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US marriage equality: the Fall 2014 update

It's been over four months since I did one of these, so let's make like Britney's first marriage and just get into this without thinking and then annul it 55 hours later.

This is the current map of marriage equality in the 50 states of the United States:

Illustration for article titled US marriage equality: the Fall 2014 update

Which states of the US have legal same-sex marriage?

Nineteen of them. In an order similar to their decision that homosexual couples deserve marriage rights: Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania. These are all labeled as a light blue on the map. Also the District of Columbia, which isn't a state because reasons.


Which states have almost overturned bans on same-sex marriage?

Twelve of them. In the order that that state could have started allowing same-sex marriage (but chose not to), Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Idaho, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Colorado, Virginia, Florida. These are all labeled as a medium yellow on the map. Colorado and Wisconsin, respectively, currently recognize same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships as being separate but equal to marriage.


Which states have no marriage equality whatsoever?

The other nineteen! These are labeled a lovely dark red, to symbolize their deep respect for marriage, as long as it's not that queer kind of marriage. Nevada currently recognizes same-sex domestic partnerships as being separate but equal to marriage. Interestingly, all of these red-labeled states have some form of marriage equality litigation in a federal or state court. ...except Nebraska. No one is currently successfully fighting for marriage equality in Nebraska. :(


What has happened so far in 2014?

Two states (Oregon and Pennsylvania) have both granted same-sex couples marriage rights. One state (Illinois) started allowing same-sex couples to marry, after deciding to do so in 2013. Eleven other states (the list of 'medium yellow' states, minus Utah) have been told by judges that their state restrictions on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and should be thrown out. In two situations (Arkansas and Colorado), the state has been told twice that their laws restricting same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. These eleven states have all been given judicial stays.


Time out. What the eff are judicial stays?

In May of 2008, California's Supreme Court decided that the State of California's restrictions on same-sex marriage violated California's Constitution. They declared these restrictions to be gone in one month's time. The next month, same-sex couples started getting married in California, and California exploded that seemed to not be that big of a deal, because no one was getting hurt by consenting adults getting married. Weird, huh?


But! Alliances of faith groups and lobbying groups were able to persuade California voters into voting for Proposition 8, which re-restricted same-sex marriage in November of 2008. But what about the 18,000 or so couples who got married between June and November? A California Supreme Court case decided in May 2009, Strauss v. Horton, determined that any same-sex couple married before Proposition 8 passed was still married (their marriages were 'grandfathered' in), but that no same-sex couples could get married unless Prop 8 was repealed. That was confusing, and remained confusing until California re-unrestricted same-sex marriage last June.

After that colossal SNAFU, state governments have generally done one of two things when their state courts said that same-sex marriage should be allowed:
`If the people running the state are okay with same-sex marriage: then it becomes law ASAP and it might take a lot of work to undo
`If the people running the state aren't okay with same-sex marriage: then a judicial stay occurs, wherein the state doesn't have to change its conduct until further judicial appeals have occurred.


Judicial stays kind of suck: a same-sex couple in Utah should have been able to get married almost 9 months ago. But if there had been months of legal marriages and then Utah had decided to re-illegalize some marriages, that would have created a situation similar to that of California, where not all same-sex couples were given equal treatment for almost 5 years.

Why am I bringing this up now?

A group of nine people been being really quiet about marriage equality, which is weird because they're the Supreme Court of the United States, and they would be expected to have an opinion on whether things should be legal or not in the United States.


So, starting next Monday, they're finally hearing appeals from five of the cases from five of the states (Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Utah) wherein laws have been struck down but new laws haven't been put into place. The Supreme Court could do all kinds of things, such as decide that all of them are a big waste of the Supreme Court's time (this could be good or bad, depending) or decide that one or all of them should be considered by the Supreme Court, which might lead to the Supreme Court making a decision that would affect marriage law across the entire US.

Is same-sex marriage being voted on in the US in 2014?

This November, all kinds of things are being voted on. Same-sex marriage is not one of them, as far as I can tell. Efforts in Colorado to get enough signatures to put it on the ballot were halted when it looked like the matter was going to be handled by the courts, efforts in Ohio were told to stop because marriage equality advocates thought they would lose, and Oregon's efforts to get it on the ballot were stopped when Oregon legalized marriage equality in May.


Wait. I wanna smoke some pot, where can I vote on smoking pot?

Alaska, Florida, and Oregon. Florida voters, in 2008, said no to both same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions in 2008. They might say yes to medicinal marijuana this November. Alaska, in 1998, allowed voters to change the state constitution to make sure that marriage is only between one man and one woman. They might say yes to legal marijuana this November.


I couldn't read this, I got distracted by smoking pot in Alaska

In summary, after a busy 2013 in which seven states all decided to legalize marriage equality, 2014 has been a much slower year. The courts of 13 states have all said "Legalize it", 2 states have said "Cool!", 11 said "No no no no not yet." So it might (!) get heard by the US Supreme Court this year, they start figuring that out on Monday. And apparently no states, at all, have it on the ballot this November. So the only path to increase marriage equality in the US might be right through the US Supreme Court.


Is that bad?

Justice Thomas has no comment.

Edited ~1120am Mountain Daylight Time after a Twitter user reminded me of Strauss v. Horton's impact on California same-sex couples who had gotten married at exactly the right time to have their rights not denied by California voters.

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