Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Observations from the Gallery 2.7

After the euphoria of last years legalization of gay marriage in New York wore off the subject slipped to the back of my mind a bit. The fight was never buried too deeply just pushed aside by the swirl of other events. That suddenly changed in the past week as the Washington State Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage last Wednesday and today the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals ruled California's Prop 8 was unconstitutional. The court ruled that as gay couples had all the rights of marriage, via civil unions, the state had no good right or reason to take away the word marriage. That narrow ruling, effecting only California and other civil union states, makes it possible for the Supreme Court to wash its hands of equal rights and leave it to the states. You can read the Court's complete 128 page ruling here, good luck with that.

So where does the battle move next? First up is Washington where the Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage and the House is expected to do the same this week. Govenor Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, is the force behind the bill and has said she would sign it immediately. Opponents are working to schedule a referendum on the November ballot which would determine whether gay marriages could actually take place.

In Maryland a bill permitting gay marriage was introduced by Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and a committee vote is expected in a few of weeks. In New Jersey supporters are working to get the votes necessary to override Republican Gov. Chris Christie's expected veto of a bill also permitting gay marriage. In a massive cop out Christie wants to leave the decision up to voters but Democrats don't appear ready to humor him.

In May North Carolina voters will vote on whether the state constitution will be amended to define marriage. If passed the ammendment would virtualy outlaw gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. In Minnesota a November ballot question would also ammend the state constitution to ban gay marriage in a state where there is already a law making it illegal. Asshats north and south.

Finally there is Maine where a law was passed three years ago legalizing gay marriage. It was signed by the Govenor only to be repealed by the voters in a 53% to 47% vote. With changing attitudes in the state Equality Maine submitted signatures last month to again place the referendum on the ballot this November.

Still, all things considered, as Lambda Legal Director Jon Davidson said after today's decision, "The tide is not turning, it has turned." 

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