America—land of the free and home of the brave. While there’s no doubt about our bravery, the “freedom” part is debatable depending on whom you ask. For members of the LGBTQ community and their families, life is dramatically different from state to state. Freedom to marry should be universal, and yet while circuit courts around the country are declaring state-level marriage bans as unconstitutional, debate in the Supreme Court continues to stagnate. Although the latest in circuit court decisions may cause the Supreme Court to step back in sooner than expected and settle the issue once and for all.
Change is happening faster than ever. The tipping point was just recently reached with the majority of Americans now living in states with marriage equality. It was only ten years ago, in 2004, when Massachusetts made a stand as the first state to allow same-sex marriage. Just two years ago, in 2012, same-sex marriage was only allowed in seven states. Today that number stands at 32 (plus Washington, D.C.) with very conservative states like Utah and Oklahoma recently joining the movement.
An additional three states (Kansas, Montana and South Carolina) have pro-marriage rulings that are putting the wheels towards marriage equality in motion. In all remaining states, challenges to same-sex marriage bans are on the table but stuck in various levels of legal limbo. On November 4th a federal judge ruled Kansas’ ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Missouri is also making progress by respecting same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, and on November 5th a state judge granted freedom to marry in St. Louis, further paving the way towards a statewide decision. The Missouri decision ups the total number of state and federal courts pro-marriage rulings since June 2013 to 49. The generational shift in opinion is also giving the movement a boost with a May 2014 Gallup Poll finding that nearly 8 in 10 young adults are in support of same-sex marriage.
Which brings us to the flip side of the coin; a side we are proud to say has become quite small, but vocal and volatile nonetheless. There are currently only seven states (including Missouri) that do not allow same-sex marriage. Opponents got a boost on November 6th when a federal court ruling upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. However this latest ruling makes it very likely that the Supreme Court will have to step in. Ultimately, the Supreme Court’s decision would either legalize same-sex marriage in the remaining 18 states or potentially reverse legalization of same-sex marriage in the 32 states that now have it—a very troubling, yet real possibility.
However, a positive note is that even in states slow to change, public opinion is in favor of same-sex marriage. So much progress is happening so quickly that information is often quickly outdated (just look at everything that has happened in the first week of November!), but a December 2013 poll of voters in the 34 non-marriage states at that time showed majority support for same-sex marriage.
With marriage equality currently on a clear yet convoluted path towards nationwide approval, it comes as no surprise that certain influential political and media figures want to portray a picture that the fight has already been won. In essence, this could stall progress in both public opinion and continue to shake up federal rulings. The reality is that the fight is far from over and that this injustice must be pursued until the Supreme Court hands down a definite federal ruling.
Join us, and our partner Freedom To Marry, in standing up for equality by pledging your support. Then head over to the Human Rights Campaign to learn how you can support marriage equality in your own state.