By: Marilyn Rosa, JS Senior
Same sex marriage in the United States is not currently recognized by the federal government, yet it is recognized by some individual states. The six states grant the marriage licenses to same sex couples are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, plus Washington D.C. The state of Washington now will begin to grant same sex marriage licenses that will be effective June 2012, unless forced to a voter referendum in November.
At a local level, in California, between June 16th, 2008 and November 4th, 2008 same sex marriages were legal and were performed with no problem. Then when Proposition 8 passed, it prohibited this right for homosexual couples to marry. Maryland also recognizes same sex marriages but does not grant marriage licenses yet.
The fact that same sex couples can get married and have that right is because of court rulings and legislative action, but some states that are resorting to a voter referendum, it never ends positive. Currently, there are 12 states that prohibit same sex marriage by a state statute and then 29 states that do so by the state’s constitution. The lack of recognition is the federal sphere all began with the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in 1996. This is was the reality that ruined the right to marriage for homosexual couples all over the United States. That is, until 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to grant same sex marriage licenses. They were the first to fight DOMA, which was passed
In February alone, there has been a lot of action revolving this issue. February 1st, the Washington state Senate voted in favor of legalizing same sex marriage. The state of Washington is expected to legalize it soon. A week later on the 7th, the 9th circuit court of appeals affirms Judge Walker’s decision in overturning Proposition 8. A day later, on the 8th, The Washington House of Representatives votes in favor or legalizing same sex marriage, where the bill was officially signed into law. New Jersey legislature passes same sex marriage bill on February 16th. The next day Maryland’s House of Delegates passes a bill to legalize same sex marriage. A few days later on the 22nd, Judge Jeffery White rules the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management. Judge White had made a statement that he found Golinski, an attorney and employee of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, had her rights violated under the equal protectio0n clause of the US Constitution when she was denied spousal benefits. A day later, on the 23rd, The Maryland Senate sent a bill legalizing same sex marriage to Governor O’Malley, whom is expected to sign it.
With all of these promising actions, there is a bump in the road as the legislative leaders of individual states want to take back this marriage right. As Washington and Maryland may be on their way to legalizing same sex marriage, New Hampshire on the other hand is looking to repeal the law. This state has had this law in effect for two years now and now a repeal bill is looking more and more that it will pass, seeing how the State House and Senate is populated with Republicans. In the long run though there is hope, because the bill may just get overturned by the Governor, John Lynch, whom is a liberal Democrat.
This issue is noteworthy because, if repealed, New Hampshire will become the first state where a legislature has reversed itself on the issue of same sex marriage. A recent poll from this article mentioned 59% are strongly against repealing the law in New Hampshire, whereas 32% said they support the repeal. If this repeal is sustained, the state would not validate the marriages that have happened since it was legalized there in that state. Those couples would then only be allowed civil unions for any gay couples who wanted to wed in the future. In the state of California, the California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that same sex couples had a right to marry, but voters banned same sex marriage in an initiative later. This issue remains in court.
Through the first decade of the 21st century, public support for its legalization grew considerably, and contemporary polls show that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Despite this point, this month there was a setback. On the 8th, North Carolina voters had approved a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage as well as other types of same sex unions at a 61% to 39% difference. North Carolina already prohibited same-sex marriages by statute, and became the final state in the South to do so by constitutional amendment. On May 9th however, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to declare his support for the legalization of same-sex marriage. In this interview, he stated his belief that individual states should have the final say as to whether same-sex marriage is recognized.The announcement made Obama the first United States president to publicly declare his support of same-sex marriage while in office, and marked a departure from his previous stance on the issue.
We should not be voting on someone’s natural and civil rights. This is why this issue is in court in California because there are people who are looking at this issue under the lens that it is unconstitutional to not allow people to get married, whereas others see it as their natural right to vote as part of the state they live in. People should be treated equal and that means, in accordance with the constitution, same sex couples should have the right to marry one another under the equal protection clause.
It seems as the public’s view is leaning more toward supporting their fellow man and woman this right to marry. I mean, why not? We are in the year 2012, there have been many changes to law that have been very profound in shaping the current laws today. The landmark decision that led to integration of races and the end of segregation in school was not until 1954 as a result of Brown v. Board of Education. The issue of interracial marriage was not legal until 1967 thanks to Loving v. Virginia. The current precedent was set before and has changed out society for the better and we can still make improvements. These current laws to had to go through the process of appeal and it is this type of change that keeps our society developing and moving progressively toward a better tomorrow. The issue of same sex marriage will one day not be an issue and hopefully we will be able to look back on the fight for the rights of same sex couples, as they should be granted this right.
“They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once though necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress.” This was referred to when looking at the precedent mentioned in the Lawrence v. Texas. One can apply this to the current debate over same sex marriage as see that currently we are just blind, and there is hope for a better more equal tomorrow. With society changing all the time, then so can current precedent and laws that prohibit such a right can be overturned, because sometimes we need to see that what the law was in the past is in the past for a reason and we are evolving together and striving to make a more equal society little by little.
New York Times: “As Gay Marriage Gains Ground in Nation, New Hampshire May Revoke Its Law” By: Abby Goodnough
February 27, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/us/gay-marriage-law-in-new-hampshire-may-be-revoked.html