Gay Marriage Debates Come to Seven States in 2012

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Gov. Chris Gregoire (D-WA) gives press conference announcing support for same-sex marriage bill
Source: Trent Beattie, “Washington State Marriage Defenders vs. Dissenting Senators,” Jan. 24, 2012

Pro and con gay marriage laws are headed for legislation, initiatives, and referenda in seven states so far in 2012. Maryland, New Jersey, Minnesota, Maine, North Carolina, and New Hampshire will formally consider the future of gay marriage, and Washington is expected to be the next state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-WA) announced on Jan. 23, 2012 that she will cast the 25th and deciding vote in favor of gay marriage in the Senate. “I have very strong Christian beliefs… but this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed,” Haugen said in a statement. The Washington House is also believed to have the necessary votes, and Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-WA) has endorsed the proposal.

“She might as well change her name to Joan Wilkes Booth,” Pastor Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church of Kirkland said of Gov. Gregoire, ”because what she’s doing now is trying to put a bullet in the head of one of the greatest traditions that has ever existed and has built our society, and that is marriage between one man and one woman.” If the bill passes, same-sex couples will be able to get married in June 2012, unless a referendum is filed – something opponents have already promised to do.

New Jersey lawmakers claim to have the necessary votes to pass a same-sex marriage bill, but Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) promised to veto the measure and recommends a referendum instead. “Whether or not to redefine hundreds of years of societal and religious traditions should not be decided by 121 people in the statehouse,” Christie said. “Let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state.” Across the nation, gay marriage has lost each of the 31 times it has been put before voters.

“We think 2012 is going to be the year that we actually win a state at the ballot and take away, really, our opponents’ last good talking point that they have on this matter,” Mark Solomon of Freedom to Marry says. “We haven’t hit a tipping point, but we’ve certainly hit a turning point. We’re seeing a really dramatic shift. I think the trend, the accelerating trend, is very clear.”

Voters in Minnesota and North Carolina will vote on a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2012, and New Hampshire lawmakers are considering a repeal of the gay marriage bill signed on June 3, 2009.

Gay marriage advocates in Maine have collected enough signatures to put the issue on the Nov. 2012 ballot and will announce on Jan. 26, 2012 if they will submit the signatures. Gay marriage was rejected by Maine voters by a vote of 53% to 47% in 2009.

“Unnatural marriage, as seen in cases across the country, will curtail religious freedom,” the Christian Civic League of Maine said in a statement. “If unnatural marriage is put on the referendum, then all Mainers who trust that their government will uphold religious freedom will, once again, come to the voting booth to keep our current marriage laws.”

The US Supreme Court is also expected to release a ruling on California’s Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriage on Nov. 4, 2008.

10 countries allow same-sex couples to marry: the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Argentina (2010), Iceland (2010), and Portugal (2010).

It is also legal in six US states: Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), the District of Columbia (2010), New Hampshire (2010), and New York (2011).

Sources:

Sarah Parnass, “This Week in Same-Sex Marriage: Washington Has Votes to Pass, N.H. Considers Law to Let Businesses Refuse Gay Couples,” abcnews.go.com, Jan. 25, 2012

Tovia Smith, “Same-sex Marriage May Hinge on Supreme Court,” npr.org, Jan. 24, 2012