The news: An 18th state just joined the ranks of those that allow same-sex marriage in the United States. Just one day after New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize gay marriage, a federal judge made Utah the 18th, ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriages violated constitutional rights. After the weekend, on Monday, December 23rd, the same judge denied a request to place a hold on same-sex weddings.
Ohio, too, came a step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage on Monday. A federal judge ruled that state officials must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. While this doesn't overturn Ohio's ban on gay marriage, Judge Timothy Black came out pretty hard against the ban, calling it unconstitutional, which means more challenges to the law are sure to come in the future. Black's ruling gives them strong footing, meaning Ohio could become the 19th state sooner rather than later.
States that have legalized gay marriage, not including Utah:
Why this matters: At the most obvious, this matters because there is now one more state that allows gay marriage. With Utah, almost 40% of Americans live in states where same-sex marriage is legalized. The higher that number goes, the bigger a deal it is.
But this most recent ruling is particularly important, I think, because of where it comes. I'll let one of Utah's most recent married couples explain:
"We expected Utah to be the last place we could get married," said Adam Blatter, who rushed with his partner to get a marriage license after the ruling last week.
You see, Utah is among the reddest of red states. According to Gallup, Utah is the fifth most conservative state in the U.S., and the most Republican state (the difference: ideological identification versus party identification). It is by far the most conservative state to legalize gay marriage so far. Granted, the state itself didn't legalize it — there wasn't a measure put to voters — but simply the fact that same-sex couples can legally marry in the most Republican state in the country is a big freaking deal. And a sign of just how far things have come — and where they're going.
The pace is picking up. Of the 18 states to legalize gay marriage, eight have come in 2013. Four of those came in the last two months of the year. Undeniably, the push to legalize same-sex marriage has gained momentum.
With Ohio on the verge — and Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Virginia not far behind — 2014 could see even more states legalize same-sex marriage than 2013, which would push the number of states with gay marriage to nearly half of the union. It seems the U.S. Supreme Court kicked something off with its decision on DOMA that has no intention of slowing down any time soon.
Which is a bit funny, because it goes along with something Justice Antonin Scalia said about same-sex marriage in the U.S. He compared the legalization of gay marriage to dominoes, saying that if one law based on moral grounds is ruled unconstitutional (like gay marriage), then it will be easy to knock down all moral laws (like laws against bestiality and murder). But really, one ruling for gay marriage isn't setting off a domino effect with other moral laws — it's setting off a domino effect with other laws banning gay marriage. The more states that legalize same-sex marriage, the easier it becomes for other states to do the same.
At the end of 2013, we have almost 20 states that allowed gay marriage. At the rate we're going, we might top 30 in 2014. And even more in 2015. Who knows — by 2016, we could have same-sex marriage legalized in every single state. One side clearly has momentum. And it's only going to increase from here.