BUILDING MOMENTUM? Supporters of gay rights demonstrate in Philadelphia. Legal scholars expect several more states to legalize same-sex marriage this year.
When Maine's highest court ruled two years ago that lesbians Marilyn Kirby and Ann Courtney could adopt the two children they had cared for since 2001, the man who has led the state battle against gay marriage for 25 years got a glimpse of the defeat now looming.There's a couple of things going on here: (1) Many courts and legislatures are moving to expand equal protections to same-sex couples short of legalizing gay marriage, but the article also shows, (2) how gay activists are playing up the "inevitability" angle for all it's worth. Actually, less than one-third of American nationally, and even fewer in recent Iowa polling, support full-blown same-sex marriage rights (supporting civil unions instead). So, gay radicals - seeking to change the definition of marriage even though states are expanding gay partnership rights - will continue to push in the courts and legislatures at the state level to create a jigsaw puzzle of conflicting laws and regulations, attempting to tie the federal system in knots.
"There's a sense people have -- a sense of inevitability -- and a tremendous sense of frustration because of the history of the gay rights fight in Maine," said Michael Heath, executive director of the Maine Family Policy Council.
He was referring to rights incrementally accorded to gay couples that have led to virtual equality between same-sex and heterosexual unions -- a significant trend occurring in Maine and other states where gay marriage remains banned, experts on both sides of the issue agree.
Those rights are expanding as legally married gay couples relocate to states that don't allow same-sex marriage, forcing courts, legislatures and employers to deal with the resulting issues of custody, divorce, inheritance and end-of-life decisions.
The adoption ruling in Maine had the effect of granting parental rights to same-sex couples. By the time the Legislature adjourns for the summer, experts expect Maine to become the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage -- 11 years after voters banned it.
In New York, which doesn't allow same-sex marriages but recognizes those conducted elsewhere, recent court decisions have granted a divorce to two gay men and surviving spouse benefits to another.
In California, federal judges have twice overruled decisions by the federal government to deny healthcare coverage to gay employees' legal spouses, teeing up a constitutional challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal benefits for same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts, which began the trend five years ago. (Iowa issued its first marriage licenses April 27, a few weeks after its Supreme Court gave approval; weddings in Vermont will begin in September.) Within a year, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York will probably follow suit, say sexual orientation scholars at the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute; New Hampshire's Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill Wednesday.
And as more same-sex couples wed in places where it is legal, the administrative fallout in other states is expected to keep expanding.
Conservatives know exactly what's happening:
These are serious cases of widespread importance, where we see same-sex couples attempting to use the laws of another state to push their agenda in a state that does not recognize their union," said Jim Campbell, litigation counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization.Well, gay activists really don't want to have their views "fully vetted." The more we actually hear these people, the less inclined are we to support their case.
"This is a danger that will spread to all states but will not necessarily result in same-sex marriage in all states," Campbell said, noting that opponents will continue to press their elected officials to reject same-sex marriage initiatives.
Julaine Appling, executive director of Wisconsin Family Action, agrees, saying her group "has always taken the position that these kinds of decisions should be made in the Legislature, where they can be fully vetted and can have public opinion given."
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times, "Same-sex Marriages Gradually Gain Legal Ground."