February 13, 2012
By Matt Baume
Prop 8’s unconstitutional, Washington’s passing its marriage equality bill, Illinois just introduced a bill of their own, we’re making more progress in Maryland, and now New Mexico has pulled a proposed anti-gay marriage law. I told you 2012 was going to be busy.
There are four big things you need to know about last week’s ruling.
First, it is a huge deal that for the first time ever, a federal appeals court has said that it’s unconstitutional to ban marriage equality. Second, the court ruled that there is no legitimate reason for singling out LGBTs for denying equal protection.
Third, this ruling isn’t just for California. The Ninth Circuit is the largest circuit in the country, and this ruling is a binding precedent from Alaska to Nevada. So if any of those states ever grant marriage equality and then try to take it away, this ruling says, in essence, “stop. Don’t. The 14th Amendment protects minority groups.”
We’ll talk more about that in just a minute.
And fourth, it’s a big big deal that the court rejected the homophobic argument that the District Court judge should have recused himself when he disclosed that he’s gay. Each of those points is a huge victory, and they won’t be our last.
So now let’s talk about Washington. By the time you watch this, the Governor will probably have signed marriage equality into law. But just like in California with Prop 8, the law doesn’t take effect right away. Anti-gay activists have a few months to gather signatures to stop us from marrying. They could try to overturn the law with a referendum, which requires about 120,000 signatures and would delay the law’s start until after the election in November. Or they could try to invalidate it with an initiative, which would require 240,000 signatures, but it would probably allow marriages to start sometime between now and the election. Or they could do both, but that could work against them if voters get confused about two competing anti-gay measures.
Right now, it’s unclear how the ruling in the Prop 8 case will affect Washington State. But Washington is in the Ninth Circuit. And our ruling says that it’s unconstitutional to take away marriage once it’s been granted. So we’ll be keeping a close eye on those developments.
Meanwhile, a new survey in New Hampshire shows that 62 percent of residents oppose attempts to take away that state’s marriage rights.
And in New Jersey, a new survey shows that public opinion favors marriage equality with an 11-point lead, 48 to 37 percent. Marriage equality bills are up for a vote in the Senate on Monday, February 13, and in the Assembly on Thursday.
And in the midwest, Illinois lawmakers have introduced a marriage equality bill, less than a year after signing civil unions into law. And an attempt to strengthen New Mexico’s prohibition on marriage equality has finally been scrapped.
Finally this week, Australia will begin debate on four separate marriage bills. The votes on those bills are still a long way off, probably in late 2012, as politicians work to secure a stronger coalition for support.
Visit MarriageNewsWatch.com for up-to-the-minute news alerts on all these stories and more. And for more on the federal fight to overturn Prop 8 and win full federal marriage equality, visit AFER.org. I’m Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We’ll see you next week.