Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Keep Up Their Winning Streak

May 24, 2014

Same-sex marriage supporters continued to enjoy considerable legal momentum this week.

With officials in Oregon and Pennsylvania deciding not to challenge court decisions overturning bans on gay marriage, they became the 18th and 19th states where same-sex couples can be granted legal recognition.

"The cascade of same-sex marriage rulings is now a torrent," Jay Michaelson wrote in The Daily Beast.

In Utah, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the state must recognize the marriages of more than 1,000 couples who married in the 17 days between the overturn of the state's ban on gay marriages and the emergency stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on that ruling.

"The amazing thing about this week — and for that matter, virtually every week since the Supreme Court decisions last year — is that we haven't had one defeat, not one setback," says Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday showed that support for same-sex marriage had reached a new high, with 55 percent of those surveyed in support, against 42 percent opposed.

Opponents Don't Surrender

Legally, opponents of gay marriage face an "uphill struggle," as Heritage Foundation analyst Ryan Anderson wrote for National Review.

"But in the long run, those who defend marriage as the union of a man and woman will prove to be prophetic," he wrote.

At a news conference, Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said he would continue to defend his state's ban on gay marriage. He said that sexual orientation — and whether it's acted on — is a different matter "than what race you're born with."

He was critical of colleagues in other states who are not defending marriage bans that are on the books.

"For elected officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose what laws [they] will enforce, I think, is a tragedy, and is the next step to anarchy," Herbert said. We have an obligation as a state to defend those laws."

Heading Toward Supreme Court

Gay marriage bans are under legal attack nearly everywhere. A lawsuit was filed challenging Montana's ban on Wednesday, while six South Dakota couples sued to overturn their state's ban on Thursday.

North Dakota is now the only state with a ban that has not been challenged in federal court.

That could change soon. Joshua Newville, the Minneapolis attorney who filed the South Dakota case, said he's been approached by couples in North Dakota as well.

Federal judges have overturned gay marriage bans in a total of eight states this year. Two other states — Kentucky and Ohio — have been ordered to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Most of the federal decisions have been stayed, pending appeal. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals may rule on the Oklahoma and Utah cases any day now.

All of this activity makes it likely that the Supreme Court will have to weigh in on the marriage question again sometime in the foreseeable future.

"My decision will not be the final word on this subject," U.S. District Judge Michael McShane wrote in his ruling on the Oregon case.

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