Saturday, February 15, 2014

Clearing the confusion a bit

The map above shows the marriage equality situation in the USA. Look at it quickly, though, because this map won’t be accurate very long.

I started this post two days ago, but decided it needed some more work before posting, something I planned on doing yesterday. But then Virginia’s ban on marriage equality was struck down, and the version of the map I was going to post was already out of date. The one above is up to date—for now.

The map (click to embiggen) is by Jeff Jones and posted to his blog, Middling America. I think it's by far the clearest and best visualisation of the current confusing marriage equality situation in the USA—no easy task, that.

This particular version adds Virginia to the overturned-but-stayed-while-on-appeal list, and adds Alabama to the list of states with active lawsuits seeking full marriage equality. This particular map can be found on his February 14, 2014 post—though with all the rapid changes, he forgot to update the date on the map. Completely understandable!

The map shows the states with marriage equality (17 plus the District of Columbia), states with active lawsuits to win full marriage equality (24, including Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, where the laws have already been struck down, but the rulings are being appealed), the four states with lawsuits seeking some legal recognition, but not full marriage equality (this includes Wisconsin, which has both kinds of lawsuits), and the six states without court challenges to their marriage bans—YET. Note: This adds up to 51 states because of Wisconsin’s different lawsuits.

What makes this even more complicated is that some states recognise out-of-state same-gender marriages (outlined in red on the map), at least for some state purposes, even though they’re illegal within the state. Of the three states with civil unions that ban the freedom to marry, Oregon and Nevada are in the process of repealing their ban, and Nevada is not defending their law in court.

On the anti-quality front, bigots in Indiana have been trying to get an amendment to the state constitution to ban marriage equality on the state ballot this year. However, they’ve had a set-back when the version passed by the Indiana House is different from the one passed by the last session of the legislature. The original language—which would forbid civil unions or registered partnerships of any kind whatsoever, as well as marriage equality—wasn't restored by the state senate, so the amendment would have to be approved again by the next legislature, and that means it wouldn’t be on the ballot until 2016 at the earliest—and by then the battle could be all over nationwide.

In addition, bigots in Wisconsin are suing over that state’s highly limited partnership registry. The registry gives same-gender couples only 44 of the more than two hundred state benefits that married couples get, but the bigots claim it violates the state’s ban on same-gender marriages. In other words, they want Wisconsin to be even more anti-gay.

Meanwhile, even as Republicans in state legislatures rush to enact laws to permit discrimination against gay people as long as it’s based on “sincerely held religious beliefs”, rightwing radicals are also promoting a law in Congress that would forbid the US Federal Government from recognising same-gender marriages of people living in states where they are illegal. This matters because currently the federal government uses the “place of celebration” standard for things like immigration and Social Security survivor benefits: If the couple was legally married in a state that permits it, the federal government considers them married even if the state they live in doesn’t.

This far right legislative activity is part of the radical anti-gay industry’s last desperate attempts to slow down the march to full nationwide marriage equality, something they know is inevitable (though they’d never admit that publicly). Some of them appear to think that if they can delay the inevitable, they can somehow stop the progress and even to take marriage away form couples who are already legally married. Quite how that could work in the reality-based world is impossible to guess.

The federal anti-gay legislation is doomed. Even if it gets through the US House—in an election year—the Senate won’t pass it. If the Democrats were all absent one day and Republicans got it through, President Obama would veto it. So, this isn’t serious—it’s mere political grandstanding, a propaganda and fundraising stunt by the radical right. Again.

State laws permitting anti-gay discrimination, are another matter. Several states will probably enact such laws before this year is out—even though they’re obviously unconstitutional. The radicals know such laws are unconstitutional, of course; the fact that they want to tie up the courts in unnecessary litigation for years to come is pretty revealing of the level of their anti-gay bigotry—though some are probably motivated more by the fundraising and partisan political opportunities backing such an unconstitutional law will give them.

Let’s go back to the map. As of today, 17 US states—one third—have full marriage equality. Two more will be joining and three more have had their anti-gay marriage laws struck down in court. At least some of the 24 states with active lawsuits will end up with marriage equality. I would say that it’s entirely likely that when 2014 ends, more than half of the US states will have full marriage equality. This means that by the time a state’s challenge gets to the US Supreme Court, and even more states have had their laws thrown out, a Loving v. Virginia sort of ruling on marriage equality is likely.

The one thing that’s certain, though, is that this map will not stay this way for long as LGBT people in more and more states gain the freedom to marry. That’s a very good thing, indeed.


rogerogreen said...

This really IS untenable. Loving overturned 15 or so states' laws at once. The slog to the inevitable is a mess.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Exactly. It's especially bad because different legally-married couples have different rights depending on what state they live in, even though their federal rights are pretty much the same. That was the situation before Loving, too, but with fewer states involved. Which is why this piecemeal approach, while maddening, is useful: By the time a case does get to the Supreme Court, a majority of states will have marriage equality, and that could be important.