Part IV: State by State
After voters in Hawai'i overruled their state supreme court on marriage equality, states all around the country began passing Defense / Definition of Marriage laws and constitutional amendments. Marriage rights activists believed that their best chance of stemming this tide was in the state of California. A ballot initiative written by State Senator Pete Knight to write marriage discrimination into the California constitution was on the ballot as Proposition 22 in 2000, actively supported by the Catholic and Mormon Churches, among others.
"No on Knight" tried to close the gap in the polls with print and television ads calling Prop 22 unnecessary: "You want the best for your children, but what if your child, or the child of someone you know, turns out to be gay? ... Gay marriage is already banned and it stays banned when you vote no. For your child, or someone else's, vote no on 22." This mealy-mouthed approach utterly failed, and Prop 22 passed by a whopping 61% to 39% margin.
Where marriage equality was finally able to stem the tide was in New England. I mentioned last Saturday that Vermont had led the nation with its recognition in July, 2000 of same-sex civil unions (nine years later, it would be the first state to recognize same-sex marriage by legislation rather than a court ruling). The first court ruling in favor of marriage equality came in the fall of 2003, in Massachusetts. In a 4-to-3 ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Court gave the state legislature 180 days to legalize same-sex marriages.
The California Supreme Court found Proposition 22 unconstitutional in 2008, and the Connecticut Supreme Court found in favor of marriage equality that same year. Both decisions, like that in Massachusetts, were by one-vote majorities. Surprisingly, the first unanimous court decision came in April, 2009, not in some liberal coastal state, but in Iowa.
Conservatives in Iowa succeeded in ousting three of their Supreme Court justices in the next election, but the tide was turning in favor of marriage equality. I can't include my cartoons about each of the fifty states here, especially since the most recent progress has come, via U.S. Circuit Court rulings, several states at a time. But here are a couple favorites -- Hawai'i in 2009:
Minnesota in 2011:
And finally, from last year, featuring Wisconsin's then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whom I could have replaced with any of a few dozen elected Republicans from other states: