DOMA Speaks, States React: The Marriage Equality Movement Goes to Pennsylvania and Beyond

The Supreme Court made made history when they struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s third provision, but the decision doesn’t overturn DOMA entirely: individual states that have banned same-sex marriage through constitutional amendments still have those bans in place. (The decision may mean different things to federal employees, immigrants, and service members even within states that ban same-sex marriage.)

Photo by yooperann from flickr.

In total, 13 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, comprising 30% of America’s population. Different states have had different reactions to the recent SCOTUS decision: some state policies remain relatively similar to what they were before the decision and some states are taking action to pass same-sex marriage laws. Here’s the latest on the new frontier of marriage equality: a state-by-state approach to full marriage rights for LGB folks nationwide.

+ In 2004, Mississippi voted to amend the state constitution to include a definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Support for this amendment was exceptionally high, (86% voted for the amendment) and will continue as such until 2016. A New York Times estimate places support for same-sex marriage during the next national election among Mississippians at 31.5%, the lowest in the country.

+ Alaska passed a similar amendment to their state constitution in 1996. However, the same-sex marriage ban only had the support of 68% of the state’s population. Today support for same-sex marriage has increased drastically in Alaska with both voters and decision makers supporting LGBTQ equal rights. Despite the state constitutional ban, the recent SCOTUS decision will affect the federal employees within the state, especially service members and immigrants within the state.

+ In Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union has taking action against the commonwealth by filing a lawsuit in federal court. The plaintiffs, 23 Pennsylvanians (10 couples, their children, and one widow) are seeking marriage rights within Pennsylvania on the grounds that their right to equal protection under the 14th amendment has been hindered by the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage. If the court decides in favor of the ACLU, same-sex marriage would be legal and same-sex couples that had married elsewhere and then moved to Pennsylvania would have their marriage recognized.

+ The ACLU also intends to amend a same-sex marriage lawsuit in North Carolina and file a right-to-marry lawsuit with Lambda Legal in Virginia.

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