Dec 31, 2013

2013 is a banner year for same-sex marriage


As we celebrate 2013 with a bang, I’d like to look back and see how same-sex marriage has been adopted all over the world during the past year. Back in July, I congratulated England and Wales for allowing same-sex marriage for its citizens starting on March 29, 2014. England and Wales joined Uruguay, New Zealand, and France in recognizing same-sex marriage this year bringing the total number of countries where same-sex marriage is allowed to 15.

But the greatest triumph is in the United States. Over the past 12 months, nine states either passed legislation, had court rulings, or had popular votes allowing same-sex marriage in their territories. These are Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, and Utah. These series of recognition has effectively doubled the number of states and territories in the United States where same-sex marriage is allowed. The other states and territories where same-sex marriage is already allowed are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., New York, Maine, Maryland, and Washington. In addition, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was effectively struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 thus allowing same-sex couples federal benefits such as insurance and social security.

The map below show the current state of same-sex laws in the United States with blue states for and red states against.

Among the states that started allowing same-sex marriage in 2013, the most notable are California and Utah. California’s Supreme Court previously ruled in 2008 that same-sex marriage is permitted in that state. However, Proposition 8 was narrowly passed by voters later that year which stated that marriage can only be heterosexual. Predictably, this set off a series of court cases resulting in the overturning of Prop 8 in 2010. This was appealed and the appellate court affirmed the decision. Finally, the case was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court which dismissed the case last June 26. After 5 years of wrangling, California finally joined the growing list of states where same-sex marriage is recognized.

The case of Utah is quite curious. Utah, where the very conservative Mormon Church (aka Latter-Day Saints) has considerable influence, had previously passed in 2004 a state constitution amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Due to a court case, a federal district judge ruled last December 20 that this amendment was unconstitutional with respect to the U.S. Constitution thus paving the way for same-sex marriages to be performed in Utah.

Pundits noted the irony of the situation because the Mormon Church had poured large amounts of money and resources into pushing for Proposition 8 in California. As mentioned earlier, Prop 8 was struck down earlier this year and now Utah itself allows same-sex marriage. The Republican Utah administration had already started the appeals process and we will see where the legal dance will take Utah in the years to come. Hopefully, like California, Utah will ultimately allow same-sex marriage with finality.