T by Natalie Wendt he last year has been a whirlwind of developments in marriage equality. Last summer, the Supreme Court of California recognized same-sex marriage in the state. At the time, Massachusetts was the only other state in the Union where gay marriage was legal. Today, same-sex marriage is once again prohibited in California, but legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire plan to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in the next year. Additionally, Oregon, Washington and New Jersey do not allow same-sex marriage, but offer civil unions or domestic partnership rights that are essentially identical to marriage except in name. Since 1996 a federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has prevented federal government acts and agencies from recognizing same-sex marriage. The federal DOMA denies gay married couples the federal rights of marriage, including Social Security spousal benefits. It also leaves the definition of marriage up to each individual state. As a result, states range from recognizing same-sex marriage to constitutionally banning it, and everything in between. Forty states now prohibit samesex marriage through their constitutions, DOMAs, or other state statues. However, some states that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman also allow marriage-like rights to same-sex couples. In May, Washington's "everything but marriage" bill became law, extending the rights of domestic partners to include all statelevel spousal rights, despite the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Oregon has a similar arrangement. Gay marriage is banned, but domestic partnership rights for GAY MARRIAGE the changing state of As same-sex marriage laws change stateby-state, gay couples navigate a confusing legal web. However, with a solid block of New England recognizing same-sex marriage, and a majority in many of those states supporting it, perhaps the tide has turned. same-sex couples are identical to those of marriage. Multnomah County in Oregon briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004 before the state amended the constitution to ban the unions. It is not the only state that once allowed gay marriage and now prohibits it. In 1993 Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but was overturned by a constitutional amendment. Though gay marriage is banned, domestic partnership allows some legal rights to same-sex couples in Hawaii. After Proposition 8 banned gay marriage last fall, California couples took to the courts. The California Supreme Court upheld the ban in May. Unlike bans in Hawaii and Oregon, which dissolved same-sex marriage licenses issued by the state, the California court decision also affirmed the legitimacy of the 18,000 same-sex marriages existing in the state. California also has domestic partnership, which allows many, though not all, spousal rights to same-sex couples. Other states have even more blurred positions on gay marriage. New Mexico does not recognize same-sex marriage but has no constitutional or state statues against it either. GAY MARRIAGE - Continued Page 11 www.qviewnorthwest.com | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | July 2009 |