Across the country, this week’s landmark Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage have energized activists and politicians on both sides of the debate. Efforts to impose bans — and to repeal them — have taken on new intensity, as have lawsuits by gays demanding the right to marry.
The high court, in two 5-4 decisions Wednesday, opened the way for California to become the 13th state to legalize gay marriage, and it directed the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex couples. A federal appeals court yesterday lifted its freeze on same-sex marriages in California, saying the state is required to issue licenses to gay couples starting immediately.
But the rulings, while hailed by gay-rights activists, did not declare a nationwide right for gays to marry. Instead, they set the stage for state-by-state battles over one of America’s most contentious social issues. Already, some of those battles are heating up.
In Pennsylvania, the only Northeast state that doesn’t legally recognize same-sex couples, gay state Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, says he will introduce a bill to allow same-sex marriages. The bill may flounder in the GOP-led Legislature, but the issue is likely to be volatile in next year’s gubernatorial race, pitting GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, an opponent of gay marriage, against any of three Democrats who favor it.
In Arizona, gay-rights supporters have begun circulating petitions aimed at repealing the state’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage by way of a ballot measure next year. With California’s ban quashed, Arizona is now among 29 states with constitutional amendments that limit marriage to one-man, one-woman unions.
Gay-rights activists and Democratic politicians in several other states also hope to repeal the bans in their states — in Oregon, Ohio and Arkansas with possible ballot measures next year, and in Nevada and Michigan with referendums in 2016.