Gay Rights
May 15, 2014
Will same-sex marriage continue to advance?

Supporters and opponents alike have expressed surprise at the rapid pace of judicial rulings favoring marriage equality for same-sex couples, paving the way for another Supreme Court showdown on the issue as early as 2015. Since the Supreme Court’s decision last June to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred marital benefits to legally married gay or lesbian couples, lower courts in 13 states have uniformly interpreted the decision as undermining state bans on same-sex marriage or laws refusing to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Meanwhile, gay rights supporters have seen little tangible progress on Capitol Hill or in state legislatures. The Senate encouraged gay rights groups by approving the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but the bill stalled in the House of Representatives.

Surrounded by supporters, Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
				holds up the state’s marriage equality bill after signing it on Nov. 20,
				making Illinois the 16th state to allow such unions.   Surrounded by supporters, Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn holds up the state’s marriage equality bill after signing it on Nov. 20, making Illinois the 16th state to allow such unions. A federal judge then ruled on Feb. 21 that the new law should go into effect immediately rather than waiting until June 1, the date specified in the act. (Getty Images/Scott Olson)

Advocates for same-sex marriage have gained considerable momentum in recent months, setting the stage for another Supreme Court showdown on the issue as early as next year. Courts have struck down restrictions on same-sex marriages in 13 states since last June, when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred legally married gay or lesbian couples from receiving federal marital benefits available to heterosexual couples. The courts have uniformly interpreted the Supreme Court's landmark June 26, 2013, decision in United States v. Windsor as undermining state laws that ban same-sex marriages or refuse to recognize those marriages conducted in other states.

The rulings began reaching federal appeals courts in April, enabling one or more of the cases to be decided soon enough to allow an appeal to the Supreme Court later this year and a decision by the end of June 2015.

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