As 2009 draws to a close, it seems appropriate to review the enormous amount of legislation surrounding gay marriage and domestic partnerships that swept the United States. The lesbian and gay community celebrated hard-won victories, mourned sorrowful defeats, and collectively vowed to wage a peaceful war on the anti-gay contingent who seem hell-bent on denying same-sex couples the simple and basic right to marry the person they love.
In April, Iowa stunned the nation when it granted same-sex couples the right to marry. Vermont (the first state to legalize civil unions for gay couples) followed suit just four days later. The law became effective on September 1st. Maine followed suit in May, although its voters disappointingly overturned the legislation by referendum in November. Perhaps spring filled the hearts of legislators with thoughts of love and romance … but New Hampshire legalized same-sex marriage in June. That law will take effect on January 1, 2010. In early December, the New York senate rejected a gay marriage bill. Finally, in December, Washington, D.C. became the 8th jurisdiction in the country to legalize gay marriage. However, in order to take effect the law must survive a 30 day review period of Congress. The State of New Jersey is still battling over the gay marriage issue.
Washington State’s governor signed an “everything but marriage” bill (Senate Bill 5688) into law in early May. (That legislation was challenged in the November election by Referendum 71 but the “everything but marriage” law held up. It became effective December 3rd). Also in May, Nevada passed a domestic partnership law, which became effective October 1st. On May 26, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, which constitutionally defines marriage between a man and a woman, but ruled that previously officiated same-sex marriages shall remain valid. In July, Colorado recognized “designated beneficiary agreements” for same-sex couples. By August, the State of Wisconsin enacted domestic partnership lawsfor same-sex couples. In September, Oregon re-worked its domestic partnership legislation to include surnames.
2009 was an impressive year in the battle for gay and lesbian marriage equality. I can hardly wait to see where 2010 will go!