The status of same-sex marriage in America


Margo Morton

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UPDATE: As of March 19, 2014, Judge Heyburn has issued a stay in the case “Bourke v. Beshear” pending a settlement in the appeals court. Read more here.

As of Feb. 12, Kentucky is the fifth state to rule the ban on same sex marriage recognition as unconstitutional. The decision is not finalized and will most likely be appealed in the federal court along with the other states. Missouri and Louisiana are now both facing lawsuits demanding recognition of same sex marriages performed in other states or countries, as was the case in Kentucky.

Concern over how the bill would fair in the Kentucky courts centered around the conservative lean of the state, but District Judge John G. Heyburn ended up taking it on an accelerated docket. Attorney Joe Dunman worked on the case, submitting a 31-page argument to support their case.

He and the team of lawyers he worked with argued against rebuttals such as one made by a religious organization which claimed that since the point of marriage was for procreation, same-sex couples should not be married since they cannot biologically fulfill this duty. But the state has no concern over couples and their decisions on having children or not.

Dunman also cites the Fourteenth Amendment  as support for same-sex marriage, which says that states cannot treat citizens unequally.

“The Constitution protects minorities from majorities,” Dunman said.

The recent rulings in various states were set off by the United States vs. Windsor case, in which the Supreme Court held that restricting the interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to opposite-sex unions is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment.

Utah is currently fighting in a Denver federal appeals court to finalize their decision.

On Friday, Feb. 14 the state of Virginia deemed its same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. This decision is pending appeal. If Virginia were to pass the proper legislation to make gay marriage legal in the state, it would join the list of 17 states, along with the District of Columbia, that allow gay marriage.

Below is a map showing the status of same-sex marriage in individual states as of March 12, 2014.


Illustration by Olivia Cook.

Legal benefits of being recognized as a legally-married couple include decreases in tax payments and health insurance, adoption rights, and hospital visits.

“I think it’s inevitable that we’ll have same-sex marriage,” Greg Bourke, one of the plaintiffs in the Kentucky case, said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Dunman hopes that a future where any couple can enjoy these rights no matter what is coming soon.

“Is the federal government going to step in like they did with interracial marriage?” Dunman said. “I’m hoping that’s the case.”