Today, equality advocates in Maine announced plans to put a freedom to marry measure on the November ballot. It’s clear that our country is inching closer to a tipping point of public support for the freedom to marry.
It’s exciting to be on the brink of momentous change. With each state victory, with each increase in national polling numbers, we build a climate that empowers elected officials and judges and voters to do the right thing.
It’s also a bit hard to keep track of what’s happening where! To get a sense of where the key battle are, what impact they will have in Oregon, here is a breakdown of key states.
States Looking to pass or protect marriage equality in 2012:
Unlike Oregon, Maine does not have a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man, one woman. In 2009, Maine’s governor signed into law marriage equality legislation that had been overwhelmingly approved by the Maine Senate and House. Anti-equality forces then gathered the signatures needed to refer it to the November 2009 ballot, and spent millions of dollars on scare tactics that convinced voters to overturn the legislation. Pro-equality advocates just announced that they’ve gathered the signatures needed to bring marriage equality back to the ballot in November 2012.
Washington has anti-marriage legislation, but not a constitutional amendment, to overturn. This means they can win the freedom to marry through a vote of the legislature, which is less difficult and less costly than a statewide vote. Recently, Governor Christine Gregoire announced that she will introduce a marriage bill in the upcoming legislative session. Anti-equality forces have promised to refer any successful marriage legislation for a public vote in November 2012.
New Jersey currently has civil unions, but they’ve been found to be insufficient to comply with a ruling from their state Supreme Court which said same-sex couples are entitled to equal rights and protections under the law. The New Jersey legislature is currently working to muster the votes needed to pass marriage equality legislation by a margin that could withstand an expected veto from Governor Chris Christie.
States Fighting Anti-Marriage measures in 2012:
In 2011, the state legislature approved a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. Before it can go into effect, the constitutional amendment must be approved by voters and will appear on the statewide ballot in May 2012.
Minnesotans face and anti-marriage constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot as a result of legislative referral during the 2011 legislative session.
What does the mean for Oregon?
To win full marriage equality in Oregon, we must follow a two-pronged approach.
- Remove the ban on same sex marriage from our state constitution. All the states that have passed marriage equality (like New York, Maine, Iowa) or are close to passing it (like Washington and New Jersey) were able to go through the legislature or through the courts. Not Oregon. The only way to move forward here is to change our state constitution, and that requires a vote of the people.
- Overturn DOMA at the national level. Even in states that already have the freedom to marry, DOMA prevents same sex couples from accessing any federal marriage rights. These include everything from filing joint tax returns, accessing military or federal pensions and protection from deportation for bi-national couples. The only way to change that is to have Congress or federal courts act to overturn DOMA.
You can help build a majority for marriage in Oregon today by having conversations with the people in your life about why marriage matters to all caring and committed couples. These conversations are opening hearts and changing minds.
We will win marriage equality in Oregon and throughout America–one heart, one community, one state at a time.