The Supreme Court issued a statement today that SCOTUS will finally, definitively rule on same-sex marriage when the consolidated cases of four states will be heard before them in April. A ruling is expected to be issued by June. The four states — Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee — make up four of fourteen total states that still have a ban against same-sex marriage on the books. All four states passed a state amendment in the mid-2000s that explicitly goes against marriage equality. All four states have traveled similar paths to get here, right down to their amendment names: both Tennessee and Kentucky passed an Amendment 1 in 2004 and 2006, respectively, to ban same-sex marriage in their states.
Kentucky's Amendment 1 passed in the November 2004 election, with 75 percent of voters approving of the measure. Some 1.2 million people voted in favor of the amendment compared to just over 400,000 people voting against it.The groundwork towards its passing had been laid far earlier, however. It was the 1973 case Jones v Callahan that established that same-sex couples cannot marry, though a state amendment had yet to be formally introduced. Notes the ruling:
Marriage was a custom long before the state commenced to issue licenses for that purpose. For a time the records of marriage were kept by the church. Some states even now recognize a common-law marriage which has neither the benefit of license nor clergy. In all cases, however, marriage has always been considered as the union of a man and a woman and we have been presented with no authority to the contrary.
Two years after the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996, Kentucky also enacted legislation prohibiting same-sex marriage in the state as well as preventing the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. It was this latter stipulation that helped spawn the first lawsuit against Amendment 1 and Kentucky's anti-marriage equality policies: Bourke v Beshear — fittingly renamed Love v Beshear after two more couples had signed onto the suit. The original couple, Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon, were legally married in Canada the year that Amendment 1 passed but their nuptials went unrecognized in their home state. Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled in favor of the three couples.
Tennessee's path to the Supreme Court follows a similar trajectory. Banned by state statute in 1996, Tennessee voters formally banned same-sex marriage in 2006 with 81 percent of voters approving Amendment 1 in a vote of 1.4 million to 327,000. The ultra-conservative state even went so far to enact a traditional marriage day that was first celebrated August 31, 2013. Tennessee's Tanco v Haslam, a lawsuit filed by four couples in 2013 advocating the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states actually referenced Bourke v Beshear when ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.
Ohio's State Issue 1 banning same sex marriage in 2004 passed by a far smaller margin than the aforementioned Tennessee and Kentucky. The swing state passed the amendment by 61 percent in a vote of 3.3 million to 2 million. Earlier that year, Ohio governor Bob Taft signed the state's own Defense of Marriage Act into law, prohibiting same-sex marriage. The 2013 case Obergefell v Hodges saw a similar lawsuit against the state from a couple who had been legally married in Maryland. The case was made especially emotional because it involved a man suffering from ALS who was terminally ill and wanted his husband to be listed as his spouse on his death certificate. The court eventually ruled in favor of the plaintiff, though he had succumbed to ALS before a decision was issued.
Last year's Henry v Hodges picked up where Obergefell v Hodges left off and was even presided over by the same judge. Henry v Hodges involved four same-sex couples who had married out of state seeking to have their marriages recognized in Ohio. Three of the couples were expecting children and wanted their children's birth certificates to also properly reflect their parent's marriage status. The other couple involved in the lawsuit had previously adopted a son who had been born in Ohio.
Michigan's state senate banned gay marriage in 1996 and voters approved state Proposal 04-2 defining marriage as between a man and a woman in a narrow vote of 2.7 million to 1.9 million. Just 58 percent of voters approved of the amendment. In 2012, a same-sex couple seeking to adopt a child filed a lawsuit against Michigan's same-sex adoption ban, calling the state's same-sex marriage ban into question as well. DeBoer v Snyder joins Bourke v Beshear, Obergefell v Hodges, and Tanco v Haslam as the consolidated lawsuits to be heard by the Supreme Court in April.
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