The Progress of Gay Rights in 2013

Last week, both Illinois and Hawai’i passed same-sex marriage making them the 15th and 16th states to do so.  Overall, 2013 has been quite a year for the LGBT community.  These last two states just seem to put the icing on the proverbial cake.  It all comes on the heals of the 2012 election where voters in three states (Maine, Maryland, and Washington) approved same-sex marriage and in the state of Minnesota, rejected a ban on it.

So what has transpired during the year?  Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, and New Jersey all passed same-sex marriage.  The first three were passed by the state legislatures while New Jersey was done through the New Jersey Superior Court (Garden State Equality v. Dow).  With 14-states and DC (this excludes Illinois and Hawai’i), the total population living in the various states that have same-sex marriage is roughly 104-million (33% of the population).  This number will increase with two newest states being added into the mix.

In Colorado, civil unions were legalized in May.  And starting in late August, several counties in New Mexico began issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  Currently, New Mexico has no statutes against gay marriage or in favor of them.  There is a case in the courts currently seeking clarification as to whether banning/denying same-sex marriage in the state would violate the state’s constitution.  The counties in New Mexico that began issuing the licenses did so after various court rulings.


Then there is the state of California.  In 2008, the legislature passed same-sex marriage.  That was quickly overturned by the voters with Proposition 8 that same year.  Thus started a lengthy court battle.  Lower courts ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court (Perry v. Schwarzenegger) ruled that the proponents didn’t have ground to bring the suit and threw out the case leaving the ruling by the lower courts.  California resumed same-sex marriages as a result.

It wasn’t just on the state level where advancement was made.  There were federal developments, as well, as another case made its way to the Supreme Court.  In June, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor.  It made it to where the federal government would recognize same-sex marriages there are performed in states where it is legal.  The federal government then stepped up even more stating that even if a couple lived in a state that did not recognize same-sex marriage, those marriages would be recognized on the federal level so long as they were performed in a state where they are legal.  Other parts of DOMA are now being argued in the courts, as well, especially where states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where it is legal.

Internationally, most of the focus has been on Russia which passed draconian measures against the LGBT community making it a crime to display it anywhere, to discuss it, and basically allowing groups of thugs to beat and even kill LGBT people.  This comes as Sochi, Russia is preparing to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.  The Nigerian parliament also passed a law banning same-sex marriage.  But despite these set-backs, the year saw progress.  France, England and Wales, Uruguay, and New Zealand all approved same-sex marriage.  This bring the total number of nations that recognize same-sex marriage to 16.  Two nations we should be watching in 2014 are Mexico and Ireland.  Various parts of Mexico have been approving same-sex marriage.  Will it continue piece by piece (as is being done in the US) or will it go national?  And in Ireland, the people will be voting on a referendum on whether to approve of same-sex marriage or not.

Washington Post - ABC Poll

Washington Post – ABC Poll

So what should we expect in the coming year here in the US?  According to a Quinnipiac poll in September 56% of adults (57% of registered voters) approve of same-sex marriage while 36% disapprove.  Support for gay marriage has remained roughly constant through the year while those opposed have dropped slightly.  Even with these numbers, the push for equality might seem to slow down a bit especially after the speed of progress during the last two years.  Why is this?  So far, the movement has been getting same-sex marriage approved in various states that had no constitutional bans (the exception being Maine which overturned theirs in 2012).  So either courts are going to have to throw out the state bans and rule them unconstitutional or the voters are going to have to overturn them in an election.  As stated earlier, New Mexico has neither a ban in place or any laws supporting same-sex marriage.  Other states to be watching are going to include Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and even Virginia, and Arizona.  In each of those states, recent polls show a majority of that state’s population support same-sex marriage.  Most of these states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage which will have to be overturned in either way mentioned above.  Only Pennsylvania does not have such a ban.  It only has a state statute which can be dealt with by the legislature.  In Oregon, there is already a movement underway to overturn its constitutional ban.  It will be interesting to see if they push for it in the 2014 midterms or wait for the 2016 presidential election.

According to Pew Research, 72% of those asked (proponents and opponents) say that same-sex marriage is inevitable.  This is up from 59% in 2004.  Even the southern state of South Carolina is starting to show some movement on this issue.  In a Winthrop University Poll, 52% state that they do not approve of same-sex marriage.  This may not seem very surprising, but the state did approve of a constitutional ban in 2006 with 78% of the vote.  Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 with 55% of the vote.  It has a Republican governor, two Republican Senators, a Republican-controlled legislature, and 6 out of 7 of its US Representatives are Republican, as well.  The state is solidly red, but yet attitudes are changing to a slight degree.  The possible cause of this is that, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of Republicans aged 18-49 do approve of same-sex marriage.  Even US Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have stated they support same-sex marriage, and several more Republican Senators just voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The progress of gay rights in 2013 has been remarkable.  There is still plenty of work to be done though.  The next couple of years (2014-2016) should still see great progress being made.

One Response to The Progress of Gay Rights in 2013

  1. Get Smart says:

    The state of same-sex marriage remains in flux in the United States as legal advocacy groups on both sides of the debate pursue policy changes through court proceedings, lobbying legislatures, and ballot initiatives in many jurisdictions.

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