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Next Steps After Australian Setback

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By Matt Baume

We have a major setback this week in Australia, but there’s still a glimmer of hope. Marriage equality hearings are coming up in two unlikely states: Arkansas and Texas. An Oregon ballot measure passes a major hurdle, and organizers launch a new public outreach campaign on the east coast.

Well, it’s not the news we wanted. An Australian court has ruled that individual territories cannot enact marriage equality legislation. That ruling effectively nullifies the over two dozen marriages that happened in the Australian Capitol Territory last week.

But the good news is that the High Court of Australia also laid out a roadmap for enacting full federal marriage equality. According to the court, Parliament has the authority to allow gay couples to wed. That means that organizers can now put pressure on federal officials to bring marriage equality to a vote.

Meanwhile, England has set an official date for the start of marriage equality. Weddings in England and Wales can begin on March 29. So you’ve got about three months to plan your big British wedding.

Here in the states, the number of marriage equality lawsuits awaiting a decision continues to grow. Last week a judge in Arkansas held a hearing to determine whether he should dismiss a suit against the state’s marriage ban. Couples have also requested an injunction that would allow them to marry out-of-state to obtain recognition in Arkansas. There’s no timeline for a ruling there. It could come any day, or we could have a wait of several months.

A court in Texas has agreed to hear a suit against that state’s marriage ban. The hearing’s scheduled for February, so 2014 is already shaping up to be a very busy year for marriage.

Much of next year’s attention is likely to go to Oregon, where a repeal of the state’s marriage ban will go to voters. Last week, organizers announced that they’d gathered the required number of signatures to place the repeal on the ballot. Polling in Oregon is generally favorable, with a steady increase in support over the last few years. The most recent Public Policy Polling numbers are a year old, and show 54% support marriage equality to 40% opposed.

And finally this week, Pennsylvania has kicked off an education campaign to grow public support for marriage. The state has multiple lawsuits awaiting a ruling, so Freedom to Marry and the ACLU are capitalizing on the attention with a “Why Marriage Matters” campaign. Polling in Pennsylvania is not great. A Public Policy Polling Survey from May showed 45% support to 47% opposed. The next major legal milestone is a trial starting on June 9, so there’s lots of time to shift public opinion between now and then.

8 Comments

  • 1. FYoung  |  December 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Still hoping for New Mexico.

  • 2. Robin  |  December 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    SCOTUS also waited till the last day for its rulings in the SSM cases.

    I look at it positively: the longer they wait, the less time opponents have to try to organise a ballot initiative or so.

    I'm also wondering whether the NM Supreme Court could be contacted to ask when they will rule. Anyway, it's either one of the next days or next year.

  • 3. Stefan  |  December 18, 2013 at 9:25 am

    The longer they wait, it also means they're crafting a bulletproof opinion.

  • 4. _BK_  |  December 18, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    When is the last day a NM decision could be released?

  • 5. Stefan  |  December 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

    The could stretch it out as long as they want but I expect a decision by the end of the month so as to allow married couples to put it on their 2013 tax returns.

  • 6. MightyAcorn  |  December 18, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Has anyone taken the temperature of the Australian Parliament re: introducing a marriage law? I know the recent elections turned Oz's leadership conservative, but are the components for a coalition there?

  • 7. Robin  |  December 18, 2013 at 8:34 am

    There's an overview of MPs and their stance here: http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/whereyo

    That doesn't look very good, although I suppose it might change significantly once the conservative members are allowed a conscience vote.

  • 8. Valquiria  |  December 18, 2013 at 8:46 am

    This recent article (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/16/gay-marriage-abbott-plays-down-vote) suggests that a parliamentary majority is doubtful, even in the unlikely event of a conscience vote. The one encouraging sign is that a few influential Liberals (i.e. conservatives) have been vocal in support of equality. Even so, we aren't likely to see marriage equality in Australia as long as the current right-wing coalition is in power.

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