Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Fifty years ago this concept was considered disgraceful and homosexual individuals were penalized for their lifestyle. Members of the gay community were forbidden from serving in the military, and businesses refused to hire them if they openly expressed that they were gay. Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) rights organizations were few and far between and protection was nearly non-existent. Overall, the majority of Americans discriminated against same-sex couples.
Since last summer, however, state after state across the country has declared the marriage ban for gay couples as unconstitutional, showing how far society and culture have come. Now the cause has the overwhelming support of individuals between 18 to 29 years of age, carrying the overall rating by 70 percent. President Barack Obama has also become a supportive member and created a movement that became known as marriage equality, which gives gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples and grants them the freedom to marry.
From the time of his inauguration Obama has been influential in legalizing gay marriage. He was the reason that the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. In addition, President Obama extended an act to protect against the discrimination of gays, making it possible for them to find jobs and job security.
In the states that have yet to finalize the legalization of same-sex couples, the Supreme Court has ordered that they recognize the unions from the 19 states that do. Those under this mandate include Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Utah and Arkansas. Utah, thus far, has been the only state to come forward with an request for an exception. Taking advantage of their final opportunity to appeal, Utah has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the nine justices to reassess the issue of gay marriage for their state.
The Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Tuesday that when the Amendment 3 ban on same-sex unions was struck down by Judge Robert J. Shelby, “uncertainty and disruption” broke out. Reyes has said that the state will continue to defend the decision to ban gay and lesbian unions until the Supreme Court views the petition and makes a final assessment. “…all Utah citizens will benefit when the Supreme Court provides clear finality on the important issue of state authority to define marriage,” Reyes said.
On the flip side, Circuit Judge Dale Cohen of Broward County in Florida made history by declaring the marriage ban unconstitutional and forcing the state to recognize gay marriages made in other states. This ruling, however, has yet to go into effect. As a result, same-sex couples have yet to get legally married in Florida. “To discriminate based on sexual orientation,” Cohen wrote in the appeal, “to deny families equality…is against all that this country holds dear…”
Nearly 44 percent of the United States’ population lives in states where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry, and over 48 percent reside in a state that provides some form of protection for gay couples. Regarding other forms of legal status, including civil unions or domestic partnerships, there are six states that have accepted this for both homosexual and heterosexual couples.
Gay couples have had legal weddings in all of the 19 states to celebrate the freedom to marry. Other states are being approached with the idea to legalize same-sex marriage every day. Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee are four of the remaining states that are actively opposing legalization and are warring to uphold the marriage ban against gay couples.
By Rachel Roddy