U.S. News: A Breakthrough Year for Same-Sex Marriage

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


In 2013, the Supreme Court and several states weigh in on same-sex marriage.

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With more states legalizing same-sex marriage and two key Supreme Court rulings, 2013 was a breakthrough year for gay marriage in the United States. While other countries like France and Russia faced fierce protests over gay marriage laws in 2013, a shift in public opinion happened in the United States. According to a July 2013 Gallup Poll, 52% of Americans would support a law that would legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. ABC News had similar results with their poll when 55% of Americans said they support same-sex couples' right to tie the knot. A 2013 Quinnipiac University poll found that 54% of American Catholics supported same-sex marriage.

Even the newly crowned Pope Francis spoke up for the LGBT community in 2013. In a September interview published in international Jesuit journals, he said, "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person."

Policy Shift for Republicans

On February 27, 2013, several Republicans backed a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to rule that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. It was a policy shift for many party members. More than 100 Republicans were listed on the brief, including former New Hampshire Congressman Charles Bass and Beth Myers, a key adviser to Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential campaign.

The brief was filed as the U.S. Supreme Court prepared to consider overturning Proposition 8, the California initiative banning same-sex marriage, as well as overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed during Bill Clinton's presidency, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. On March 26, 2013, the Supreme Court began two days of historical debate over gay marriage. Their decision would be announced in June 2013.

The Supreme Court Weighs In

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. In a 5 to 4 vote, the court ruled that DOMA violated the rights of gays and lesbians. The court also ruled that the law interfered with the states' rights to define marriage. It was the first case ever on the issue of gay marriage for the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. voted against striking it down as did Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. However, conservative-leaning Justice Anthony M. Kennedy voted with his liberal colleagues to overturn DOMA.

On the same day, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage opponents in California did not have standing to appeal the lower court ruling that overturned the state's ban, known as Proposition 8. This ruling would most likely remove legal battles for same-sex couples wishing to marry in California. However, the ruling did not directly affect other states.

More States Begin Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

During May 2013, Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota legalized Same-Sex Marriage. On May 2, after same-sex marriage legislation passed in both houses of Rhode Island's legislature, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the new law. Less than a week later, Governor Jack Markell signed the Civil Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom act, legalizing same-sex marriage for the state of Delaware. On May 13, 2013, in Minnesota, the State Senate voted 37 to 30 in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, a week after the House voted in favor of the new law. Governor Mark Dayton, a supporter of same-sex marriage, signed the bill the following afternoon.

In August 2013, Minnesota and Rhode Island began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On October 21, 2013, New Jersey became the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriages when the state's Supreme Court rejected Gov. Chris Christie's request to delay the implementation date of same-sex weddings. Immediately same-sex couples began to marry. Just hours later, Christie dropped his appeal to legalize same-sex marriages.

Expansion of Aloha in Hawaii

In November, two more states passed legislation approving same-sex marriage. Illinois became the 15th state to recognize same-sex marriages when the House of Representatives approved the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which passed the state Senate earlier in 2013. Governor Pat Quinn, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, said he would sign it into law. The new law would be implemented on June 1, 2014. Hawaii became the 16th state to recognize same-sex marriages when the Senate passed a gay marriage bill, which had already passed in the House. Governor Neil Abercrombie, a vocal supporter of gay marriage, said he would sign the bill. Beginning December 2, 2013, gay residents of Hawaii as well as tourists would be able to marry in the state. Of the new law, State Senator J. Kalani English said, "This is nothing more than the expansion of aloha in Hawaii."

To see a list of all the states that have legalized same-sex marriage, go here. With public opinion shifting and so many breakthroughs in 2013, other states seemed poised to join that list. For example, several counties in New Mexico began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the fall of 2013.

by Jennie Wood
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