Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in Nearly 1 in 3 States
Update (November 14): New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize same-sex marriage last month, while Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed his state's bill yesterday, beating out Illinois to become the 15th state to do so. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he will sign the bill November 20, raising the number of states allowing same-sex marriage to 16, plus the District of Columbia.
Update (May 14): The New York Times reports that the Minnesota state Senate has approved a bill to allow same-sex marriages, making Minnesota "the first in the Midwest to take such a step outside of a court ruling."
With congressional votes less than a week apart from each other, Rhode Island and Delaware both have legalized same-sex marriage. According to The New York Times, the decisions represent the "latest in a string of victories for those working to extend marital rights to gay and lesbian couples."
Rhode Island came first, following what the Associated Press called "a 16-year effort to extend marriage rights in this heavily Roman Catholic state." Just days later, Delaware became the 11th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Similar votes will soon take place in Minnesota and Illinois, where the GOP chair recently resigned over the issue.
As more states extend marital rights to same-sex couples, the protection of clergy who object to performing same-sex marriages remains a concern. The newly passed laws in both Delaware and Rhode Island specify that "no religious leader is obligated to officiate at any marriage ceremony and no religious group is required to provide facilities or services related to a gay marriage."
However, those who provide wedding-related services do not have similar conscience protections. A florist in Washington state–where voters approved gay marriage last November–is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union after she refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. She says her "Christian beliefs prevented her from selling the flowers for the same-sex wedding."
In spite of these recent victories for supporters of same-sex marriage, the NYT notes that "short of a sweeping decision by the Supreme Court that same-sex marriage is a right, change could come more slowly in the coming years. Thirty states have adopted constitutional amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman–measures that can be reversed only with public ballots."