The 50 states of the union are marching, slowly but surely, towards the marriage equality finish line. On Tuesday, gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada were struck down as unconstitutional, bringing the total number of states were gay marriage is effectively legal to 32. It's still not close enough to 50, but when you consider that just six years ago in 2008, Connecticut was the only state that allowed gay marriage, it's fair to say that we've come a long way.
And not a moment too soon — the United States is one of the only so-called developed countries that has yet to display a firm commitment to marriage equality, and as a nation built on the premise of equality and freedom, it's embarrassing to be trailing so far behind on such a basic right.
Happily, however, federal judges like Stephen Reinhardt agree with the majority of Americans in his support of gay marriage. On Tuesday, Reinhardt penned a unanimous decision on behalf of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which he stated,
Idaho and Nevada's marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states.
One of the chief arguments against gay marriage offered by the states in question was that gay marriage would lead to the deterioration of traditional marriage, which would in turn result in more children being raised in single-parent homes and the overall decline in the number of weddings. It is entirely unclear how these states came to the conclusion that allowing a new subset of Americans to get married would actually decrease the total number of marriages, but then again, it is also unclear as to how, in the 21st century, we are still debating the legality of marriage equality.
The appeals court certainly found the arguments ludicrous, saying that they presented a "crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond" that was not even "worthy of response." No kidding.
These two latest strike-downs of gay marriage ban are the latest in a series of judicial moves to clear the way for national marriage equality. And with each subsequent decision, the arguments against legalizing gay marriage seem to grow more ludicrous. Last month, Judge Richard Posner wrote a hilariously vicious decision against Indiana and Wisconsin's gay marriage bans, noting,
Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.
This recognition of the absurdity of many such bans is quickly making its way around the country, and as of Monday, gay marriage is effectively legal in over half of American states. Monday's surprising Supreme Court decision tacitly approved of lower court decisions that would lead to the legalization of gay marriage in a whopping 11 states, bringing the grand total up from 19 to 30. And now, with Idaho and Nevada added to the mix, there are almost twice as many states that do allow gay marriage as do not.
Moreover, as a result of Monday's Supreme Court decision, further compounded by Tuesday's rulings in Idaho and Nevada, more Americans now live in a state where gay marriage is legal than live in a state where it is illegal. According to a Gallup/Washington Post poll, 52 percent of Americans are residents of gay marriage friendly states. An even higher proportion of gay Americans, 54.3 percent, live in areas where gay marriage is legal. This number spiked in 2013 — whereas in years previous, less than 10 percent of both gay Americans and Americans overall lived in states practicing marriage equality, in 2013, that number more than double for both gay and heterosexual Americans.
So who isn't riding the gay marriage train (yet)? Well, unsurprisingly, the majority of the states who have refused to budge in their backwards ways are in the Midwest and the South. Not so coincidentally, these states are all generally considered Republican strongholds. The Republican Party's official stance remains that "the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard." And still, fewer than half of self-identified Republicans support the right of gay men and women to get married.
But there is good news — when it comes to Republicans under the age of 45, a majority of 56 percent told the New York Times public opinion poll that they believed in marriage equality, which means that much of the holdout in the GOP remains from the older and more socially conservative generations. But with the rise of these younger Republicans in today's politics, as well as the overwhelming national support for marriage equality, it seems like the national legalization of gay marriage is only a matter of time.
At least, I certainly hope it is.
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