How Same-Sex Marriage In 2014 Changed Each Month
With a new year getting closer, it's a good time to take a look back at the big, tumultuous year that was 2014. Happily, this last year, few causes came further with more unmitigated success than that of marriage equality. Same-sex marriage had a big 2014, and at this point, it looks like the legacy of this issue is well and truly settled — the activists and advocates for equal rights have won, and continue to win with each successive state that starts issuing new marriage licenses.
So, just how far did we come in one year? A brief glance at the state-by-state figures lays bare just how climactic a year it was for equal marriage rights, and show why this may well go down as the pivotal year in the decades-long movement. On Dec. 20, 2013, a mere 18 states across the country allowed marriages between same-sex couples, with two more states (Illinois and Colorado) embracing the "separate-but-equal" half-measure of the civil union. But now, one year later, America is a country in which a majority of the states have marriage equality, whether through voter initiative or judicial decision — 35 states now have legal same-sex marriage, from states as liberal as Hawaii to states as conservative as Oklahoma. How did it all unfold?
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Despite all the progress, things started off slow in 2014 — in the month of January, not only did no new states allow same-sex marriage, but Utah received a stay on their court order pending an appeal, temporarily reinstating their constitutional ban passed in 2004.
February — April
The next few months of 2014 were no more productive than the first, which really hammers home just how much of a shift happened in a relatively short span later in the year. With numerous states that could likely see the writing on the wall mounting their own legal challenges to try to stave off marriage equality, and courts pending citizen-backed challenges to state bans, the pot was simmering.
At long last, some dominoes started to fall in May. First, the traditionally conservative state of Arkansas had its same-sex marriage ban overturned by a circuit court judge, and a smattering of new licenses were issued — before the state had their ban reinstated pending appeal, a familiar refrain in states where marriage equality has come by judicial ruling.
Before the end of the month, Oregon and Pennsylvania followed suit, except they weren’t subject to further delays — same-sex marriage has been legal in both states ever since, bringing the total count to 19.
June saw two new states open up same-sex marriage rights, Illinois and Indiana — both of them had state bans overturned by judicial ruling (Illinois’ ban was actually ruled unconstitutional in February, but the effect didn’t go statewide until June).
Illinois didn’t fight the change, and same-sex marriage has been legal there ever since. Indiana, on the other hand, promptly reversed the march of progress by receiving a stay on the order, pending appeal.
July — September
July through September were yet more months fraught with waiting — no new states started issuing same-sex marriage licenses, with many seeking appeals of their overturned bans, with the fates of countless gay and lesbian couples hanging in the balance.
In particular, one major issue loomed — five different states (Virginia, Wisconsin, Utah, Indiana and Oklahoma) were petitioning the Supreme Court to hear their appeals. What the Supreme Court decided, in effect, could ultimately swing five states in either direction. At the end of August, 20 U.S. states had legal same-sex marriage.
Then, in October, the shoe dropped. Rather than proceed with another high-profile same-sex marriage case, with opponents of marriage equality having routinely and repeatedly failed to mount legal challenges that didn’t ultimately hinge on exclusionary prejudice, the Supreme Court declined to hear those five states’ appeals outright on Oct. 6.
This made same-sex marriage abruptly and fully legal in Virginia, Wisconsin, Utah, Indiana and Oklahoma in the blink of an eye, bringing the total state count to 25. Just one day later, on Oct. 7, Colorado began issuing licenses, boosting the number to 26 — a majority of the states, for the first time in U.S. history. Two days later, on Oct. 9, two more states flipped — Nevada and West Virginia — bringing the count to 28.
By the end of October, an enormous new swath of the nation had legalized same-sex marriage. In total, October saw a staggering 13 states adopt same-sex marriage, making it the most successful month for the movement amid a huge year.
Two more states got on the bandwagon in November — Montana and South Carolina, both heavily conservative states. In Montana, at least, recent public opinion polling suggests a majority of the citizenry is okay with this, by a margin of about 4 to 5 percent.
In South Carolina, however, the Republican-led administration under Governor Nikki Haley hasn’t gone down without a fight. Despite the Supreme Court denying their emergency stay on same-sex marriages by a vote of 7-2 (because really, isn’t this obvious enough yet?), the state has tried to find ways to continue to fight equal rights — there’s a bill pending in the state legislature to allow state officials to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses without penalty, if they cite religious objections.
No new states have joined the club in December so far, but after such a wild and fruitful year, there’s little doubt that you’ll see more state bans falling by the wayside in the months to come. After all, as the Washington Post’s Emily Badger notes, the states that are still holding out are costing themselves a lot of potential dollars in doing so. And seeing as it’s become about as plainly obvious as can be just how dead-end a fight this is — there’s no legal argument against same-sex marriage that’s holding in circuit and federal courts, or the Supreme Court for that matter — isn’t it high time to bite the bullet and be done with it?
All in all, it’s been a fantastic year for marriage equality, with the possibility of another triumphant year to follow. The final tally, as it stands now on Dec. 12, 2014: 35 states have fully legal same-sex marriage. And when the next new member joins the club, rest assured we’ll all be talking about it.