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Courts across the U.S. are questioning the legality of same-sex marriage. Twenty-nine U.S. courts have made judgments in the past year alone regarding this issue, as the idea gains the support of the American people.
Perhaps the most shocking is the swiftness in which the tide has turned regarding public opinion of same-sex marriage. In 1996 when Congress voted to enact the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), only 27 percent of Americans were in favor of legalizing it. Eighteen short years later, 55 percent of Americans support the idea.
On issues of legality, public opinion is not usually called into question, but in the case of same-sex marriage, a trend in this direction has been seen. The Supreme Court made three monumental decisions that opened the way for legislation as it exists today. The first in 1996, Romer v. Evans, which prohibited discrimination against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. The second in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas, which prohibited consensual homosexual intercourse between consenting adults. And the third in 2013, United States v. Windsor, where DOMA was found unconstitutional.
Since these landmark decisions, many states have already overturned existing bans on same-sex marriage. Couples can get married in 19 states plus the District of Columbia. The U.S. government helped to lead the way by recognizing unions sanctioned by the individual states. In the states where bans still exist, each one is being challenged in the courts.
The next big case will be heard Wednesday in Cincinnati by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case related to Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Two of the three judges to hear the case are Republican appointees made by the Bush administration, and many supporters on both sides of this case say it will be a difficult battle with no clear winner.
The latest news comes from Florida where on Tuesday, the third judge in less than three weeks declared the state’s law unconstitutional based on equal protection laws. All three judges held their rulings for appeal, pending a state-wide lawsuit in federal court to overturn the state’s ban.
A similar situation happened in Colorado earlier last month, where a state judge overturned the existing ban on same-sex marriage, but stayed the decision for appeal. Colorado Attorney General, John Struthers, a Republican, defends the existing law, but says it will only be a matter of time before it is overturned. The appeals court for Colorado is the 10th Circuit, which has already struck down bans in Utah and Oklahoma.
Utah’s attorney general, Sean Reyes, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to hear an appeal regarding the overturning of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Utah’s ban was overturned on June 25.
In Virginia, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals just overturned the state’s ban. The court’s order is expected to go into effect on August 18. Lawyers there are arguing for immediate enforcement, which would allow for couples to get married immediately. If the judge decides to stay the decision, couples would have to wait until the decision is appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decision regarding DOMA and subsequent action by the states has called into question the legality of same-sex marriage. As judgments continue and decisions are appealed, it appears the final decision again may rest with the Supreme Court.
By Stacey Wagner