Same-Sex Marriage Becomes Reality in Three More States

On May 13, 2013, the Minnesota State Legislature presented its approved same-sex marriage bill to Governor Mark Dayton for his signature. When Governor Dayton signs the bill, Minnesota will become the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. However, the bill was no small feat.

Six months ago, Minnesota was in line to become the 31st state to enact a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples after the Legislature voted to place a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the 2012 ballot. Branden Peterson, the lone Republican to vote in favor of the current bill, said that he wanted to be able to one day tell his children to “be bold and be courageous” and live the courage of their convictions.

May has been a historic month for same-sex marriage equality. Minnesota is the third state this month to approve same-sex marriage. On May 2, 2013, Rhode Island became the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The Rhode Island legislation, which takes effect on August 1, 2013, removes gender-specific language from the section of general laws that governs eligibility for marriage. It also contains a provision that allows couples who entered into civil unions in Rhode Island since their establishment in July 2011 to convert those unions into marriages by applying to the clerk in the municipality where it was recorded. Five days later, it was Delaware’s turn when it became the 11th state to sign same-sex marriage into law.

The same-sex marriage debate has recently been amplified in light of the recent Supreme Court arguments over the legality of two marriage laws – the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. During arguments, the nine justices voiced disparate views, and it was far from clear how they would rule. A decision is expected sometime in June 2013.

Same-sex marriage also continues to be an international topic of debate. In April, French lawmakers passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption despite protest from conservatives. Opponents to the legislation have filed a legal challenge and the bill has not yet been signed into law by the President.

Although we believe there has been significant progress and a lot to celebrate, there is still more work to do. For example, just yesterday in Florida, the Lake County School Board sought to ban all non-curricular student clubs to prevent the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance (“GSA”) Club. Additionally, an effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois that seemed all but certain a few weeks ago may have stalled.

After passage of the Rhode Island same-sex marriage bill, Rhode Island Senator Donna M. Nesselbush aptly summarized the continued need to push for equality:

Every generation has its calling and its chance to ease the pain of discrimination and to advance the human cause. Women’s liberation emboldened black liberation which spawned the yearning for gay liberation . . . because deep down we do hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal and that America’s promise is indeed for liberty and justice for all.

Rhode Island General Assembly Press Release, May 2, 2013.