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Marriage Could Start Sooner than Expected

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By Matt Baume

It’s been a busy week, with marriage bills just days away from becoming laws in Illinois and Hawaii. By the end of 2013, the percentage of the population living in states that have passed marriage bills will have doubled in just one year. So, what’s next? Believe it or not, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Montana have all shown signs of progress this week.

Last week the Illinois House passed the marriage bill by a 61 to 54 vote. And now Governor Pat Quinn has set a date: he’ll sign it into law on November 20th. Currently, marriage is slated to start in Illinois on June first, 2014.

But State Senator Don Harmon has filed an amendment to an unrelated bill that could push up the date to as early as February. The legislature won’t have an opportunity to vote on his proposal until February 4th, so we’ll need to check back in then.

And a marriage bill also passed the House and Senate in Hawaii last week. It’s not a done deal yet: legislators will need to vote again on some amended language. But it’s unlikely that the bill will get hung up on those re-votes, and could head to the Governor’s desk later this week.

But even then, some hurdles may remain. Opponents of marriage equality have vowed to file a court challenge in Hawaii. They claim that a 1998 constitutional amendment only allows the legislature to prohibit marriage equality, not enact it. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation there.

And there have been significant developments in several other states. The New Mexico Supreme Court is still mulling a lawsuit over marriage equality. But in the mean time, the state’s insurance regulator has ordered companies to provide married gay and lesbian couples with the same benefits provided to straight couples.

A lesbian couple in Kentucky has sued the state after its marriage ban prevented them from obtaining a divorce. Arkansas has approved wording for a ballot measure to overturn the state’s marriage ban, which could go before voters in 2016 at the earliest. Nebraska legislators held a hearing on relationship recognition, with state Senator Ernie Chambers pledging to introduce a civil unions bill in 2014.

A South Carolina survey shows support for marriage equality is still low, but rising very quickly. And a Montana survey shows support exceeding opposition for the first time.

And finally, last week marked the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in Maine. At that time, there were about 50 million Americans living in states with marriage equality. With the addition of several states since then, including Hawaii and Illinois, that number is over 113 million.

13 Comments

  • 1. Klien  |  November 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    South Carolina has a HUGE LGBT population in many cities. Anyone who has lived there knows this. Montana on the other hand does not. If Montana is exceeding South Carolina in terms of gay rights and marriage equality support, given the demographics, that tells me somethings not being done in SC. No concrete LGBT grassroots movement.

  • 2. Bruno71  |  November 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Montana with a plurality for equality is going to be very helpful in the 9th Circuit. The less controversial it is in these states, the more likelihood of a broad ruling.

  • 3. davep  |  November 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Good point!

  • 4. Zack12  |  November 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    It should also be noted that one of the Senators from Montana,Jon Tester has a gay son. Hopefully now that he's been reelected he'll be more of an ally for our side then he has been in the past.

  • 5. Kalbo  |  November 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Incredible moment! Proud I was there with some amazing people! ^_^

    (Reposting here per suggestion in comment on Hawaii post. Enjoy!)

    [youtube Ceh_9qKxDxg&feature=share http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceh_9qKxDxg&feature=share youtube]

  • 6. Michael  |  November 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I saw part of this elsewhere, but this is the first time I saw the whole thing. It gave me goosebumps! Thanks for posting.

  • 7. Eric  |  November 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

    That or SC is overrun with bigots.

  • 8. davep  |  November 12, 2013 at 10:12 am

    ….guys, make sure you watch it all the way to 7:50 ! Absolutely wonderful.

    That moment reminds me of another similar and powerful moment when New Zealand passed their marriage equality bill. Remember that? Thanks for posting this, Kalbo.

  • 9. Lymis  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I can't imagine that Hawaii lawsuit will go anywhere. Their Supreme Court mandated marriage equality, and they amended the Constitution to give the legislature authority to define it. I cannot imagine that the Court will decide that they can't enact it.

  • 10. SoCal_Dave  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    My guess is that it's because Montana has more of the libertarian-ish, live-and-let-live type conservatives, while So.Carolina has more of the fundie religionist type. You can sway one a whole lot easier than the other.

  • 11. Bruno71  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    The mountain west is generally more libertarian, although there's definitely a strong fundamentalist sector as well. But nothing like we see in the southern Bible Belt. Also, I'd argue South Carolina's lack of really large cities slows the acceptance of the LGBT communities there.

  • 12. Mike in Baltimore  |  November 13, 2013 at 3:17 am

    The language of Amendment 2 to the Hawai'i state constitution reads:

    "The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples."
    (added as Article I, section 23, The Constitution of the State of Hawai'i)

    The amendment does not require that the legislature 'reserve' marriage to opposite-sex couples, just that it has the power to do so. Nor does it prohibit the legislature from passing such legislation, then at a later date in effect rescinding that legislation.

    On October 14, 2013, Hawaii's Attorney General stated via formal legal opinion that Amendment 2 does not prevent the state legislature from legalizing same-sex marriage. (With thanks for Wikipedia for providing the info on the AGs legal opinion.)

  • 13. Deeelaaach  |  November 13, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Thanks for the info Mike. I was going to ask about the legislature choosing not to reserve marriage to opposite sex couples, but you've answered that for me quite well.

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