John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

Marriage equality in Illinois

In all the excitement over the elections in my former home state of Virginia, I forgot to mention the big political news from one of my other former home states. On Tuesday, the Illinois legislature passed a marriage equality bill; when Governor Pat Quinn signs it on November 20, Illinois will become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. This was a natural progression for them; just two years ago, the state legalized civil unions.

Over the course of my life, I've lived in five states and the District of Columbia; marriage equality is now the law in four of those jurisdictions. Virginia is one of the two holdouts, of course -- they have a history of changing their laws having to do with marriage and personal relationships only when forced to do so by the Supreme Court -- and the other, sadly, is my current home state of Wisconsin, which banned same-sex marriage and "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals" by constitutional amendment in 2006. The state does recognize domestic partnerships, though, for what that's worth.

It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin acts to repeal its ban on same-sex marriage before the inevitable Supreme Court decision repealing it for them. Amending the state constitution is a lengthy process; a proposed amendment must be passed by both houses of the state legislature in two consecutive terms, then approved by popular vote by Wisconsin citizens. Since both houses of the legislature are currently controlled by rabidly socially conservative Republicans, it certainly won't happen before 2017, and that's only if Democrats take control of both chambers in the 2014 elections and hold them in 2016.

Unless the Supreme Court steps in, of course. If the history of anti-miscegenation laws in the United States can serve as a guide, there may be a ways to go before the Supreme Court acts; when they ruled that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional in 1967, interracial marriage was already legal in all but 16 states. (The list of states that still had anti-miscegenation laws on the books is here, but you can probably guess most of them without trying very hard.)

The Supreme Court's decision followed a twenty-year period during which 14 states repealed their laws banning interracial marriage, a flurry of activity that bears some resemblance to the current situation with regard to the legalization of marriage equality. Of course, interracial marriage was already legal in twenty states when that period started, so there's obviously a lot of ground to make up before there are only 16 states still banning same-sex marriage, but on the other hand, the change is happening a lot faster this time around. Just since 2011, same-sex marriage has become legal in eight states, and that's not counting Illinois, nor the two states that legalized civil unions in that same time period.

Time will tell, of course. For now, the one really important question that remains is, having civilly unionized after Illinois passed its civil unions law in 2011, will my friends Pete and Jim now take that next step? Hope so! It was a good party last time around.
 
Tags: current events, politics
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