Lawmakers in the Delaware Senate today voted 12-9 in favour of a bill to legalize same sex marriage, as the state followed Rhode Island's vote last week and became the 11th state to give same sex couples the right to marry. The vote followed a heated debate in the Senate, with religious leaders, invited to the debate by the bills' opponents, speaking out strongly, and at length, against homosexuality. Same sex couples in Delaware have had the right to enter into civil unions since 2011 but they will soon have the right to marry. A marriage equality bill already passed the general assembly last month by a margin of 23 votes to 18. Democrat Governor Jack Markell, a strong supporter of marriage equality, has previously promised to sign the bill into law.
Aside from Delaware, same sex marriage is already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. In addition, along with Delaware, nine states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Wisconsin — already have civil unions or domestic partnership provision. Although there have been setbacks and there is still much work to be done to ensure that same sex couples are given the right to marry across the U.S., there are encouraging signs that this is ultimately inevitable.
Image credit: Pew Research Center
As the map above, published on May 3, shows, the majority of states in America currently have bans on same sex marriage. Earlier today, Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, also announced his resignation following a backlash from conservatives over his public support for same sex marriage. Despite these obstacles and setbacks, however, there are promising signs for supporters of same sex marriage.
According to a recent Pew Research Center report on the issue, the "rise in support for same-sex marriage over the past decade is among the largest changes in opinion on any policy issue over this time period." While Americans opposed same sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35% in 2001, they now support it by a margin of 49% to 44%. Much of this shift can be attributed to the rise in support amongst millennials — those born since 1980 and age 18-32 today — with 70% in favor of same sex marriage. Support has also increased amongst older generations too. And according to Pew, even those who are opposed to it think it will inevitably be legal across the country, citing a poll by LifeWay Research which shows that 64% of Americans think same sex marriage will inevitably become legal throughout the U.S.
A bill to extend the freedom to marry to same sex couples will also come before the Minnesota House of Representatives on Thursday, with supporters confident it will pass given that House leadership reportedly said it would not put the bill up for vote until the necessary 68 votes required for it to pass had been secured.
In New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie vetoed a freedom to marry bill that was passed in February 2012, a campaign is now underway to override the veto by putting it to the ballot. And according to a poll last month, 62% of voters said that would support overturning the veto if it is put to a vote.
Despite continued opposition by some, the generational and attitudinal shifts that are increasingly evident make the legalization of same sex marriage throughout America seemingly just a matter of time. The Supreme Court also seems likely to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which currently prevents the federal government from recognising state-sanctioned same sex marriages.