Five years ago today, same sex couples began marrying in Connecticut. News coverage and photos from that day are available on GLAD’s website.
When the Connecticut marriage equality decision — Elizabeth Kerrigan et al v. Commissioner of Public Health et al — was released, we could not have predicted the massive strides marriage advocates would make in five short years. It was only nine years ago, on November 2, 2004, that eleven states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. (They are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah.) Two years later, on November 7, 2006, seven more states (Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin) approved constitutional gay marriage bans.
Following Kerrigan, several more states legalized same sex marriage, including Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C. in 2009, New York in 2011, Maine, Washington, and Maryland in 2012, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota in 2013. And then, in June 2013, the United States Supreme Court overturned significant portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and California’s Proposition 8 ban on same sex marriage.
The Supreme Court decisions opened the door to a new flood of lawsuits. Illinois will become the fifteenth state to approve gay marriage after Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the state’s same sex marriage into law on November 20.
Hawaii’s house of representatives approved a bill to legalize gay marriage on Nov. 8, and the state senate will address it this week. According to Time:
Approval is a given — they already passed a similar bill and only need to vote again because of an amendment to the house version. Governor Neil Abercrombie is expected to quickly sign the measure into law — which could potentially leapfrog Hawaii ahead of Illinois in the history books. Whenever that happens, many Hawaiians will have reason to celebrate: 5.1% of the population identifies as LGBT, a higher proportion than any other state with same-sex marriage legislation pending, according to Gallup.
(For those of you wondering, Gallup has North Dakota as the state with the lowest LGBT percentage. D.C. has the highest, and Connecticut sits squarely in the middle at 25th.)
New Mexico, the only state in the nation without a law that explicitly allows or bans same-sex marriage, may have a ruling from its Supreme Court on the issue before the end of 2013. Supporters are optimistic about a pro-marriage equality decision, though some state Republicans are threatening a constitutional referendum banning gay marriage regardless of the court’s decision.
Oregon will likely have a ballot referendum to overturn its constitutional ban in 2014. “If that happens, a majority of Oregonians are likely to back it.”
Marriage equality advocates are hoping to see measures passed or court cases end in their favor in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah by the end of the 2016 presidential election cycle. Lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutional bans in place in both Virginia and North Carolina. Virginia “could become the first Southern state to legalize gay marriage,” and North Carolinians support of gay marriage has increased 5% in seven months.
Cases are also pending in Mississippi, Texas, and Tennessee, though “it will likely be a few more election cycles before any significant changes are made in these states.” In Mississippi, for example, lawyers for a woman who is suing the state in order to divorce her wife (whom she married legally in California) have consistently attempted to “reassure citizens that they are merely trying to allow gay couples married elsewhere to split, rather than seeking a backdoor to gay marriage in the state.” (For more on the complications legally married same sex couples can encounter when they reside in states that do not recognize their marriages, please see Meghan’s recent blog post on the topic.)