Homosexuality and bisexuality
SSM changes in
U.S. & Canada during the near future
We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this web site to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
We use the acronym "LGB" to refer to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
See also a section on this web site describing month-by-month developments in marriage
equality and LGBT rights from 2011-FEB
until now. In 2013, It has been quite a ride!
Background in the U.S.:
Starting in 2011, national polls consistently showed that a majority of American adults favored marriage equality -- i.e. allowing loving, committed, same-sex couples to marry and obtain all of the rights, privileges and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. Previous polls had shown a rise in support by the public for SSM of about 1 to 2 percentage points a year, and a drop in opposition by about the same rate. This is a similar pattern to the support and opposition of interracial marriages during the second half of the 20th century. This trend will probably continue as older teens who are more accepting of the LGBT community enter the voting pool, and senior citizens, who tend to be less accepting, leave it.
In the past, the public in 29 or 30 states (sources differ) had approved constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one woman and one man. By writing discrimination based on sexual orientation into a state constitution, that state's courts are prevented from legalizing SSM. Also, state legislators cannot create laws legalizing SSM.
In order to achieve marriage equality in one of these states, it would be necessary:
- To hold another state plebiscite to repeal the constitutional amendment banning SSM, or
- For the federal court system in the state to declare the amendment unconstitutional. This happened in late 2013 in Utah and is expected to become a more popular path for change in the future.
Some political commentators have predicted that when:
- Public support for SSM as shown by national polls, regularly exceeds 60%. and
- More than half of the U.S. population lives in states where SSM has been legalized, and
- Most of the states have legalized SSM, then
the U.S. Supreme Court might be persuaded to legalize SSM across the entire country as it did in 1967 for interracial marriage,.
Leading up to election day in 2012-NOV, the battles over SSM were fierce. 1 On election day, voters:
- Legalized SSM via three three plebiscites, in Maine, Maryland & Washington.
- Rejected a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would have restricted marriage to one woman and one man. This was the first time that such an amendment was voted upon and rejected.
2013-DEC: Current status of SSM in the U.S.:
By mid-2013, same-sex marriage had been legalized in the District of Columbia and 14 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court had declared in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This is the section that prevented legally married same-sex couples, and their children, from accessing any of the 1,138 federal programs, benefits and protections on a par with married opposite-sex couples.
Meanwhile, a few other states allow loving, committed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions or registered partnerships with some or all of the state rights, privileges, and obligations given to married opposite-sex couples. However, "civil unionized" same-sex couples do not receive access to federal programs as noted above, and they are not granted what many such couples regard as the most important right: to call their relationship a marriage.
By the end of 2013, the number of states that has achieved marriage equality reached 18 as the legislatures of Hawaii and Illinois legalized SSM, and the New Mexico Supreme Court and the federal District Court in Utah legalized SSM.
2014: Expected activity:
In many states, including Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, lawsuits in are underway to legalize SSM. Some involve multiple same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses, being automatically rejected, and launching a lawsuit in state court or federal District Court. Others involve promoting SSM in the state Legislature or launching a plebiscite.
Most states do not yet allow SSM, civil unions or registered partnerships. Loving, committed same-sex couples in these states are generally considered as "legal strangers" to each other -- as mere roommates -- without basic protections for themselves or their children.
In the future, federal District Courts in the states that have not legalized SSM are expected to play an increasing role in achieving marriage equality for their state as recently happened in Utah. They will widely use the arguments employed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States to show that restricting marriage to one woman and one man violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is a broadly based national group that seeks equal rights for the LGBT community. Spokesperson Fred Sainz said:
"The events of past few years are bringing new energy and vigor to our side that allows our messaging to constantly evolve. The other side has remained very stale and stagnant."
Opposition is expected to continue from four main organizations:
- The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is the main national organization opposed to SSM. Prior to 2012-NOV, they frequently pointed to the fact that out of 31 referendums in the past, none have supported SSM. They had expected this perfect record to continue in spite of public opinion polls that clearly showed majority support for SSM nationally. In one of his "please send money" Email appeals, Brian Brown who heads NOM said:
"It's going to be a big challenge, but I think we're up to it. All we need is enough [funding] to get our message out."
The pro-marriage equality groups collected much more financial support for marriage equality than NOM was able to, for the battles in Maine, Maryland & Washington. These are the three states that authorized SSM on election day in 2012-NOV.
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches that certain forms of discrimination against lesbians and gays are moral, including prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference of bishops said:
"It's Democracy 101. Our clergy has a duty to inform our people about the consequences of redefining marriage."
The credibility of the Catholic Church's teachings is reduced by the high level of support that Catholic laity has for SSM. Some polls show that the laity favor SSM significantly higher than the national average, even as the Church hierarchy and the Knights of Columbus are dead-set against equality. The lack of unity in the Catholic Church is also shown by a group of former Catholic priests and retired priests in Minnesota and Washington State, as well as a group of nuns and a dissident Catholic group in Illinois, all of whom support marriage equality. Still another factor is the election of Pope Francis in 2013. He is promoting the concept that the Church give far less emphasis on sexually-related conflicts in the Church like abortion access, use of contraceptives, homosexuality, etc. and more emphasis on helping the poor and sick.
- Both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons) and most fundamentalist and other evangelical denominations remain overwhelmingly opposed to equality for the LGBT community in general, and opposed to same-sex marriage in particular. However support for SSM among their younger members is growing rapidly.
- The Republican Party at the national and state levels remains heavily opposed to marriage equality.
2014 and beyond: Predictions for the future:
We expect that many individual states will continue to legalize SSM, one at a time:
- Via the legislature in those very few remaining states where the Governor is Democratic or Independent, and the Democratic Party controls both the House and Senate, or
- Via a state constitutional amendment if the state allows citizen initiatives, most of its voters support SSM, and the margin between support and opposition exceeds ten percentage points, or
- Via the state court system, or
- Via the federal court system, starting with a lawsuit before a District Court.
2005 to now: Recent developments concerning SSMs in Canada:
Same-sex marriages (SSMs) were made available in Canada's ten provinces and three territories in mid-2005 by a federal law. Prince Edward Island initially refused to marry same-sex couples, apparently because they didn't know how to design a marriage license form to handle such couples. They quickly figured out a way when faced with a lawsuit initiated by a lesbian couple. SSMs have since become a non-issue in the country, as marriages between two lesbians, or two men, or a bisexual and a partner of the same sex, or two bisexuals have become routine.
A public opinion poll during mid-2012 showed that two out of three Canadians support SSM. In fact the only groups where a majority oppose SSM are residents of Alberta, and supporters of the Conservative Party; only 46% of both of those groups favor marriage equality. 2 In a few more years, they are expected to also become a majority. With support like that it is most unlikely that any federal party would attempt to tamper with SSM legislation. To do so would threaten their prime directive: to be re-elected.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- David Crary, "Bruising Gay-Marriage Showdowns Likely in 5 States," Associated Press, 2012-MAR-08, at: http://www.salon.com/
- Kathryn Blaze Carlson, "The true north LGBT: New poll reveals landscape of gay Canada," The National Post, 2012-JUL-06, at: http://news.nationalpost.com/
Copyright © 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-MAR-17
Latest update: 2013-DEC-28
Author: B.A. Robinson