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Same-sex marriage continues to spread throughout the country. Currently, 17 states allow same-sex couples to marry: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the state of Washington, plus the District of Columbia.
Same-sex weddings have not yet begun in Illinois, although legislation allowing same-sex marriage was signed into law in November 2013. Same-sex weddings should begin taking place in Illinois on June 1, 2014.
As of March 2014, federal courts have ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional in Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. Currently, these decisions have all been "stayed," which means that they are on hold pending review by higher courts. Ruling are likley by this summer or fall. Some same-sex weddings did take place in Utah and Michigan, however, before the orders were stayed.
In Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, courts ruled that the states must recognize valid same-sex marriages from other states. These orders are also being appealed.
On June 26, 2013 (the same day the DOMA decision was issued), the U.S. Supreme Court delivered another much-anticipated marriage equality ruling in the California Prop. 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry. The Supreme Court (or SCOTUS) dismissed the Perry case on a legal technicality. The court declined to determine the proposition's constitutionality and instead ruled that Prop. 8 supporters (private citizens) lacked “standing” to appeal the lower court’s decision regarding the gay marriage ban.
A Little Background
In August 2010, United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker (a federal judge) overturned Prop. 8 (the voter-approved ban on gay marriage) ruling that the ballot measure violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Walker issued a statewide injunction against enforcement of Prop. 8, but also issued a stay (delay) of his own order pending appeal.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Walker’s decision and kept the stay in place pending the Supreme Court's review.
What Did the Supreme Court Really Decide: What Is Legal Standing?
The Supreme Court dismissed the Perry case because it ruled that the proponents of Prop. 8 did not have “legal standing” to appeal the case when state officials, including the governor, refused to defend the law. Lack of standing means that the Prop. 8 supporters could not show they suffered a sufficient harm from the lower court’s decision to support their participation in the case.
The June 26 decision cleared the path for same-sex marriages to resume in California, which began taking place on July 1, 2013.
If you're in a same-sex couple and were married during the five-month period of time in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legal in California, your marriage is still valid. If you are in a registered domestic partnership, this ruling has no effect on your relationship status. Domestic partnership registrations are different from marriage licenses. The California Secretary of State’s Office will continue to process domestic partnership registrations and notices of termination of domestic partnerships.
On October 22, 2013, the Oregon Department of Justice ruled that all state agencies in Oregon must recognize valid same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, even though same-sex couples cannot get married within the state.
The Oregon Deputy Attorney General Mary Williams indicated that the ruling was based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s U.S. v. Windsor decision, which struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. She wrote that not recognizing marriages conducted in other jurisdictions after the Supreme Court’s decision “would likely violate the federal Constitution.”
Oregon agencies must now recognize valid same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries for the purposes of administering state programs and extending benefits, including medical benefits and tax exemptions.
By: Lina Guillen, Attorney