January 25, 2013
By Matt Baume
We’re just at the start of 2013, but there’s already lots happening with marriage equality. And it’s only going to get busier as the year goes on.
The biggest news this year is probably going to come out of the United States Supreme Court. They’ll hear oral arguments in the Prop 8 case and in a Defense of Marriage Act case in late March. It’s the first time that the Supreme Court has ever heard arguments on the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples, so it’s a big big deal.
This is the culmination of AFER’s work over the last few years, and it’s the last step in finally getting rid of Prop 8 for good. We’ll be tracking developments very closely and providing regular updates. Follow AFER here on YouTube, at AFER.org, and on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to date.
As of now, the Supreme Court’s schedule has briefs and amici curiae due by early March. Oral arguments are slated for March 26 and 27. And we’ll have a decision by the end of June.
While that’s going on at the national level, we’re going to see major progress in the states. Here’s where we’re likely to see the most activity. If you live in any of these states, or know anyone who does, now is a crucial time to get involved.
Let’s start with Illinois, since we’ve already picked up some serious momentum in the state. Lawmakers tried to pass a marriage bill in the last few days of the previous session. The bill didn’t make it to a full vote, in part because some legislators were absent. But it did pass a Senate committee, an important milestone to take into the new session. We’ll almost definitely see more progress on marriage bills before the spring.
Public polling is close in Illinois, but that’s rapidly improving. A Southern Illinois University survey from this September showed 44% support marriage equality. That’s up ten points from just a year ago.
We’re also making strides in Minnesota and Rhode Island, where legislatures picked up numerous pro-equality lawmakers in the November election.
Minnesota’s next step will be to dismantle an old statutory ban on marriage. That work probably won’t be too visible until a bit later in the session, possibly in late spring.
Things are moving faster in Rhode Island, where new legislation’s already been introduced for 2013. We’re expecting a House vote very soon — possibly by the end of this month. Passage seems likely in the House, but far more complicated in the Senate.
We have new allies in Colorado too. Legislators aren’t ready to consider marriage bills, but a civil unions bill came very close to passing last year. A lawmaker who blocked civil unions in 2012 lost his bid for re-election. He’s been replaced as House Speaker by openly gay Representative Mark Ferrandino. So the chances are very good for civil unions finally passing in Colorado this year.
Polling’s quite strong in Colorado. Last year, Public Policy Polling showed 62% of voters supported the civil unions bill, with just 32% opposed.
Then there’s Delaware, where civil unions began one year ago. Delaware Governor Jack Markell is strongly in favor of legalizing marriage equality in his state. House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf has also said that a marriage bill would likely face a legislative vote in the coming months, and that he would support it.
Delaware polling is close. The last survey was in February of 2011, and showed marriage equality leading by the slimmest of margins: 48% to 47%. But national public opinion has moved dramatically since that survey was taken, so Delaware opinion is likely to have shifted as well.
In New Jersey, the legislature will be working to override Chris Christie’s veto of the marriage bill. Organizers have expressed confidence that the support is there, and all that’s needed is some intense lobbying to shore up those votes.
But other organizers are hedging their bets, and have started the process of bringing the issue to voters. Assemblymember Reed Gusciora, who engineered last year’s marriage equality bill in the legislature, wants to put marriage on the ballot.
Now marriage equality in the state has turned into something of a race. Which strategy will reach its goal first: the legislative approach, or the electoral approach?
And of course, if neither is successful, there’s still a pending lawsuit. Lambda Legal has sued state officials, arguing that the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution requires marriage equality for all.
Meanwhile, Indiana’s legislature may vote this year on a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. If it passes, it would then go to voters, likely in 2014 at the earliest.
There’s also a ballot measure in the works in Ohio, and a lawsuit in Hawaii that’s temporarily on hold.
And public education and outreach continues in Oregon. That’s pretty much where Maine was two years ago, so we’ll probably see Oregon move closer to a ballot measure in the coming year.
And there you have it: a Supreme Court decision on the horizon that will change everything at the federal level. Plus activity at the state level from coast to coast.
This is a point in our country’s history that people are going to be talking about for a long long time. And there’s never been a better time to play a part. Subscribe here on YouTube to get weekly alerts about what’s happening and how you can help make a difference no matter where you are. And visit us over at AFER.org to pledge your support for the case to overturn Proposition 8 once and for all.