Same-sex marriage news

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Hawaii considers same-sex marriage


By Jennifer Springer

HONOLULU, Hawaii: A new University of Hawaii study estimates an additional $217 million in visitor spending over the next three years if Hawaii legalizes same-sex marriage.[1][2][3] The analysis comes from the University of Hawaii's Economic Research Organization.[1]

"The basic result of the study is that there's a lot of money for Hawaii in the same-sex marriage industry. We should expect that there would be quite a few couples that would come to Hawaii to marry and to honeymoon, and our estimate is that they would spend over a three year period $217 million," said Professor La Croix of the University of Hawaii.[1][3] According to the study, most of the boost would come from visitor arrivals and spending, but also includes state and county general excise tax revenue.[1]

The authors of the study also warn that the state stands to lose a lot of money if it does not act on marriage equality.[2] It includes "substantial federal tax savings" in health insurance and federal spousal benefits such as Social Security.[2] "Without access to marriage in Hawaii, local same-sex couples can only gain access to federal marriage rights by traveling to the U.S. mainland to marry. This reduces same-sex couple spending in Hawaii, harms the Hawaii wedding industry, and raises the cost to many Hawaii same-sex couples of becoming married."[2]

Senator Sam Slom disagrees the tourism industry will take a hit without same-sex marriage.[1] "What people are really saying in our community is, ‘Do we want an unlimited visitor industry or should we be talking about capping the number of people that we can host and host well here and get along with local peoples?'" Slom said.

Slom, who opposes calls to convene a special session on the issue of same-sex marriage, says generating money shouldn't be the reason to pass legislation. "My bottom line is while we're always concerned about money, we should be concerned about doing things because they're right or they're wrong and I'm old school -- I believe the people should have the right to determine. So let's have another vote, a constitutional amendment, and let's say once and for all without legislative interference what do people believe in this state? Do they want traditional marriage? Do they want same-sex marriage? To me I don't care, I want more transparency and I want the people to be involved," explained Slom.[1]

Thirteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage. Among them, Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.[4] The Freedom to Marry advocacy group is targeting Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon to pass same-sex legalization next.[4] The group has also said it is targeting at least six more states to pass same-sex marriage in 2015 and 2016 that may include Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.[5]

Hawaii currently allows civil unions for same-sex couples.[6]

New Mexico AG recommends court strike down same-sex marriage ban

New Mexico

By Joel Williams

Santa Fe, New Mexico: New Mexico Attorney General Gary King (D) filed a statement with the New Mexico Supreme Court arguing against a same-sex marriage ban when asked for his opinion. He asserted that "New Mexico's guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens." King pointed out that although there are no specific statutes allowing or prohibiting same-sex marriages, that the state effectively bans them in practice. King has plans to run against Gov. Susana Martinez (R) in next year's gubernatorial election.[7]

2016 Arkansas initiative proposed to legalize same-sex marriage


By Joel Williams

Little Rock, Arkansas: A group known as Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality (A.I.M.E.) submitted language to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) for a 2016 ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage. This is the second same-sex marriage ballot initiative submitted in as many months, following the 2014 proposal to repeal Amendment 83. The ballot measure, which also contains a provision that churches or clergy members would not be required to perform marriage ceremonies it disagrees with, would likely require close to 100,000 signatures to make it on the ballot.[8]

Arkansas group proposes ballot measure to repeal same-sex marriage ban


By Joel Williams

Little Rock, Arkansas: Language filed by the group Arkansans for Equality on June 27 would allow voters in 2014 to decide whether or not to repeal Amendment 83, which banned same-sex marriage in Arkansas. The group said that should this measure pass, they would propose a second ballot measure to legalize same-sex marriage. Voters approved Amendment 83 by a margin of 75% to 25% in 2004, establishing a state definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. If Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) certifies the measure, Arkansans for Equality would have until July 7, 2014 to gather the 78,133 signatures necessary to get it on the ballot.[9]

Michigan poll finds majority of voters support gay marriage


By Brittany Clingen

Lansing, Michigan: According to a new poll released by the Glengarrif Group Inc., a majority of Michigan voters support gay marriage, marking a significant change in sentiments from recent years past. The poll, which surveyed 600 registered voters, showed that 56.8 percent of the participants support same-sex marriage, up from 44.3 percent just last year. The increased percentage appears to be the result of changing opinions primarily among Republicans and independents.[10]

In 2004, when support for gay marriage was calculated to be approximately 24 percent throughout the state, Michigan voters approved Proposal 2 58.6 to 41.4 percent. This initiated constitutional amendment banned same-sex marriages, stating, "The union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose."[10]

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus four points, also found that at least 90 percent of voters in Michigan are supportive of some form of legal rights and protections for gay men and women. It also determined that at least 65 percent of Michigan voters support changes that would expand domestic benefits of homosexual couples.[10]

Support for gay marriage among Republicans increased from 20 percent in 2012 to 36.5 percent this year, and among Democrats it increased from 71 to 75 percent over the same time frame.[10]

Delaware inches closer to passing marriage-equality bill

By Jennifer Springer


DOVER, Delaware: Just five days after Democrats in the state introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, the legislation is moving forward.[11] The marriage-equality bill, formally known as HB 75, passed the Delaware House on April 23rd by a 23-18 vote.[11] 21 votes were needed for passage, and five Democrats broke rank by voting against the bill.[12]

The five Democratic representatives who voted against the measure include: John Atkins, William Carson, Earl Jaques, Charles Paradee, and Charles Potter Jr..[12] Rep. Michael Ramone cast the lone Republican vote for the measure.[12]

Supporters of the bill say couples in same-sex relationships deserve the same dignity and respect afforded to married couples.[13] Also, supporters argue that if the United States Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), those with state-sanctioned civil unions would be ineligible for tax benefits available to married opposite-sex couples.[14]

Opponents argue that same-sex marriage redefines and destroys the institution, and that same-sex couples in civil unions already have all the rights and benefits under state law that married couples have.[15] Opponents to the bill also cite concerns over religious liberties — worried that business owners who refuse marriage-related services for gay and lesbian couples could be hit with discrimination charges.[14]

Under the proposal, no new civil unions would be performed after July 1, and couples in civil unions could convert to marriages before July 2014 by applying for a marriage license. On July 1, 2014, all remaining civil unions not subject to dissolution, annulment or legal separation would automatically convert to marriages.[13]

In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and in Washington, D.C.[16]

Next, the bill heads to the state Senate.[11] The state Senate’s Executive Committee will consider HB 75. Should it clear committee, the senate leadership would then be free to bring up the bill at any time they believed they had sufficient votes to pass it.[17]

Seven of the Senate’s 21 members are official sponsors or co-sponsors of the measure. They include Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, and Senators Harris McDowell III, Karen Peterson, Nicole Poore, and Bryan Townsend.[17]

Democratic Gov. Jack Markell has promised to sign the bill if it passes the Democratically-controlled General Assembly.[13]

South Dakota Senator backs same-sex marriage

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson, who announced his retirement last month, reversed his position on same-sex marriage, announcing on April 8, 2013 that he supports the legalization of same-sex unions.[18]

The announcement reverses the position the Democrat has held for years.[18] Johnson had previously said that he doesn’t support gay marriage, and he voted for the 1996 federal law that defined marriage as the union of a man and woman and provided that a state did not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.[18]

In a written statement on April 8, Johnson explained his change of heart saying, “After lengthy consideration, my views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equality legislation. This position doesn’t require any religious denomination to alter any of its tenets; it simply forbids government from discrimination regarding who can marry whom.”[18]

The announcement from Johnson comes amidst a series of announcements from other U.S. Senators. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Joe Donnelly (D) announced their support for same-sex marriage on April 1st,Bill Nelson (D) threw his support behind marriage equality on April 7th, and Tom Carper (D) endorsed it on April 5th.[19] Johnson was the 54th Senator to express backing of same-sex marriage.[20]

Only three remaining Democratic Senators have not publicly backed gay marriage: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin from West Virginia, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Landrieu and Pryor face re-election in 2014, while Manchin is not up for re-election until 2018.[19][21]

New Mexico governor's veto draws controversy

New Mexico

By Joel Williams

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez (R) came under fire from same-sex marriage proponents after her actions on a pair of bills earlier this month. The Legislature passed two separate bills, both aimed at expediting the licensing process for spouses of military personnel relocating to the state. The governor vetoed the bill that afforded this assistance for all domestic couples, but then later signed into law the other bill giving this assistance to heterosexual couples.[22] A spokesman for Martinez stated that the governor vetoed the bill because the term "domestic partner" was undefined in the legislation's language.[23]

Delaware takes up issue of gay marriage

By Jennifer Springer


DOVER, Delaware: Delaware became the latest state to take action to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, with the announcement from Governor Jack Markell of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.[4] Three other states, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Illinois, are also considering bills on same-sex marriage, while nine states and the District of Columbia have already legalized gay marriage.[4]

The nine states and the District of Columbia that already allow same-sex marriage include: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington. However, same-sex couples from those states are denied full benefits of federal marriage because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Clinton-era federal law that defines marriage as a union between one and one woman.[24]

Previous action regarding same-sex couples includes action taken by Markell in 2011 when he signed into law a bill authorizing civil unions for same-sex couples.[25]

Markell commented that while he was confident the bill would pass, given that the Democratic Party controls both the upper and lower chambers of the legislature, "nothing is sure until it's done," and added "What we know is same-sex couples want to get married for the same reason that other couples want to get married."[4]

Markell announced the legislation at a press conference on April 11, where he was joined by state Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Attorney General Beau Biden.[5]

Republican state Senator Brian Pettyjohn said he believed Delaware's civil union law, which was approved before he took office, went gone far enough and has been a fair compromise, ensuring that gay and straight couples are treated equally while reserving marriage for heterosexual couples.[4]

Claire McCaskill endorses gay marriage


By Joel Williams

Carson City, Missouri: United States Senator Claire McCaskill (D) has recently switched her stance on same-sex marriage. Previously, McCaskill had not taken a firm stance on the issue, opposing same-sex marriage but supporting same-sex civil unions. In 2004, she opposed a Missouri constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, but cited the reason as state law already prohibiting it. McCaskill revealed her change of position on a recent Tumblr post, writing "I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love." Her fellow Senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt (R), has given no hints of changing his stance on the issue.[26]

Ballotpedia News

Civil unions bill clears Colorado legislature


By Alex Murray

DENVER, Colorado: With legislation passing both houses of the General Assembly, Colorado is expected to become the latest state to allow civil unions for same-sex couples.

The Colorado House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 13-011 by a 39-26 margin on Tuesday, with two Republicans joining all 37 Democrats in support. Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D), the first gay representative to hold his position, sponsored the bill in the House along with fellow Democrat Sue Schafer. Ferrandino said that the bill honored "love, family, and equality."

The legislation extends rights found in marriage, including those of parentage, visitation, inheritance, and medical decisions. Unlike previous incarnations, the passed legislation does not allow exemptions for adoption groups, which opponents say could bring legal challenges. Frank McNulty (R), who voted against the bill, suggested that its passage exemplified a disrespect for religion at the capitol.[19]

Civil unions had been a plank of the Democrats' platform in their successful bid to gain control of the House in the 2012 election after last year's version of the civil unions bill was blocked by Republican leadership.

Governor John Hickenlooper (D) has indicated that he will sign the bill. If signed, the law would take effect on May 1.[27][19]

Colorado would become the sixth state where only civil unions are legal; ten states have legalized gay marriage.[28] In 2006, voters passed a ballot measure constitutionally defining marriage as being between "one man and one woman". Another measure statutorily creating domestic partnerships failed the same year.

Same-sex marriage advocates moving forward in Minnesota


By Zac Humphrey

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Marriage equality supporters are set to hold a rally at the state capitol. Organizers are expecting 2,000 same-sex marriage supporters to be in attendance.[29] This comes on the heels of a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in the 2012 general election.[30]

Some Minnesota Republican lawmakers are open to the possibility of supporting a move to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. This support could come at a cost, however. In the eight states that have used legislative action to legalize same-sex marriage, only 47 Republican members have voted in favor. Of those, only 21 are still in office. Many faced stiff primary challenges or shunning from their colleagues. Others chose to retire. There is the chance that the Democratic-controlled Minnesota State Legislature could pass the measure without any Republican vote, but there is the possibility that some rural Democratic members would not support the effort.[30]

Gov. Mark Dayton recently reaffirmed his support of same-sex marriage in his state of the state address. Despite the defeat of the recent constitutional amendment, there is still the concern that widespread support of same-sex marriage exists.[31]

State of Washington updates state certificates following same-sex marriage vote


By Bailey Ludlam

OLYMPIA, Washington: Following the November 6, 2012 statewide election and approval of Referendum 74 the state Health Department revised the state's marriage and divorce certificates to include gender-neutral terms.[32]

Referendum 74 asked voters if same-sex couples can be allowed to legally marry. According to unofficial results, 51.79% voted in favor of the measure, while 48.21% voted against.

The new certificates will go into use starting on December 6, 2012, when the newly approved law goes into effect.[33]

The update to the state's certificates included adding the word "spouse" to the existing language that included "bride" and "groom." According to reports, originally the update called for replacing "bride" and "groom" with "spouse."[32][34]

The ballot measure language read:

The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.

This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

Should this bill be:

[ ] Approved [ ] Rejected[35]

Marylanders show support for gay marriage


By: George Sousouris

Annapolis, Maryland: Maryland voters have a group of controversial ballot measures to consider this year, chief among them a proposal to uphold same-sex marriage in the state. Question 6, which would uphold a law allowing same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license in the state, currently has the support of 51% of voters. 43% say that they do not support the measure.[36]

The poll, conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies, found an 11% surge in support for gay marriage among African-American voters from the same poll taken in January, possibly reflecting the impact of President Obama's (D) recent support for same-sex marriage.[36]

The same poll shows a less certain future for expanded gambling, as only 46% polled said that they would vote in favor of the measure. Maryland's version of the Dream Act looks set to pass, with 34% of voters expressing opposition.[37]

Maryland delegate tells Baltimore Ravens to silence players


By: George Sousouris

Annapolis, Maryland: Delegate Emmett Burns, Jr. (D) sent a letter in late August to Steve Bisciotti, the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, requesting that he silence the political views of his players after a member of the team publicly declared his support for gay marriage. In his letter, Burns wrote "as a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically, as a Raven Football player...I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing."[38]

In the wake of this letter, the Ravens' owner and several other NFL players came to Ayanbadejo's defense, and roundly criticized Burns for his views and his attempt to abridge the First Amendment rights of NFL players. Burns was forced to backtrack, and September 9 said, "Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights. And I have my First Amendment rights. … Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds."[38][39]

This controversy comes at a time when voters are weighing the issue of same-sex marriage, as the issue is on the ballot this November. Although it is hard to determine if this will affect the outcome of the referendum, there appears to be evidence that it has energized those both inside and outside the state who hold pro-marriage views, including Ellen DeGeneres and Keith Olbermann.[40]

Maryland same-sex marriage campaign launches with an ad featuring Gov. O'Malley

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Governor O'Malley is a Marylander for Marriage Equality, 9-28-11

By Bailey Ludlam

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland: Months remain before the start of the 2012 legislative session in Maryland, but already supporters of a proposed same-sex marriage legislation are initiating efforts to garner support.

In late September, Marylanders for Marriage Equality released their first campaign video. The video features Gov. Martin O'Malley who says in the video that he plans to introduce the legislation in early 2012. The legislation, he says in the video, will protect religious freedom and equality of marital rights under the law.[41]

The legislation, also known as Senate Bill 116 during the 2011 legislative session, would grant equal rights and protections of marriage to same-sex couples in the state. The bill was approved by the Maryland State Senate following a 25 to 21 vote on February 24, 2011 but remained pending in the Maryland House of Delegates.[42] In March, the House returned the bill to committee; halting the approval of the proposed measure.

In late July 2011, Gov. O'Malley said that he plans to lead the legislative effort in January 2012 to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

However, opponents of the law have already announced that they plan to prepare to launch a petition drive should the bill be approved. According to state law, if the referendum is placed on the ballot it would prevent implementation of the pending legislation until 30 days after the referendum vote.

In order to qualify for the ballot, supporters are required to collect and submit at least 55,737 valid signatures.

Indiana Senate gives proposed marriage amendment the green light

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: A proposed constitutional amendment passed it's first hurdle on Tuesday, March 29. The Indiana State Senate voted 40-10 in favor of an Indiana Marriage Amendment.[43] The measure would define marriage as between one man and one woman.[44] Also known as HJR 6, the measure also notes that the "legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."[45]

In February the House approved the measure following a 70-26 vote. However, in order to qualify a measure for the ballot in the state of Indiana, a majority vote is required in two successive sessions of the Indiana General Assembly. The measure will be re-considered in the 2013 session and may appear on the ballot either as early as 2013 or 2014.

Maryland same-sex marriage opponents prepare referendum

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ANNAPOLIS, Maryland: Opponents of pending Senate Bill 116, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, are already gearing for a fight at the ballot box in 2012.

Senate Bill 116 is an attempt to alter existing law that permits only traditional, one man, one woman marriages. The bill, if passed, would grant equal rights and protections of marriage to same-sex couples in the state. The bill was approved by the Maryland State Senate following a 25 to 21 vote on February 24, 2011 and now remains pending in the Maryland House of Delegates.[46]

However, supporters are preparing to launch a petition drive should the bill be approved. Delegate Don Dwyer, Jr. said, "I can assure you that, should this bill come out of the House, it will go to referendum." Sen. Nancy Jacobs said, "I don't think the votes on that board accurately represent the citizens of the state of Maryland. I think the vote on referendum in 2012 will be the vote of the people and I think this deserves to go to the people, and I'm sure it will."[47]

According to state law, if the referendum is placed on the ballot it would prevent implementation of the pending legislation until 30 days after the referendum vote.[48]

In order to qualify for the ballot, supporters are required to collect and submit at least 55,737 valid signatures. Specifically, one-third of the required signatures must be submitted by May 31. The remaining signatures must be submitted by June 30.[48]

Delaware bill to legalize civil unions expected in March

WILMINGTON, Delaware: At a public meeting on February 17, the GLBT advocacy group Equality Delaware announced their campaign to legalize civil unions in the state. The group helped to draft a bill and expect it to be filed in the legislature mid-March, with Sen. David Sokola (D) and Rep. Melanie George (D) acting as lead sponsors.

The bill would provide same-sex couples with the same rights and protections as married couples, including requiring employers to offer the benefits to civil union partners that are offered to married spouses. Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman said, "We think Delaware is ready for civil unions. We are confident we have a majority of public support. And we feel very good that we have a strong majority in both houses of the General Assembly."[49]

Additionally, the bill would establish jurisdiction of the Family Court in the event that a civil union dissolves, does not force any clergy to conduct a civil union ceremony, and removes the criminal penalties imposed by the state on those who identify as married same-sex couples.[50] Under current law, anyone identifying themselves as such can be fined $100, with up to 30 days imprisonment.[51]

Equality Delaware has a 42-member advisory counsel, which includes over a dozen state legislators, along with Lieutenant Governor Matthew Denn, state Treasurer Chip Flowers, and clergy from Methodist, Unitarian, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Jewish congregations.[52]

Critics are arguing that the real goal is to legalize same-sex marriage. Nicole Theis, executive director of the Delaware Family Policy Council, stated, "It is no surprise to us that a civil union bill would be introduced this session. Our position is a vote for civil unions IS a vote for same-sex marriage in Delaware. Those who are advocating and lobbying for a civil union bill want marriage."[50]

Marriage amendment clears the Indiana House of Representatives

Wedding rings.jpg

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: The legal definition of marriage has been a hot point of controversy in the nation the last few years and may be headed to the Indiana statewide ballot. On Tuesday, February 15, the House voted 70-26 in approval of the proposed measure.[53]

The legislatively-referred constitutional amendment would define marriage as between one man and one woman.[44] HJR 6 also notes that the "legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."[54] According to reports, the state already has a law that bans gay marriage, however a constitutional amendment passed by voters would protect that law in state courts.[55]

In order to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot, a majority vote is required (in two successive sessions of) the Indiana General Assembly. Indiana is one of 12 states where proposed amendments are considered in two successive sessions of the state's legislature. The proposed measure may appear on either the 2013 or 2014 statewide ballot.[56]

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