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Gay Marriage was an ongoing debate throughout 2012

by Jennie Wood

Overall, gay-rights activists had a lot to cheear about in 2012. In February, Washington became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage. Maryland also approved a same-sex marriage law in early 2012. Opponents in both states immediately began to work toward blocking the bills and putting the issue before voters in a referendum during the November 2012 general election.

On February 7, a federal appeals court in California rejected the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage passed in 2008. The court ruled that the ban, known as Proposition 8, violated the constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians in California. Both opponents and supporters of the ban vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Opponents of gay rights also had a victory. On May 8, 2012, North Carolina passed an amendment to ban gay marriage by a margin of more than 20%. By doing so, North Carolina became the 30th state in the U.S. to include an anti-gay marriage amendment in its constitution.

The day after North Carolina passed its anti-gay marriage amendment, President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage. It was the first time Obama publicly declared his support for gay marriage. Regarding the issue, he said, "I've just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married." With the declaration, Obama became the first U.S. president to back gay marriage while in office.

The 2012 general election in November brought important firsts for same-sex marriage. For the first time gay marriage was approved in a popular vote. In fact, three states—Maine, Maryland, and Washington—voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. In addition, voters in Minnesota rejected a measure to ban same-sex marriage.

On December 7, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases that challenged federal and state laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. One case, from New York, questioned the federal law that requires the U.S. government to deny all benefits to lesbian and gay couples who are married in states that allow same-sex unions. The second case was from California and the outcome could either reject or reaffirm the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Decisions on both cases are expected by June 2013.

By the end of 2012, same-sex marriage was legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Gay rights groups believed that all the victories in 2012 were a sign that overall public opinion was shifting.

More information on same-sex marriage and the Gay Rights Movement:

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