Image: Freedom to Marry
Obama in the State of the Union (#SOTU) hit some unprecedented markers when it comes to civil rights. He spoke of same-sex marriage as a civil right and he spoke of the protection of those in the LGBT community, a first for SOTU. What’s even more exciting is that 2015 could make the final mile for same-sex marriage approval. Here’s a quick breakdown of milestones in the quest for marriage equality and its current status in terms of social and political approval.
State & Federal Status
- In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA into law. “It barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as Social Security survivors’ benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.” (NPR, 2013)
- Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 via the landmark case, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.
- In 2013, the US Supreme Court overturned DOMA (Windsor v. United States) by a 5-4 vote ruling that legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal rights as married opposite-sex couples; such equality is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.
- The court also refused to hear the appeal of California’s Prop 8 lower court verdict because Prop 8 violated the 14th amendment.
- This ushered in a statewide rush of same-sex marriage approval. Today, same-sex marriage is legal today in 35 states and Washington D.C. 70% of the US population lives in these states.
- Just recently the US Supreme Court said it would hear four cases which will help definitively decide if the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The cases will have to be heard before June of 2015.
- The cases are from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee’s Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals where the marriage bans were upheld.
- Per The New Yorker, there are two main questions that will be asked in these cases:
- “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
- “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?”
- In 2004, President Barack Obama didn’t always support same-sex marriage. He gave an interview stating, “…I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
- However in 2012, Obama told The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all 50 states.”
- Obama cited his daughters as helping to change his mind by exposing them to friends’ same-sex parents. “It wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
- In the SOTU, he stated, “I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.” He cited that this is “America at its best.”
- Like Obama, a lot of people’s attitudes started to evolve over time in favor of same-sex marriage.
- According to Pew Research:
- In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin.
- Today, Americans (52%) support same-sex marriage, 40% oppose it.
- Younger generations are more likely to support it, but older ones are slowly coming around on the issue.
- Among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly six-in-ten now express support for same-sex marriage. Support for same-sex marriage also has grown among black Protestants.
- On the right is a breakdown of support per geographic region.