There was a flurry of activity across the United States on gay marriage this week at both the state and federal levels, from the nation’s capital all the way to Honolulu. It might be harder to keep it all straight than, say, Ted Haggard on crystal meth or George Rekers with a rent boy. Here’s a quick roundup of six things you should know:
1. In Washington, President Obama announced through his Attorney General that the administration will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. With the federal government no longer defending its own law, it’s going to be a lot easier for the plaintiffs in active cases against it to win. However, Speaker John Boehner and the House GOP can sue for the right to defend the congressional law in court since the executive branch will not.
2. In neighboring Maryland, the State Senate passed a gay marriage equality bill last night. It should pass in the heavily Democratic House of Delegates, and Governor Martin O’Malley has indicated he’ll sign it if they do.
3. Meanwhile, as the president continues to evolve on this issue, his home state of Hawaii passed a Civil Unions bill, signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie. (Abercrombie, by the way, was a friend Obama’s parents, and his recent ham-fisted attempt to put the the birther controversy to rest recently fanned the flames more.) It’s taken Hawaii a long time to get here. It was a Hawaii Supreme Court case in 1993 that came close to ruling in favor of gay marriage which triggered the wave of state anti-marriage initiatives (and eventually the federal Defense of Marriage Act which the state’s most famous son is now passively fighting.)
4. In Iowa, the state’s progressive constitution (which paved the way for gay marriages to begin there in 2009) appears to have an Achilles’ heel. It seems to contain a provision allowing lawmakers to write bills that are not subject to Supreme Court review. With that in mind, six Republican state representatives have introduced a bill to make it illegal for county recorders to issue marriage license to same sex couples.
5. In California, the Prop 8 trial is headed back to the Supreme Court, to settle a matter of standing. After the Obama administration dumped defending DOMA, the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case (who won in federal district court) asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay banning same-sex marriages until the appeal was decided. This was of particular to concern to one Californian we spoke to this week, who wanted to marry his Alzheimer’s plagued partner of 40 years before he loses the ability to remember their wedding day.
6. And here in New York, a state appeals court ruled that a man had spousal inheritance rights, following the death of his husband. They’d been legally married in Canada, and the surviving spouse won his inheritance after his dead husband’s brothers tried to take it. Also, Governor Andrew Cuomo (who has championed marriage equality) was chastised by the Catholic Church for taking communion while not being married himself to his live in girlfriend.
And that’s the state of gay marriage this week, as the schizophrenic American patchwork of various laws in different jurisdictions lurches ever forward, backwards, and any other direction it can muster at once.