No one knows when the Supreme Court will answer the question of whether voter-passed state amendments banning same-sex marriage are constitutional, but the clock is ticking.
A split among the circuit courts is virtually assured: A 2006 ruling in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Nebraska’s man-woman marriage amendment did not violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. A contrary ruling could come from any of the cases now in any of five other regional circuit court cases.
Same-sex marriage was birthed in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 4-3 ruling in Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health in November 2003.
This month marked the 10-year anniversary of the first day for same-sex marriage in the United States, May 17, 2004.
Mary Bonauto of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the lead attorney for the original gay plaintiffs, recalled that she was brought to tears when she heard the minister say to one gay couple, “By the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts “
“That had never happened before legally in this country. It felt like the cage had been lifted off, and it was just a different world from that point forward,” Ms. Bonauto said in an interview with NPR.
Same-sex marriage was next legalized in Connecticut in 2008, and then, like dominoes, in Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maryland, Maine, Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota. The District of Columbia joined the legal wave of same-sex nuptials in 2010.
The Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry cleared the way for California to become the 13th state with same-sex marriage, and New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico soon followed. In recent days, Oregon and Pennsylvania became the 18th and 19th states with same-sex marriage because of political decisions not to appeal court rulings.
“Massachusetts was America’s ‘cradle of liberty,’ and the freedom to marry first won there will soon be shared by all Americans, no matter where they live,” said Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, an organization that seeks legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
The group’s “Roadmap to Victory” includes court and legislative victories, plus widening U.S. support of same-sex marriage to 60 percent or more by 2016.
The 60 percent goal appears to be on track: A recent Gallup Poll found a record 55 percent support same-sex marriage, driven by nearly 80 percent support by young Americans.
But people like Julie Lynde of Eagle, Idaho, reject any notion of the inevitability of universal legal same-sex marriage.
Idaho has been “caught in that same cultural feeding frenzy” as other states, said Ms. Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council, referring to a recent court ruling striking down Idaho’s voter-passed marriage amendment.