At the end of 2011-JUL, loving, committed same-sex couples in
North America were able to marry in all ten Canadian provinces, all three
Canadian territories, six U.S. states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, New York, Vermont -- and the District of Columbia. 100% of Canadians in same-sex relationships can marry; about 40% of Americans live in a jurisdiction where either same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are available. In the rest of the U.S. they mainly have the status of mere roommates.
During the three years prior to mid-2011:
Proposition 8, a voter's initiative, passed by popular vote with a margin of about 4.5 percentage points. It terminated future same-sex marriages (SSMs) in California.
which could have established marriage equality in Maine lost by a slim margin of 6 percentage points.
About support for and opposition to SSM:
There is a major split across the U.S. among voters between:
Young voters who support SSM and elderly voters who oppose it.
Religious liberals and progressives, secularists, NOTAs ("None of the Above" or persons unaffiliated with any religion) and others who support SSM in contrast with religious conservatives who are strongly opposed.
The overall trend has been in the direction of increasing support for SSM by about 1 to 2 percentage points per year. All of the major
national polls show during late 2010 and the first half of 2011 showed about 53% of the population supported SSMs while about 45% are opposed,
for a margin of 8 percentage points.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) groups and human
rights groups have consistently argued for SSM on the basis of equal rights for
all loving committed couples. Religious conservatives initially argued against
SSM, mainly on the basis that same-sex couples cannot procreate, that a child raised without both a father and a mother is disadvantaged, and that SSM was an
attack on opposite-sex marriage. After:
A lesbian baby boom,
number of adoptions by gay couples,
Many studies that agree that children raised by same-sex parents do as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents, and
Many years of experience with SSM in Massachusetts with no adverse effect on marriage,
they switched their strategy. They have recently
adopted a campaign largely based on fear of the loss of religious
They are not referring to the freedom to believe as they wish, which has been the traditional meaning of the term "religious freedom." They fear that their freedom
to discriminate against LGBT persons may be reduced. They raise the prospect of congregations and clergy being hit with lawsuits if they refuse to marry same-sex couples. In the past, faith groups have refused to marry inter-racial couples, couples who follow different religions, and even engaged persons who are physically disabled without triggering a lawsuit. But somehow, religious conservatives fear that the absolute freedom of faith groups to discriminate -- as guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- will somehow be removed, exposing them to human rights charges.
One of the hot spots in the battle for and against marriage
equality was Maryland.
In 2009, Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University published a paper in American Political Science Review showing the support for SSM in each state, during 1994-6, 2003-4, and 2008-9. Their results showed that Maryland was closely paralleling the levels of support found in Delaware: about 45% voter support for SSM during 2008-9. Further the rate of increase in support in both states was about 2 percentage points a year. Extrapolation of the results would predict that 51% of voters would favor SSM by mid-2011, and 53% by early to mid-2012 when the latest attempt to pass a SSM bill was succeeding.
In early 2010, the attorney general ruled that same-sex marriages legally solemnized elsewhere were now recognized in Maryland. Loving, committed same-sex married couples will receive a few hundred state benefits that all married couples receive, However, they will still be denied the 1,150 or so federal benefits because of the federal DOMA law.
This ruling triggered a firestorm of criticism, leading to plans to impeach the Attorney General, to launch a referendum to prevent SSM recognition, and to introduce a bill into the state House and Senate to overrule the Attorney General's ruling. None of this materialized.
In early 2010-MAY, the Washington Post announced results of a survey of voters in Maryland on same-sex marriage. Most voters agree that the state should recognizing same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere. In addition voters who favor legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland have a 4 percentage point lead over those who oppose SSM.
Democratic wins in the 2010-NOV state elections resulted in an attempt to pass SSM legislation during early 2011. On 2011-FEB-24, the state Senate passed a bill that would extend marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples. The bill would also protect clergy who want to continue discriminating against such couples by refusing to marry them.
On 2011-JUN-29, Nate Silver, a statistician who maintains the FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times computed the probability of a citizen initiative passing on Election Day of 2012-NOV that banned same-sex marriage in the state. This gives an indication of the support and opposition to SSM among the public. He concluded that the vote in Maryland would be too close to call. He used two models that predicted an anti-SSM vote of 49% and 54% by the public.
Later in 2001, the House Judiciary Committee narrowly passed the bill and recommended that the House also pass it. It was subsequently passed by the House, the governor promised to sign it into law. However, the vote would have been very close. By a voice vote, it was referred back to the House Committee for reconsideration in 2012.
A similar bill was launched in early 2012. It contains extensive protections for religious groups and their affiliates to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.
The bill was narrowly passed by the House on FEB-17, and by the Senate on FEB-23. The governor signed it into law on 2012-MAR-01. Maryland became the ninth jurisdiction in the U.S. to authorize SSM: eight states and the District of Colombia. That means that over 25% of the jurisdictions in the U.S. have made marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships available for same-sex couples.
Opponents of marriage equality sponsored a citizen initiative called Question 6 -- "The Civil Marriage Protection Act" -- which was voted upon on election day, 2012-NOV-06. It failed to stop SSM.
Summary of polling data for Maryland:
2012-OCT-22: By SEP-26, a total of six consecutive polls had indicated that more adults favored than opposed marriage equality and planed to vote against the referendum. But on OCT-22, after a string of fear-based ads by religious and social conservatives, the lead evaporated and became a loss. Still, few people seem to be questioning the ethics of a system that allows a majority to deny a minority such a fundamental right as the right to marry the person that they love and to whom they have made a committment.
Question 6 was passed by the voters 51.9% to 48.1% on election day, 2012-NOV-06. The margin was 3.8 percentage points. These values are similar to the results of referendums in Maine and Washington on the same day that also came out in support of SSM. They were similar to the referendum results in Minnesota in which the public rejected a constitutional amendment banning SSM.
It was originally believed that same-sex couples who wanted to marry as soon as possible would have to wait until 2012-JAN-01 when the law took effect, then wait an extra day because of the legal holiday, obtain their marriage licenses on JAN-02, and then wait until at least the morning of JAN-04 until the license became effective.
However the Attorney General has issued a report saying that same-sex couples can pick up their licenses as soon as 2012-DEC-06 and get married as soon as the morning of New Years Day, 2013-JAN-01. We expect that some same-sex couples will tie the knot at 12:01 AM on 2013-JAN-01.