, SSM), LGBT equality etc.

Activity during 2015-JUL:
The U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage,
across the entire country, almost.
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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage."
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay
which covered events during late 2015-June.

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2015-JUN-25: Status of gay marriage throughout the North America:

Same-sex couples in North America were able to obtain marriage licenses and subsequently marry:

  • In all 10 provinces and three territories in Canada where gay marriage had been legalized almost exactly a decade earlier. This was attained by a single federal bill which was signed into law on 2005-JUL-20.

  • In the U.S.: anywhere within 36 states, the District of Columbia, and the Territory of Guam.

    They were also able to obtain marriage licenses in St. Louis, MO and in two adjacent counties in that state.

However, they were unable to obtain licenses in three groups of adjacent states, within:

  • Six states in the Deep South, from Texas to Georgia,

  • Three states in the midwest from North Dakota to Nebraska, and

  • Four states south of the Great Lakes in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

In addition, they could not obtain licenses in the four remaining U.S. territories: Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa in the Pacific Ocean, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the Atlantic Ocean.

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2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across most of the country:

The high court issued its ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. This is a consolidated case involving gay marriage lawsuits from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. The High Court decision legalized SSM in these four states, in another ten states that still had active SSM marriage bans, and in perhaps all 5 territories. This decision requires each of these 55 or 56 jurisdictions to marry qualified same-sex couples and to recognize legal gay marriages that have been legally solemnized out-of-state.

Theoretically, the ruling was not effective for at least 25 days until JUL-21. This gave the defendants who lost in the Obergefell case time to ask that the Court reconsider their ruling. Apparently, none of the defendants from any of the four states filed such a request.

With very few exceptions, county clerks across the country began issuing licenses to same-sex couples quickly after the ruling was issued. A few conservative Christian clerks experienced a serious three-way personal conflict among the following:

  • Their oath of office requires them to follow the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, and thus issue licenses to same-sex couples.

  • Their beliefs about the six "clobber passages" in the Bible that have been historically used to attack the LGBT community. Most conservative Christian faith groups interpret these passages as implying that same-sex couples should be forbidden to marry.

  • The Gospel of Matthew and Luke which requires each Christian to treat others as she or he would wish to be treated in return. This is commonly referred to as the "Golden Rule." Similar rules are found in all of the main world religions and many philosophical systems.

A few clerks solved their personal conflict by resigning. A few refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples. A few refused to issue licenses to any couples. A few judges who are assigned to the county courts to marry couples refused to marry same-sex couples. But after a week or so, the bugs had been worked out and both same-sex and opposite-sex couples were generally able to obtain licenses and marry.

Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) has posted a list of pro-LGBT equality national groups: 1 with the recommendation that any U.S. same-sex couple who has been refused a marriage license contact one of the following as soon as possible:

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The situation in the U.S. Territories, including the lone holdout: American Samoa: same-sex-marriage-american-samoa.htm

According to the "File Talk" section of Wikipedia on the topic of marriage equality in the United States, 4 Wikipedia authors have posted messages about the status of gay marriage in the five U.S. Territories:

  • Guam attained marriage equality during June.

  • Northern Mariana Islands: The Governor has committed to issuing an executive order legalizing gay marriage. Timing is unknown.

  • Puerto Rico: An executive order issued by the Governor required compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling by mid-July.

  • U.S. Virgin Islands: Same as for Northern Mariana Islands.

  • American Samoa is the lone hangout. Alone among the 50 states, 1 District and 5 Territories, the administration is still pondering its options.

American Samoa has an estimated population of 57,345. It has a land area of about 200 sq. km. or 77 square miles in the Pacific Ocean, north-east of Australia. This is slightly larger that the District of Columbia, and has about 6% of the land area of Rhode Island, which is the smallest of the 50 U.S. states.

The faith of the population is close to 100% Christian. The main denominations are conservative: the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, the Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the LDS or Mormon church -- and some evangelical congregations.

There does not appear to be any polling data that would give some indication of the support and opposition of American Samoan's to gay marriage. However, since most of the population are Roman Catholics or conservative Protestants, it is probably that there is a healthy majority opposed to marriage equality.

Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority report for the U.S. Supreme Court described the right of same-sex couples to marry as fundamental right of all citizens. However, people born on American Samoa are considered American nationals, not American citizens -- unless one of their parents happens to be an American citizen. This situation is unique to American Samoa. Those born on other American states, territories, and the District of Columbia are full citizens. Mitch Kellaway. writing for The Advocate, said:

"Currently, a lawsuit to determine whether American Samoans are actually U.S. citizens — and therefore subject to all U.S. constitutional rulings — is wending its way through a D.C. Circuit Court." 2

In the meantime, the Territorial administration is considering whether to allow gay marriages to be solemnized in American Samoa. However, it seems that one part of the High Court's ruling may apply in the Territory. That decision may commit the Government of American Samoa to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who have been legally married in another state, territory, or the District of Columbia and returned or moved to American Samoa. However, it would probably take a lawsuit to prove this.

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More news from 2015-AUG to 2016-JAN.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Marriage Equality FAQ," Marriage Equality USA, 2015-JUL, at: http://www.marriageequality.org/
  2. Fili Sagapolutele, "American Samoa Questions If Gay Marriage Ruling Applies To Territory," Huffington Post, 2015-JUL-10, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  3. "American Samoa questions US gay marriage laws," SpasifikMag.com, 2015-Autumn edition, at: http://www.spasifikmag.com/
  4. "File talk: Same-sex marriage in the United States.svg," Wikipedia, as on 2015-JUL-23, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/

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How you may have arrived here:

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JUL-23
Latest update: 2015-JUL-24
Author: B.A. Robinson
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