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LGBTQ+ Marriage Debate Grows Across US: What You Need to Know

published April 08, 2023

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The issue of gay marriage has been heating up across the nation and continues to be a controversial topic. A majority of states have either recognized or have considered passing legislation to permit same-sex marriage, while others refuse to recognize it. No matter which side people are on, the debate is sure to continue in the coming years as more states consider legalizing same-sex marriage.

The legalization of same-sex marriage has been an ongoing debate for several years now. This started when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage back in 2004. Since then, many other states have moved to legalize same-sex marriage, either through legislation or through court rulings. To date, there are 19 states that currently recognize same-sex marriage and another 12 that issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but do not recognize the marriages.

The issue of legal recognition for same-sex marriage is not only an issue of civil rights, but also of financial security. Gay couples do not have access to the same financial protections and benefits that heterosexual couples do, such as Social Security Survivor Benefits, Tax Benefits, and inheritance rights. The legal recognition of same-sex marriage would provide these couples with the same rights and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that it is a violation of religious beliefs, as well as an affront to traditional family values. They also point out that same-sex couples do not have the ability to procreate, which they believe is necessary for a marriage to be valid. Supporters of same-sex marriage argue that same-sex couples should have the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples and that the issue of procreation is irrelevant.

The issue of same-sex marriage continues to be a heated topic in the United States and is sure to be a contentious issue for years to come. Ultimately, it is up to the individual states to decide whether or not to recognize same-sex marriages and grant same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. The debate is sure to continue as more states consider legalizing same-sex marriage.

Nationwide Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

In recent years, the issue of same-sex marriage has been heating up across the United States. More and more states have been striking down their laws that ban same-sex marriage, and this has led to a nationwide discussion about it. The legalization of same-sex marriage is becoming more and more popular, with a slim majority of Americans now supporting it. This has caused gay marriage to become a very contentious political issue, and it is likely to be a major point of contention in the upcoming presidential election.

Supreme Court Challenges to Same-Sex Marriage Bans

The big step forward for same-sex marriage came in 2015 when the Supreme Court declared that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. This marked a major victory in the LGBT rights movement, as it guaranteed that same-sex marriage would be legal throughout the entire United States. There have since been numerous challenges to state laws banning same-sex marriage, most of which have been successful.

The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage

The legalization of same-sex marriage has had a significant impact on the lives of many individuals. Same-sex couples now have the right to marry and to enjoy the same benefits and privileges as opposite-sex couples. They have access to the same rights and responsibilities as any other married couple, including the right to adopt children, the right to share insurance benefits, and the right to file joint taxes. This has allowed same-sex couples to have more control over their own lives and to live more openly.

Public Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage

Public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted dramatically in recent years, with an increasing number of Americans now supporting it. According to a recent Gallup poll, 64% of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be legal, while only 30% believe it should not be. This represents a major shift in public opinion, and indicates the strength of the LGBT rights movement. It also suggests that support for same-sex marriage could be on the rise in the coming years.

In the November elections, voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments banning gay marriages. Courts in Massachusetts, Alaska, and Hawaii have recognized gay marriages, but legislatures in the latter two states amended their state constitutions to legalize marriage only between a man and a woman. Vermont allows same-sex couples to have the rights and benefits of marriage but calls them civil unions.

Meanwhile, Canada's Supreme Court this month ruled that gay marriages are constitutional-underscoring the differences on the issue between Canada and the United States.

The U.S. high court, without comment, backed off in November from a case challenging the right of same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts, currently the only state where such marriages are legal. It was the second time the court avoided the issue. Justices refused last May to intervene and block clerks from issuing the first marriage licenses in Massachusetts.

The latest case - Largess v. Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 04-420 - arose from a 4-to-3 ruling in November 2003 by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that the state's constitution gave gay couples the right to marry. The court said government attorneys ''failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason'' to deny them the right.

In its ruling, the Massachusetts high court declared: ''The Massachusetts Constitution is, if anything, more protective of individual liberties and equality than the Federal Constitution; it may demand broader protection for fundamental rights; and it is less tolerant of government intrusion into the protected spheres of private life.''

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based nonprofit organization dedicated to ''advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family,'' challenged the state court's decision on behalf of 11 Massachusetts legislators and Robert Largess, vice president of the Catholic Action League. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld the Massachusetts court ruling, and Liberty Counsel took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Liberty Counsel asserted that the Massachusetts court overstepped its authority and violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of republican forms of state government. Matthew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, said in a filing with the Supreme Court that federal courts should defend people's right ''to live in a republican form of government free from tyranny, whether that comes at the barrel of a gun or by the decree of a court.''

''This battle is far from over. The Constitution should protect the citizens of Massachusetts from their own state Supreme Court's usurpation of power,'' Staver declared after the Supreme Court sidestepped the issue.

He said the high court's decision ''highlights the need'' for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. ''Marriage will be defined by someone. I would rather have it defined by the people of the United States instead of the judiciary,'' Staver concluded.

President George W. Bush said during his reelection campaign this year that he would support a constitutional ban on gay marriage and promised to make it a priority issue in his second term. The U.S. House of Representatives began considering it this year, and it likely will gain strength in the even more conservative new Congress that begins in January, although there also is broad bipartisan opposition to the effort.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political organization, hailed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to get involved in the issue. ''Massachusetts can continue to treat all of its citizens equally,'' said the group's president, Cheryl Jacques. ''It makes sense [that] the court wouldn't take away rights from hard-working, tax-paying American families.''

''The bottom line is that nobody is being harmed by the Massachusetts state law treating all couples equally,'' added David Buckel, project director of Lambda Legal, a homosexual advocacy group.

Jacques also decried the move toward a federal constitutional amendment as ''an attempt to change the Constitution from a vessel for freedom to a tool of discrimination.'' Throughout the country's history, ''the Constitution has been amended to expand individual rights, not restrict them,'' Jacques declared.

She characterized the high court's decision in the Massachusetts case as ''federalism at its best'' for leaving it up to the states to decide what to do about gay marriage.

That is what is happening in Massachusetts, where at least 3,000 gay couples have wed since the state Supreme Court's ruling last year. Now, the state Legislature is moving to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to ban gay marriages but recognize ''civil unions'' of same-sex couples. Passage of an amendment will take at least two years, requiring approval by the Legislature in a second consecutive constitutional convention and then approval by state voters in a referendum.

The issue is heating up in other states, and Jacques predicted other court rulings similar to the one in Massachusetts. Lambda Legal has filed lawsuits in California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington on behalf of same-sex couples who seek a legal right to marry.

In California, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing same-sex marriage licenses last February. The California Supreme Court ruled in July that the licenses were null and void because, it said, Newsom had no authority to issue them.

Same-sex marriage advocates have since filed several lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of California's marriage laws. Liberty Council filed a brief in November arguing that the marriage laws are constitutional. It asserted that ''sexual orientation'' is not a protected class and therefore does not receive heightened protection under the law.

Meanwhile, an aspect of the same-sex marriage issue still untested in the courts is whether other states will recognize the marriage licenses of gay couples who were legally wed in Massachusetts. At present, no other state recognizes Vermont's legal same-sex civil unions.

Some lawyers say that element of the issue is likely to develop in the federal courts over interpretation of the full-faith and credit or equal protection clauses of the Constitution. Although the Supreme Court has so far stayed out of the fray, lawyers say it might choose to get involved at that point.
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