That’s the image that comes to mind when I think of how quickly things have moved when it comes to marriage equality. It has only been 10 years since same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. And only a few years longer that that since Vermont adopted civil unions. For a while I was keeping track and blogging every time a state was added, but I just couldn’t keep up – or keep track. Now Federal benefits are available to all legally married couples regardless of the state in which they reside and the Supreme Court is letting stand Appeals Court decisions ruling prohibitions unconstitutional.
According to a post in the Washington Post’s “The Fix”, most gay Americans now live in states with marriage equality.
As the map of where gay marriage is legal has shifted and changed over the past few years, we’ve tracked a harder-to-measure component of the new laws: How many gay Americans live in states that allow them to marry.
In June, we anticipated that the tipping point was imminent. Based on data from Gallup surveys in 2012, a higher percentage of the country’s gay population already lived in gay-marriage-legal states than the population on the whole. With Monday’s Supreme Court non-decision, the percentage of gay Americans and Americans on the whole living in states where gay marriage is legal topped 50 percent.
I am unclear as to how Gallup determined the percentage of person living in a state who were gay or lesbian, but given the way Gallup polls, I assume it is by self-reporting in response to a question. According to the Fix, marriage equality has arrived in states with a lower population of gay residents.
So what happens next is anyone’s guess but with the growing numbers of same-sex marriages, I’m not sure how a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary could be implemented without chaos. A more likely scenario is a decision like the one in Loving v. Virginia. When the Court finally ruled on interracial marriage, the majority of states already allowed such unions.
This does not mean that the opposition will not fight on. A story in the New York Times today reported that
Leading opponents of same-sex marriage vowed on Wednesday to push ahead with their legal fight, noting that several federal appeals courts had not yet ruled on the issue and that the Supreme Court could still decide to leave it up to the states.
Even as the list of states authorizing same-sex marriage swells, the opponents noted Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s order on Wednesday totemporarily block a federal appeals court ruling striking down the marriage restrictions in Idaho. The temporary order came as a surprise to many advocates on both sides of the issue, since the Supreme Court on Monday had allowed similar decisions from three other appeals courts to take effect.
“The marriage battle will continue,” said Jim Campbell, a senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group that has defended marriage restrictions in several states.
Opponents seem determined that each state should have a right to define its marriage laws, but that just doesn’t seem likely to me given the Loving decision as a precedent.
“If the liberals on the court had the votes to declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right, why didn’t they take any of the cases on offer Monday?” asked Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage.
“That gives hope that the Supreme Court will not launch another Roe v. Wade,” Mr. Brown said, referring to the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
Mr. Brown also rejected the argument that, once same-sex marriages had been allowed in many states, the law could not be rolled back if the voters wanted to do so.
But most legal experts drew the opposite conclusion from Monday’s action.
“We know, from the court’s willingness Monday to allow all these marriages to go forward,” that opponents of same-sex marriage “are virtually guaranteed to lose” before the current Supreme Court, said Michael C. Dorf, a constitutional expert at Cornell Law School.
In the meanwhile, I have friends getting married, both same-sex and opposite sex. I also have friends in both categories who have or are getting divorced. All people want is to live their own lives and to have the legal protections due them. I think the opposition needs to get out of the way of the speeding locomotive.
Map: The Washington Post