Just seven days ago at this time, marriage equality was legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. It’s occasionally surprising what can happen in a week.
Take last night, for example, where Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by a federal court. Emma Margolin reported:
The nation’s oldest voter-approved amendment banning same-sex nuptials has fallen. On Sunday afternoon, a federal judge struck down Alaska’s 1998 amendment defining marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. […]Alaska’s was the first ban of its kind, soon replicated in state legislatures across the country, and now the latest casualty in an unprecedented wave of pro-marriage equality rulings, set off by the Supreme Court’s decision last year to invalidate the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Alaska ruling, which is available online here (pdf), was issued by U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess, who was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush.
What’s more, let’s also not forget that late Friday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy lifted the temporary stay he’d imposed in this week on marriages in Idaho. This, in turn, allowed an appeals court ruling to go into effect, striking down Idaho’s ban against same-sex marriages.
And right around the same time, District Court Judge Max Cogburn Jr. struck down North Carolina’s gay-marriage ban, clearing the same for immediate same-sex unions in the state.
As the dust settles on this extraordinary seven-day stretch, what does the marriage landscape look like now?
When the Supreme Court took a pass on pending appeals, it immediately legalized same-sex marriage in five states: Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. At the same time, the justices’ inaction also cleared the way for marriage equality in six additional states: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Between these states, additional court rulings, and the effects of appeals court rulings, we can now say that marriage equality has either reached or is about to reach 35 states and the District of Columbia – nearly double the number of states from this time last week.
Following up on a recent discussion, what’s especially heartening for proponents of civil rights and equality is how routine success has become. It wasn’t long ago that these cases were nerve wracking – a gut-wrenching test of whether basic human decency would prevail – with countless families afraid to hope for fear of bitter disappointment.
Now, every case seems to end with the same celebratory result: watching the arc of history bend closer to justice.