Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Connecticut: 4th U.S. State to Allow Same-Sex Marriage (updated)

Update:  CT’s Supreme Court actually struck down the ban on same-sex marriage last fall.  This month, the CT legislature enacted the enabling legislation to implement that ruling. On Thurs.  Gov. Jodi Rell signed into law the new marriage equality standards.

A timeline of the recent struggle for (civil) marriage equality in the United States.

  • 1992: The District of Columbia allows domestic partnerships of same-sex couples that qualify for a limited number of rights.  These rights are expanded in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2008.
  • 1997:  Hawai’i passes a law allowing “reciprocal beneficiary relationships” to qualify for  many rights of marriage.
  • 2000: Vermont becomes the first state in the union to legalize same-sex civil unions which offer gay and lesbian couples many of the same legal rights as marriage.
  • 2000:  California passes a “domestic partnership law” which allows same-sex couples (and non-married heterosexual couples) to have many of the same rights as married persons.
  • 2004: The Massachusetts State Supreme Court rules that restricting civil marriage to heterosexual couples violates the equal protection clauses of the MA Constitution.  With that decision, MA becomes the first state in the U.S. where same-sex couples can marry. This leads to a storm of controversy that plays a major factor in the 2004 presidential election and several other elections, as many states (including, alas, my adopted home in the Commonwealth of Kentucky) rush to put ballot measures in place that will amend their state constitutions to rule out same-sex marriage. This increases conservative Republican turnout in several swing states, including OH (where many voting irregularities were reported) and is, at least, one factor in the narrow “re”-election of then-Pres. George W. Bush.
  • 2004:  Maine and New Jersey pass laws allowing for domestic partnerships with some of the rights and benefits of marriage.
  • 2005:  Connecticut allows for civil unions, but not marriage for same-sex couples.
  • 2007: New Jersey allows for same-sex civil unions with many of the rights and benefits of marriage.
  • 2007: Washington State  passes a Domestic Partnership law which is expanded in 2008.  In March 2009, Washington State updates its Domestic Partnership law to include all the legal rights and benefits of marriage, but the TERM “marriage” is left for heterosexual couples.
  • 2008: Domestic Partnerships are granted in Oregon and Maryland.
  • 2008: New Hampshire (which in 2004 saw the first openly gay Episcopal priest consecrated as Bishop) passed a civil union law that is nearly equivalent to heterosexual marriage.
  • 2008: California had been gradually expanding its Domestic Partnership law, but in May the CA Supreme Court ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage was a violation of the state constitution.  Many gay couples rushed to get married, but opponents of same-sex marriage struck back with a ballot measure amending the state constitution to forbid same-sex marriage.  That ballot measure, Proposition 8, passed on 04 November.  Proposition 8 itself has been challenged in the CA Supreme Court (with attorneys claiming that this is not a simple amendment, but a radical revision, to the CA Constitution and, thus, needed to go through the legislature and not directly to ballot). The Court has not yet ruled on this question, but from comments during oral arguments seems inclined to uphold Prop. 8, but reluctant to nullify the thousands of same-sex marriages performed during the few months of legality.
  • 2008: New York’s legislature narrowly defeated a same-sex marriage law, but did vote to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
  • 2009: 03 April, the Iowa State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages violates the Iowa Constitution, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage. Iowa is the first “heartland” (e.g., not on either of the coasts; generally speaking the heartland  states are more conservative on social issues than states on either coast) state to legalize same-sex marriage.  It should be difficult to reverse:  In normal circumstances any amendment to the Iowa Constitution must pass in identical wording in both houses of the state legislature 2 years in a row and then be put on a ballot measure for voter approval.  The Democratic leaders of both houses have  said they will not let any such measure out of committee. But same-sex marriage opponents are pushing for a Constitutional Convention (and trying to make this a campaign issue for 2010 elections) which could radically alter the state constitution directly.
  • 2009: 07 April, the District of Columbia city council votes to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
  • 2009:  07 April, Vermont’s legislature overrides the governor’s veto to legalize same-sex marriage. VT, which passed civil unions in 2000, became the 3rd state (after Prop. 8 reversed things in CA) to legalize same-sex marriage and the first to do so legislatively.
  • 2009: 24 April, in a 4-3 decision, Connecticut’s Supreme Court strikes down its ban on same-sex marriage, thereby making it the 4th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

More on the way: 

  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has been introduced into the New York state legislature.  Last year this bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. This year there is the chance that it could narrowly pass the Senate. Gov. Patterson (D-NY), who introduced this year’s version, has promised to sign the bill.  53% of New Yorkers support same-sex marriage.  If this year’s bill fails to pass the NY senate, it will be reintroduced in 2011 after the 2010 midterms–and will be a campaign issue in 2010.
  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has passed the New Hampshire House, but is held up in the Senate.  The NH governor has not said whether he would sign or veto the measure.  Yet, a veto would merely delay, not stop the move to marriage equality in NH.  Much popular pressure is being placed on the NH governor to change his mind and sign the bill.  The bill goes to the Senate floor on Wednesday, but the vote will be very close. Everything depends on 3 very wobbly Democrats.
  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has been introduced into the legislature of New Jersey.
  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has been introduced to the Maine legislature which held hearings open to the public in early April. Although some spoke out against the measure, the reading of the bill was met with thunderous applause–something rare in legislative sessions anywhere.
  • I expect the 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act” which forbids national recognition of same-sex marriage to be either repealed or challenged in the courts before the end of  Obama’s first term as president. (Not this year, however, and probably not before 2011.)  Because of DOMA, same-sex couples in marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are denied the 1,138 rights  and benefits that heterosexual married couples have under federal law.

If the struggle continues on a state-by-state basis, FiveThirtyEight.com’s statistical genius, Nate Silver, predicts that by 2024 same-sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states (with Mississippi predictably being the last state to legalize same-sex marriage).  Here is his break-down.  Actually, after enough states legalize marriage equality, it is likely that a challenge will be raised in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), although I hope we have more progressive justices on the bench before then.  But Nate points out that this state-by-state move shows that this will not be able to be used as a wedge issue by conservatives for much longer, and soon it may actually benefit progressives–although this will be at different rates in different  regions of the country. (I predict FL to be the first Southeastern state to legalize same-sex marriage, although it just amended its state constitution to ban it in 2008.  I think that will be reversed by 2014 at the latest.  Colorado will probably be the first non-coastal Western state to legalize same-sex marriage, although the struggle will be titanic because of the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs. )

There are also seven (7) nations that recognize same-sex marriages:  The Netherlands (2001); Belgium (2003); Canada (2005); Spain (2005); South Africa (2005); Norway (2008); Sweden (2009).

Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships are legal in 14 countries:

  • Denmark (1989)
  • Hungary (1995)
  • Iceland (1996) In 2009, Iceland became the first modern nation to elect an openly lesbian prime minister, but with a financial crisis many times that of the U.S., she has her hands full!
  • Portugal (n.d.)
  • Switzerland (n.d.)
  • Germany (n.d.)
  • France (1999)
  • Finland (2001)
  • Croatia (2003)
  • Luxembourg (2004)
  • New Zealand (2004)
  • United Kingdom (2005)
  • Mexico (2006)
  • Brazil (State of Rio Grande do Sul only–2006).

Congrats, LGBTQ folk!  This straight ally longs for the day when neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is a cause of discrimination anywhere in the world.  Marriage equality marches dances onward!

April 27, 2009 - Posted by | civil liberties, GLBT issues, human rights.


  1. Yes, another chance for government to strike down the voting republic!

    (I’m not sure why you think this is a good way of doing things)

    And, didn’t you make the tired-old assertion that Bush *stole* the election through the courts when the votes ‘were against him’ . . .

    Your point, then, is that it’s ok to use the courts only when it benefits your position?

    Of course, I only appeal to the votes themselves and have no contradiction . . . your celebration of the dying of morality and republic-formed government is sad.

    Comment by Michael Thompson | April 24, 2009

  2. We have national issues much more pressing than same sex marriage at the moment !!

    Comment by Paul | April 24, 2009

  3. Paul, does this mean that you think I shouldn’t discuss the issue? Do you mean that we should accept same-sex marriage so that we can focus on the big issues? Do you mean that gays and lesbians should wait until the big issues are settled? Is that like when civil rights activists were told to “go slow” and wait until a better time?

    Is it ever the wrong time to work for justice?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 24, 2009

  4. Michael Thompson, I am just reporting here. GLBT advocates are themselves divided on the legislature vs. the courts. On the one hand, legislatures passing laws for same-sex marriage show the will of the people and the popular acceptance of marriage equality. But some worry that then these rights could be taken away as with Prop. 8. There is a role for courts in deciding which laws fit with constitutions. I am not an expert in CT’s constitution, so I don’t know whether or not the CT Supreme CT is right or wrong. But there is nothing intrinsically wrong with having the court strike down a law–as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregation laws (unanimously) in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.

    I did not object to Bush v. Gore in principle, but because it was BAD LAW that just floored law professors everywhere. How did stopping the recount harm Bush’s life?

    There is no inconsistency. I don’t object to courts when convenient and appeal to them when convenient. The courts are there to interpret the law and PROTECT RIGHTS. When they screw up or restrict rights, I object to them.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 24, 2009

  5. I lesbians and gays want to get married I have no problem with it Michael. Legally it will take a long time to happen I think. The wars, the econmy, the woes of a lot of Americans (in my mind) take precedence.

    Comment by Paul | April 24, 2009

  6. Excuse the typos…:-)

    Comment by Paul | April 24, 2009

  7. You know what happens after the first domino falls. I hope I live to see it in all 50 states.

    Comment by Marty | April 24, 2009

  8. Marty, I expect all 50 sstate by 2050 at the latest and probably sooner.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 25, 2009

  9. 2050!! Whew! If I live to be over 100, that’d be great. Or not. If not all you young ones celebrate for me!

    Comment by Marty | April 27, 2009

  10. I said “probably sooner!” 🙂 The EARLIEST I expect it would be in 2013. By then, Obama will have made 1-3 Supreme Court nominations and there should be enough states where this has become law to get a Supreme Court ruling for the whole nation. 2050 is the latest–if marriage equality has several setbacks and keeps needing to go state-by-state.

    And here’s to long life for you, anyway, Marty! 🙂

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 27, 2009

  11. Liberty and Justice for All! Yesterday would not have been too soon. By the way, I am straight.

    Comment by Steve Schuler | April 27, 2009

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: