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    March 04, 2010

    Rising tide of gay relationship recognition

    Posted by: Chris

    Us map gay relationship recognition
    The Washington Post editorial page had it right yesterday when they wrote, "the tide of history is moving … toward a recognition that gays and lesbians, no less than heterosexuals, are entitled to sanctify their love in marriage, and that society will be better off when that right is universally extended." I wouldn't use the word "sanctify," since it conflates civil and religious marriage, but the tide, she is a-rising.

    A new analysis of existing laws by Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin shows that nearly half of all Americans live where there is at least some form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples. Some 140 million Americans (46% of the total U.S. population) live where gay couples can either marry or enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships:

    • 5.1% (15.5 million) live in jurisdictions with same-sex marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and (as of yesterday) the District of Columbia.
    • 19.2% (58.4 million) live in states with either civil unions or their domestic partnerships equivalent, offering basically all the rights and responsibilities of marriage without the name: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington.
    • 8.3% (25.2 million) live in states that recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere: New York and Maryland.
    • 4.7% (14.2 million) live in states that offer domestic partnerships with limited, itemized rights: Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine and Rhode Island.
    • 4.7% (14.2 million) live in dozens more counties and cities with some form of limited local recognition and benefits: Salt Lake City, UT; Phoeniz AZ; Tuscon AZ; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Lawrence, KS; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Louis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Cook County, IL (Chicago); Urbana, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; El Paso, TX; Travis County, TX (Austin); Eureka Springs, AR; New Orleans, LA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Clarke County, GA (Athens); Fulton County, GA (Atlanta); Broward County, FL (Fort Lauderdale); Key West, FL; Miami-Dade County, FL; and West Palm Beach, FL.

    Add up the first three categories and fully one-third (32.6%) of the U.S. population is located in jurisdictions where gay couples can either marry or have their marriage recognized or enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships with basically all the same rights and responsibilities of marriage without the name. That's still inversely related to public opinion surveys, which repeatedly show that two-thirds of Americans support marriage or civil unions for gay couples, but it's impressive nonetheless.

    Still, let's not forget in all the excitement one more important statistic:  0%

    That's the percentage of Americans who live in places where the federal government offers any form of recognition whatsoever for gay couples who are married or have entered into civil unions or domestic partnership. That final statistic is why repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and enacting federal civil unions ought to be at the very top of "the gay agenda" in Washington.



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    1. daftpunkydavid on Mar 4, 2010 2:18:07 PM:

      wait... but if doma is overturned, why do we need civil union on a federal level? currently, the federal government does not issue marriage licenses but depends on states to afford marriage rights to individuals. this is why it seems to me that getting rid of doma would take care of federal marriage rights. get marry wherever it's legal, get it recognized in any state of the union as well as by the federal government, and keep working to ensure states with bans see those overturned as well.

    1. Chris on Mar 4, 2010 5:57:39 PM:

      As a practical matter, repealing DOMA obviates the need for federal civil unions, although I believe the latter is more practically achievable given polls show 2/3 of the public backs at least civil union level of protection for same-sex couples. It is true, however, that only repealing DOMA means gay couples in states without gay marriage must travel to a place that does, get married and enter into a legal no man's land concerning whether that marriage will be recognized in their home state. Federal civil unions would extend the 1,100+ rights/responsibilities of marriage at federal level to gays everywhere, regardless of their state's position on marriage equality.

    1. daftpunkydavid on Mar 4, 2010 7:38:35 PM:

      sure, chris, but federal civil unions wouldn't have a consequence on, say, state taxes, right? federal civil unions wouldn't be able to afford rights that are the purview of each state. they could cover immigration benefits, social security issues, retirement accounts, etc, in other words things that can be regulated at a federal level and pass constitutional muster, i.e. things that a repeal of doma would bring.

      so i guess i'm just concerned that if doma is overturned, a federal civil union would be redundant and wouldn't actually do more. we'd spend capital on it to no avail. as for doma getting overturned, i'm hoping we don't have to rely on this democratic congress and that the gill challenge glad is mounting will be won.

      i also hope that once doma is repealed, someone will bring forth a case claiming "full faith and credit" for a marriage license they received in a state where it is valid. i don't think state amendments banning same-sex marriage can be struck down by this "full faith and credit" argument, just that the states will have to recognize the licenses, as is the case right now for states with different marriage eligibility criteria, except when it comes to the gays.

    1. John on Mar 6, 2010 10:20:28 AM:

      We can't even get DADT repealed, let alone pass ENDA or UAFA, yet somehow we're going to have DOMA repealed??? C'mon. Far better to work on the others and then go afte DOMA instead of spinning our wheels further at the national level and ending up - yet again - with nothing.

    1. daftpunkydavid on Mar 6, 2010 10:29:37 AM:

      repeal of doma does not entail congressional action necessarily - as opposed to enda or uafa. so the chances of passage for those are not the same as for a doma repeal.

    1. John on Mar 6, 2010 5:51:37 PM:

      Are you kidding? Unless you are referring to a couple of cases challenging DOMA that are on the long trek up to SCOTUS, Congressional action is indeed required to repeal this. I respect the efforts but believe they little chance of success once SCOTUS gets a hold of these cases. DOMA is Federal law, passed by a Republican-led Congress and signed by then-President Clinton. Given how same-sex marriage & civil unions have had only moderate success at the State level, DOMA is the proverbial Third Rail right now and will be for the foreseeable future. Why not work on still-controversial-but-far-more-popular issues like DADT repeal and ENDA enactment? If those can pass that brings us closer to the day DOMA falls as well.

    1. John on Mar 6, 2010 5:55:03 PM:

      Btw, I'm not saying that we abandon efforts at the State level. On the contrary, we should continue working for SSM, civil unions or whatever we can get depending upon the State in question. In fact, the more States that approve of either gives us more ammo for the fight at the national level in the future. Yet right now we should focus our attention on the national level at items that have far more chance of success: DADT repeal and ENDA enactment.

    1. daftpunkydavid on Mar 6, 2010 6:24:36 PM:

      your points are well taken john, but i maintain my position that, yes, through the courts, doma can be repealed. you should check the glad.com website and read their briefs on it (the case is called gill). i hope you'll come to a different conclusion than the one you laid out. their arguments are much thorougher than any i could try and make in the limited space here.

    1. John on Mar 7, 2010 12:18:35 PM:

      Even the most brilliant argument cannot overcome the basic reality that it will take 5 votes at SCOTUS to overturn DOMA. I see 4 in favor and 4 opposed with Kennedy being the wild card. Yet I do not believe Kennedy would be willing to side with striking down DOMA regardless of the constitutional argument for doing so which I happen to agree with. That would be too radical for him. Perhaps I'm wrong, I certainly hope so, but don't believe I am. Besides, a court case is not the same as mustering the political capital to repeal DOMA in Congress. I don't believe that would be worth the effort to do something which will be a spectacular failure right now and would distract from repealing DADT and enacting ENDA. Once those are accomplished then sure. Go for it. I doubt it'll go anywhere for awhile but at that point, why not? Someday it'll be successful.

    1. Chris on Mar 7, 2010 1:22:04 PM:

      @daftpunkydavid: You're missing my point, I'm afraid. The effect on federal law of civil unions is the same as repealing DOMA but the REACH of federal civil unions is much broader because gay couples need not travel to the six jurisdictions where they can marry and enter into a serious legal limbo as far as the effect of that marriage back home under their own state law. Until gay marriage is universal in the U.S. at the state level, it is a very risky proposition legally for a gay couple residing in a non-marriage state to go to Massachusetts or elsewhere to marry. If/when that couple breaks up, their legal status if very much up in the air depending on how severely their own state treats gay marriage and how much their ex takes advantage of the legal patchwork.

      Until gay marriage is universal in the U.S., gay couples are much safer entering into civil unions recognized at the federal level for federal law purposes and do their best under state law or private contract to govern the remainder of their responsibilities, property rights, etc. toward one another.

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