If anyone still has any doubts that marriage equality is on the move in the US, just consider how many advances there have been in just the past few days, in this week of St Valentine:
- Also on Monday in New Jersey, the state Senate approved a bill, which then passed in the state House Thursday. Gov Christie vetoed, as promised, on Friday. Proponents now have two years to muster enough votes to override. (Or they could try next year to go the referendum route, after all, or they could hope for a favourable ruling from the state Supreme Court.)
- In Maryland on Tuesday, Valentine’s day, key committees approved a bill which was due to go to the full House of Delegates Thursday, and was finally passed late on Friday. It must still go to the Senate, but as they approved a similar bill last year, that should not present a problem. Thereafter, Governor O’Malley has promised to sign.
- In Colorado, a bill for civil unions (not full marriage) was approved by a state Senate committee yesterday. It is expected to pass easily in the Senate, and will then go to the House.
These have been on the radar for some time, with extensive press reporting. Two others were less widely predicted:
- The Illinois General Assembly introduced a gay marriage bill yesterday, after it cleared the House rules committee February 8th.
- Legislation is due to be introduced in Rhode Island today.
- A West Virginia delegate introduced a bill for civil unions.
Meanwhile, the Maine campaign to repeal Proposition and reinstate marriage equality, appears to be going well. Organisers submitted far more petition signatures than required, and polling shows strong support.
These are steps forward, not achievements completed. There are still hurdles to be overcome, in each:
- Even after signature by the governor, Washington’s new law faces a voter’s referendum for repeal.
- Any override of Gov Christie’s veto in New Jersey will be a tough ask. It may not happen.
- The Maryland bill can pass in the House (where it came short last year). As in Washington, there will likely be a voter referendum for repeal.
- Prospects in Illinois, R.I. and Colorado are also uncertain.
- The WV bill is largely just symbolism. It’s unlikely to pass.
And in Minnesota and North Carolina, there are existing proposition campaigns to write discrimination into the state constitutions.
Even so, the momentum is clearly in the direction of equality. That’s seven states where the initiative is moving forward, and two heading in the other direction. Even if there are some setbacks, these will be reversed – just as New York last year reversed it’s earlier Senate defeat with the help of three Republican senators, and as Maine is on course to reverse 2009’s proposition for repeal, with a counter proposition to re-instate marriage for all, free of discrimination.
In every vote taken in state legislatures so far, there have been a few Republican legislators crossing party lines to vote their consciences, for equality. Catholic bishops and some other religious leaders are actively campaigning to restrict marriage – but in every public campaign, there are other faith leaders and prominent
Catholic politicians who are arguing, from religious principles, for justice for all.
Full marriage equality is clearly on the way – and that will include full inclusion, in at least some churches.