Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Opinion L.A.
Opinion

Those thuds were two more gay-marriage bans hitting the trash can

As more bad laws fall, gay marriage advocates need to remain vigilant
The fight for gay marriage is on a winning streak -- but the battle isn't won yet

Remember the old days -- say, a year ago -- when a court ruling striking down anti-gay marriage laws was big news? Now it just feels like the further crumbling of legally sanctioned prejudice.

And while that’s a good thing, advocates for marriage equality shouldn’t lapse into complacency, because the battle is not even close to being won.

The first of the two most recent rulings come from a federal appeals court in Denver, which ruled Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, paralleling an earlier decision by the same court on a similar ban in Utah (both decisions are being appealed). The second ruling comes in Florida, where a county judge in the Keys ruled that state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage is, in fact, unconstitutional because it violates the 14th amendment guarantee of equal protection. That ruling was limited to one county, and immediately appealed, but it sets in motion the likelihood of a broader ruling down the road.

To date, 19 states and Washington, D.C., allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, and in 14 other states, judges have ruled against laws barring gay marriage, which remain in place while appeals progress. Three states offer some form of civil union or domestic partnership status, though they should drop the segregation distinction and allow full marriage for those who want it.

According to the Freedom to Marry organization, as it now stands, nearly 44% of the U.S. population lives in states allowing gay marriage. Our colleagues on the news side put together this interesting graphic, which displays over time the changes in gay marriage laws state by state. In this case orange -- laws restricting gay marriage -- is the new bad and purple is the new good, denoting states recognizing gay marriage. Note how in June 2013 the colors begin to change rapidly in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down that appalling Defense of Marriage Act

The issue remains controversial, obviously. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin condemned the federal court decision in the kind of right-wing terms that has fueled anti-government showdowns in Nevada, and in Murrieta. "Today's ruling is another instance of federal courts ignoring the will of the people and trampling on the right of states to govern themselves," she said.

That was the basic argument segregationists used more than a half-century ago, and it is just as wrong-headed now as it was then. It is precisely the role of the federal courts to defend the minority against the majority when it comes to basic civic liberties. The 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection supersedes any possible states’ rights claim.

In all our diverseness, people remain people and should be able to take part equally in all aspects of contemporary society, be it a contract, a job or a marriage. 

Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Gay rights are on the march
    On this Independence Day, gay rights are on the march

    More than 1,300 legally married same-sex couples in Utah, where the Mormon Church is headquartered? Who would have thought it possible 10 or even five years ago? Marriage licenses issued to more than 500 gay and lesbian couples in the politically conservative state of Arkansas? This is progress...

  • What if Starbucks' 'Race Together' had caught on in corporate America?
    What if Starbucks' 'Race Together' had caught on in corporate America?

    Howard D. Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, said in a letter to employees on Sunday that baristas would no longer be encouraged to write the phrase "Race Together" on customers' coffee cups, drawing to a close a widely derided component of the company's plan to promote a discussion...

  • Where do 'religious freedom' acts mention gays or lesbians?
    Where do 'religious freedom' acts mention gays or lesbians?

    Poor Mike Pence. The Indiana governor, eyeing a long-shot presidential bid, probably didn't expect the hot mess he got himself into by signing his state's version of the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, or RFRA. And it showed.

  • Malibu can't pass off guesthouses as low-income housing
    Malibu can't pass off guesthouses as low-income housing

     A judge’s recent ruling that the city of Malibu couldn’t count guesthouses toward its state-mandated plan for low-income housing came as something of a shock. Who knew Malibu was even required to think about low-income housing? Not much, mind you — just 188 units of...

  • Indiana law shows LGBT people the closet door
    Indiana law shows LGBT people the closet door

    In a private ceremony Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 101, the innocuous sounding Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It prevents state and local governments from enacting laws that would "substantially burden" a person's exercise of his or her religion....

  • Could the anti-immigrant loudmouths pass a U.S. citizenship test?
    Could the anti-immigrant loudmouths pass a U.S. citizenship test?

    To listen to talk radio and cable television, which are dominated by conservatives, the national and state debates over immigration give the impression that most legal residents of the state of California oppose immigrant workers here illegally and might even be favorably disposed to Mitt...

  • Raise the minimum wage, but don't forget about the cost of housing
    Raise the minimum wage, but don't forget about the cost of housing

    One of the best reasons to raise L.A.’s minimum wage is the region’s incredibly high cost of housing. Metropolitan Los Angeles is ranked the least affordable rental market in the nation because the city has a dual problem -- low incomes and high costs.

  • California bill aims to curb police adoption of military surplus
    California bill aims to curb police adoption of military surplus

    One of the surprising details that came to light during the recent debate over local police agencies outfitting themselves with surplus military equipment was the remarkable level of freedom police departments enjoyed in requesting weapons, armored personnel carriers, aircraft and other...

Comments
Loading