Thursday, December 19, 2013

Number 18 will take some time

In the past few weeks Hawaii, Illinois and (today) New Mexico have all legalized gay marriage, bringing the total to 17 states that permit gay marriage. Looking at the map, the states that have not yet legalized gay marriage but which have a population that might be inclined to do so soon are Oregon, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

PA and WI are not going to do it under the current state government unless forced by the courts. There is a pending court challenge in Pennsylvania which could work, but it will take a while to reach the commonwealth's high court and any decision overturning the ban on gay marriage is likely to be stayed until the high court speaks. For Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the gay marriage ban in 2010, and so it is unlikely that ruling will be revisited in the near future. Both WI and PA currently have Republican governors and legislatures dominated by the GOP. But both governors are up for reelection in 2014 and the legislative control could switch. But that won't give us legal gay marriage in PA or WI until at least 2015.

Oregon might be a little more promising. While the courts litigated gay marriage between 2004 and 2005 (ultimately coming down against it), there is a pending federal lawsuit against the State's ban on gay marriage. Both chambers of the state legislature are controlled by the Democratic Party and the Governor is a Democrat.  The federal lawsuit was just filed in October and there does not appear to be any serious bill in the legislature to legalize gay marriage (and it's not clear that the legislature has the power to legalize gay marriage because there is a state Constitutional provision barring same sex marriage). So it is hard to imagine either the federal court challenge or a bill legalizing gay marriage to reach fruition in the next year. The is an effort to put legalize gay marriage in Oregon through a ballot initiative. But if successful, it would appear on the ballot in the November 2014 election, which probably would not go into effect until the beginning of 2015.

Maybe there are some other states I have not considered, but I just don't see any other state joining the gay marriage club in the next year. I still think that the political winds are blowing heavily in favor of gay marriage and that in a few years there will be a steady expansion in the number of states that recognize it. It just looks like the rapid advance of same sex marriage in 2013 is not likely to happen in 2014. In fact, I expect there will be a lull until 2015.