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Marriage Equality: USA!! USA!! USA...???

Thu 23 Oct 2014 In: Comment View at NDHA

Why has marriage equality become one of the core LGBT issues within the United States, as increasing numbers of US states strike down earlier statutory or constitutional bans against it? Thirty one states have now done so- and almost sixty percent of US inhabitants now live in a state where marriage equality is recognised. It has taken nearly twenty years to reach this stage, but suddenly, it's sped up a lot. In 1993, Hawaii was the first US state to temporarily legislate for marriage equality, but then the US Christian Right hit on its binding referenda strategy. However, that proved to be to no avail. In November 2003, the Massachusetts State Supreme Court recognised the right to marriage equality. In November 2004, however, several US states passed discriminatory constitutional marriage bans through referenda- Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah. In 2008, California voters passed the similarly discriminatory Proposition 8 referendum- but in 2013, it was struck down by the US Supreme Court within its Perry versus Schwarzenegger decision (2013). Meanwhile, Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), the District of Columbia (2010), New Hampshire (2010), Delaware (2011) and Rhode Island (2013) had all legislated for marriage equality, given New England's greater social liberalism and reduced religious adherence relative to the rest of the United States. However, the tide was starting to turn. Arizona (2006) and Minnesota (2012) both refused to adopt discriminatory state constitutional amendments that would have restricted marriage to heterosexuals- to be joined by Maine, Maryland and Washington state in November 2012 as voters endorsed marriage equality in referenda held within each state during the federal presidential, federal congressional and state governorship elections that were held that year. True, there were a few false starts- Maine had had an earlier attempt at marriage equality voted down within a referendum (2009), and predictably, North Carolina (2012) passed a referendum that placed discriminatory marriage provisions within the state constitution. As with New Zealand, Uruguay, England, Wales and France offshore, the pace of change started to accelerate within the United States in 2013. Proposition 8 was struck down by the US Supreme Court in July 2013, meaning that California could now implement its own marriage equality legislation. New York State legislated for marriage equality in July 2013 as well. Minnesota followed suit in August 2013. New Jersey did so in October 2013, as did Illinois and Hawaii (November 2013) and New Mexico (December 2013). During the course of this year, the courts struck down discriminatory statutory and constitutional bans against marriage equality in Nevada (January 2014), Oregon (May 2014), Pennsylvania (August 2014), Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina, Virginia, Idaho, Indiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Alaska (October 2014). At the time of writing, this means that almost two-thirds of US states now recognise marriage equality. At the moment, however, appeals against earlier court strikedowns of discriminatory statutory and constitutional marriage equality bans are still preceding in Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida and Wyoming, and their respective (mostly Republican) governors and legislatures are defending the statutes and constitutional amendments. The situation in Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Nebraska appears to be fluid, with appeals against bans and stays against any strikedown in flux. Change appears to have been achieved through a combination of lower appeal courts, Democrat-dominated state legislatures and governorships, state and federal US Supreme Court refusal to hear appeals against overturning marriage equality and support from President Obama and former US Attorney-General Eric Holder. US Christian Right organisations and other religious social conservatives have suddenly found themselves out of favour and have had to face some humiliating reversals. These include fundamentalist former Republican presidential aspirant Michele Bachmann (Minnesota), Focus on the Family (Colorado), the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Utah), former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin (Alaska) and others. Former Republican Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has "threatened" to desert the Republican Party if it doesn't halt its liberal contingent endorsing marriage equality and the National Organisation for Marriage has also criticised liberal Republicans. Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry has held fast to the existing Texan ban against marriage equality. With such rapid momentum within the United States on the marriage equality front, it's interesting to speculate how this may affect the international marriage equality debate. Given that advocates of marriage equality are experiencing accelerating success, that may mean that the US Christian Right and their puppets, such as the World Congress of Families, concentrate their efforts within the United States and have little money left over for mischief making in Ireland, Finland, Italy and Germany, which will probably be the next European Union nations to recognise marriage equality. With any luck, Australia may follow suit in the event of the overthrow of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal leadership aspirant rival, or an ALP victory at the next federal election. Odd that a breathtaking silence has descended over Family First and the other New Zealand parrots that echo propaganda, tactics and strategy from the US Christian Right. Given the circumstances described above, one can certainly see why. Recommended: Wikipedia/Same-sex marriage in the United States: Same-sex marriage in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Craig Young - 23rd October 2014    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 23rd October 2014 - 12:11pm

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