Sign Up to Receive Email Action Alerts From Issa Exposed

2011’s marriage equality milestones — and where we’re headed in 2012

Marriage equality

By Matt Baume

OMG, 2011 — what a year for marriage equality. We’re still not ready to get married yet, but wow we are so close. Think about where we were a year ago — so much has happened. I’m Matt Baume; let’s do a quick year-in-review to look at all the amazing stuff of 2011, and look ahead to where we’re going to win in 2012.

There were five big trends this year:

1. Multiple polls that show a majority support the freedom to marry — and that includes a lot of Republicans.

2. Lots of action around civil unions.

3. Some big shakeups at statewide equality orgs.

4. International progress that sometimes outpaced the US.

5. Laying the groundwork for some major victories in 2012.

Let’s dive in.


Republican Committee head Michael Steele tells the National Organization for Marriage that he supports them 100% — and within a month, he’s out of a job. The Ninth Circuit punts the Prop 8 case to the California Supreme Court, which will eventually issue a ruling 10 months later. Rhode Island and Maryland introduce marriage bills (both of which eventually fail), and New Hampshire Republicans decide they won’t fight marriage equality this year. The Dept of Justice is still defending DOMA, even as an additional lawsuit is filed against the anti-marriage ban.


Big advances for civil unions: Hawaii passes a CU bill 11-2 and the Illinois governor signs a CU bill into law. Washington state introduces a marriage bill that eventually flops but is now its way back for 2012, Maryland’s marriage bill passes the house, and the Indiana house passes a bill to ban marriage and CUs. The DOJ reverses course and says that DOMA is unconstitutional, and Dianne Feinstein introduces a DOMA repeal bill.


Colorado’s Senate passes a CU bill and Wyoming defeats a bill that would constrain recognition of LGBT couples. Maine orders NOM to disclose donors. Maryland lawmakers reject a marriage equality bill.


Following the failure of the marriage bill in Maryland, Equality Maryland fires its Executive Director. Anti-gay bills die in Illinois and Iowa while Delaware’s CU bill passes the Senate and House. Colorado Republicans kill a CU bill. Grainy snippets of the Prop 8 trial are broadcast on C-SPAN. For the fourth time, a national survey shows majority support for marriage equality, but House Speaker John Boehner doubles down and hires Paul Clement to defend DOMA.


A fifth national survey shows majority support for marriage equality. Paul Clement and his law firm separate over DOMA disagreement. Anti-gay groups attack the judge in the Prop 8 case after he confirms that he’s gay, but their arguments sound at best homophobic, and at worst crazy. A marriage bill goes down in flames in Rhode Island, but another pops up in NY. Times are tough for civil unions in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker attempts to dismantle the state’s domestic partnership registry. But times are better in Delaware with the signing of a new CU law. Attorney General Eric Holder orders the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization to revisit whether CUs can be considered for naturalization petitions. Big international advances: Brazil’s Supreme Court votes unanimously for CUs, and the Scottish National Party wins big with a vow to consult with constituents on the legalization of marriage. Equality Maryland’s turmoil continues: now they’re nearly out of money. Equality North Carolina’s Executive Director resigns.


Scott Walker’s attempts to derail DPs in WI are dealt a legal setback. Civil unions start in Illinois. Target refuses to reform its policy of donating to anti-gay politicians. More big international news: Lichtenstein voters approve civil unions, French lawmakers reject marriage equality, and the anti-gay Prime Minister of Australia auctions off 6 dinner invitations for charity, but is startled when all six are snatched up by LGBT couples. To date, she has still refused to honor those invitations. Marriage equality passes in New York, more than doubling the number of LGBTs who can have their marriage recognized by their state. The number of LGBTs whose marriages are recognized by their country is still zero.


Equality Maryland gets its act together and releases a plan to pass a marriage bill in 2012. Other states will soon follow with 2012 plans of their own, only some of which include marriage. Rhode Island signs its new CU bill into law. The American Medical Association endorses marriage equality while lawmakers in DC hold hearings on DOMA repeal. Senator Al Franken catches one anti-gay mouthpiece in a bit of a deception. Marriages start in New York.


Taking a cue from the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association endorses marriage equality. Signature-gathering to repeal the anti-gay law in Maine begins. California hears oral arguments over releasing the tapes of the Prop 8 trial. The President of Chile proposes a civil unions bill and a Scottish survey shows 61% of citizens support marriage.


“8” premiers on Broadway on the same day that the Federal District Court orders the release of the tapes of the Prop 8 trial. Those tapes still haven’t been made public, since the Prop 8 Proponents immediately appeal. The governor of Maryland promises a marriage bill in 2012. Uruguay introduces a marriage bill with a vote expected in 2012. DOMA repeal gets its first Republican co-sponsor.


Equality California announces that it won’t pursue Prop 8 repeal at the ballot in 2012, since it would be prohibitively expensive, there’s already a lot of other marriage fights around the country in 2012, and the polling is still very close in California. Within a few days Equality California’s Executive Director resigns. Another national survey shows more people favor marriage equality than oppose it, and the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network files a lawsuit over DOMA since it unfairly harms military families. John Boehner allocates another million dollars to defend the anti-gay law. New Hampshire‘s Senate Judiciary Committee passes a bill to strip away both marriage and civil unions.


Dozens of major employers and professional organizations oppose DOMA. The Senate Judiciary Committee passes DOMA repeal. Washington announces a marriage bill for 2012, but Oregon decides not to go back to the ballot to repeal its anti-gay laws — instead, they’ll pursue a public education campaign. The California Supreme Court advances the Prop 8 case after a nearly yearlong delay. A New Jersey lawmaker tries to introduce a marriage bill during the lame duck session. He’s ultimately unsuccessful.


The Australian Labor Party adds marriage equality to the party platform despite the best efforts of the anti-gay Prime Minister, while Nigeria’s Senate approves harsh penalties for anyone involved with marriage equality. Back in the US, a third of the Senate now supports DOMA repeal. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments in the Prop 8 case, with a ruling expected early in 2012. Equality California starts staffing up with an eye toward legislation and education in 2012.

So, yeah: wow. All that in one year. Now, where’s our attention going to be for the next year?

First, Perry v. Brown, the Prop 8 case. We’re expecting a ruling any day now from the appellate court, and then it’s full steam ahead to the US Supreme Court.

Then there’s going to be big election fights in a bunch of states — and don’t forget, we’re also going to be in a presidential campaign. Minnesota, North Carolina, and Maine are the states to watch in November.

And then there’s the legislative fights. Lawmakers are expected to tussle over marriage or civil unions in Washington state, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

And watch for public outreach campaigns in just about every state, particularly Oregon, California, and Ohio.

Don’t forget about the DOMA lawsuits — there’s nearly a dozen suits that involve the federal marriage ban, and although their progress has been slow and their trajectory’s hard to predict, they’ll all make advances next year. And of course, the big national question is Obama. What’s he going to do? A lot of smart people say he’s going to come out for marriage equality. And a lot of other smart people say “mmmmmaybe.”

Internationally, keep your eyes on Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, and Australia, which all show signs of progress in the coming year. But things could get worse in Spain and Nigeria.

It is amazing how much is happening and how quickly. This is an incredible time to be alive and fighting for our rights. And these advances are possible because of you. Every time you talk about marriage equality — committed couples who just want to share their lives together — you win more people over to our side. There’ve been setbacks, but on balance we’ve been gaining momentum every single day.

And it’s so easy for you to play your part in all this. All you have to do is spread the word. Hit like on this video, post it with a comment, send it around, make sure all your friends and family see it — and then talk about it with them afterwards. Every conversation gets us closer.

I’m Matt Baume, and I would really like to get married. And so would a lot of other people you know. Let’s make it happen. Here we go: 2012.


  • 1. Brad M  |  December 28, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Great summary!

  • 2. Sagesse  |  December 28, 2011 at 7:07 am


  • 3. grod  |  December 28, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Agree with Brad M G
    T. Rose said that what marriage equality advocates in Maine learned from their failure in 2009 was that it is impossible to change hearts and minds during a campaign. Instead, EqualityMaine has been working to change hearts and minds before a potential 2012 campaign, by talking one-and-one to voters. “[We] made a commitment to the LGBT community that we wouldn’t bring the question up again until we were statistically certain [it can pass],”

  • 4. Derek Williams  |  December 28, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Even if President Obama cannot commit to marriage equality for reasons of political survival in the current term, it's clear he is onside, and without question, he still deserves our support for all he has already done for us in DADT Repeal, orphaning DOMA, HRC support, Clinton UN LGBT address, White House Memorandum on LGBT Rights, HRC appearance, White House LGBT receptions, active support for the "It Gets Better" campaign for LGBT teens at risk of suicide.

    This impressive list is the most by a mile we've ever seen from any president in the history of the United States.

    By contrast, Republican presidential candidates have all signed up to oppose our civil rights in one way or another. There is no way in this life we'll get a deal from the GOP like that we've been afforded by the Obama administration. One vote for a Republican candidate is a vote taken away from Barack Obama.

    Barack has put his political life at risk for us, and now it's time for us to return the favour.

  • 5. Stacy B  |  December 28, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Thanks for making such a great summary!

  • 6. chris from CO  |  December 28, 2011 at 8:50 am

    So OT: what the hell is wrong with those folkes on NOMs Blog. They spew hatred like no ones buisness and don't know they are doing it. Some of them really believe there is no laws against gays and lesbians we can do what ever we want we just have to do it with the opposite sex. Honestly I don't think they realize what they are saying. You know it would be cool to go on their site and see one of them say shit I was wrong. I'm sorry. Ugh had to vent they suck.

  • 7. Sheryl_Carver  |  December 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Yes, it would be cool for even one to admit he or she was wrong. But it is EXTREMELY unlikely that will ever happen. I feel so sorry for any of their family members who were born LGBT, because the regular NOM commenters have some of the most awful beliefs about us, & those beliefs seem to be cast in concrete.

  • 8. peterplumber  |  December 28, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I sometimes wonder if some of them are NOM associates, rather than casual BLOG readers. They comment on every post & spew the same garbage all the time. They do not listen to reason, they simply spew hate.

  • 9. Neil  |  December 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I'm a bit surprised there's no mention of this:

    Or This:

  • 10. Sheryl_Carver  |  December 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I agree with you, Peter, since they comment on almost every post & say essentially the same thing every time. So much so in fact, that back when I was in college (decades ago), I probably could have written a computer program that would produce the same results. Would only have required a relatively simple module for each one of the NOMbies. Sort of like Eliza, the early Artificial Intelligence program that mimicked a human therapist. In the NOM case, the domain is much more constrained.

  • 11. Martin Pal  |  December 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Those two links/articles are sad for all of us, but especially sad for all the LGBT’s in Michigan.

  • 12. Bob Barnes  |  December 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Please don't take the NOMiacs too seriously. First of all, several of us think many of the pro-NOMers are just one or two persons posting as three or four people. Second, the obvious and absolute stupidity of most of the posters is an embarrassment for NOM and certainly not appealing to fence-sitting moderates.

    Bottomline, these posters aren't doing NOM any favors.

  • 13. Straight Dave  |  December 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Excellent summary, Matt. In case anybody's feeling down about occasional slow progress, this is sure to pick up their spirits. It was a hell of a good year, but any measure. I would have also given a nod to DADT repeal, for several reasons. It indirectly helps to weaken DOMA by making its discriminatory impact more obvious (e.g., if your loved one is killed in action), and in general raises the public awareness of the existance, legitimacy, and normalcy of LGBT citizens. Its impact extends well beyond the military.

    I'm looking forward to even more good news in 2012.

  • 14. Derek Williams  |  December 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Agreed about DADT Repeal. If any institution was perceived to enshrine homophobia, it would be the über-masculine military. President Clinton's valiant attempt in 1993 to overturn the No Gays policy with an Executive Order backfired and resulted in DADT. No administration since has dared touch it.

    President Obama took a manifest risk that could so easily have backfired. Through his wide consultation and entirely democratic political measures, the eventual outcome his administration achieved became so solid that not even the most ardently anti-gay Republican administration is likely to be able overturn it.

    This achievement, along with Hillary Clinton's UN address certainly deserve a mention.

  • 15. Richard A. Jernigan  |  December 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    You forgot one in your line up. You forgot to mention that here in NC, in September, on the Same Day that openly gay, married, country singer and author Chely Wright was in Raleigh NC to speak on Marriage Equality, the NC General Assembly voted to put Amendment 1 on the ballot in May, which will also take away civil unions, domestic partnerships, and domestic partner benefits, as well as making it illegal for couples to jointly own property, live together, or even adopt each others' children. Yes, we have made great strides in 2011, but we have also suffered setbacks.

  • 16. Tim in Sonoma  |  December 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Great summary Matt, thank you! Here is to Obama 2012 and continued forward movement to full civil marriage rights for all, not only here in the US but around the world!
    I would like to thank everyone (so many to mention) at Courage campaign that work so hard to make this site such a great success. And to all the commenters YOU TOO!
    Happy new year everyone ! Rock on in 2012!

  • 17. peterplumber  |  December 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Richard!! Good to see you back here!

  • 18. Mark Mead-Brewer  |  December 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Welcome back Richard!!!
    So this new law will make it illegal for a couple to jointly own property? To live together? How is that even possible? So no one other than hetro married couples can live together or own property together?
    Really? WOW!!

  • 19. Deeelaaach  |  December 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Well, if someone did post on NOM's blog and said they were wrong, no one would ever see it: NOM would remove it before it ever appeared.

Having technical problems? Visit our support page to report an issue!