Things have changed so quickly since the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down by the Supreme Court that it’s hard to believe it’s only been one year since that historic day. The decision paved the way for even more States to embrace marriage equality for LGBT Americans and as of today (June 26), nearly half of the states have passed laws legalizing some form of same-sex marriage.
After years of promises and stalled momentum, the past 365 days have been one of the most exciting and energizing periods in the movement toward marriage equality. With President Obama stating unequivocally that “same-sex couples should be able to get married” and potential 2016 presidential candidate (and former First Lady/Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton recently stating that she, too, supports gay marriage and would like to see States decide the matter, it appears the movement’s momentum is unstoppable.
In fact, according to a recent poll, half of all Americans believe that same-sex couples should have a constitutional right to marry. In addition, a record-high 59 percent said they support same-sex marriage, with 34 percent opposed.
“It’s been a really successful and positive path since that decision,” said Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality USA. “We’ve seen a continued rise in polls in terms of people supporting marriage, across all demos: age, race, gender, religion, political affiliation. There’s also more and more Republican support for the issue and, in a similar but important difference, even folks who are not necessarily at the point where they’re saying yes to marriage equality, their opposition to marriage equality and acceptance of the fact that it’s coming has increased.”
So, with a historic year behind us, MTV News is looking at what’s changed since DOMA was declared DOA.
The repeal of DOMA — a legacy of the Bill Clinton administration that restricted the rights of same-sex couples to marry — came when the Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional on June 26, 2013, on a 5-4 vote.
On the same day, justices ruled that California’s Proposition 8 didn’t have the standing to appeal a previous court decision that ruled it constitutional. In other words, that controversial measure was history as well.
As of today, 19 states and Washington, D.C. have passed marriage equality acts, with 12 more states issuing rulings in favor of same-sex marriage pending appeals. Limited pro-marriage rulings have been issued in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, which many supporters see as a potential pathway to full equality.
In addition, Colorado has approved civil unions, Nevada offers domestic partnership and same-sex couples in Wisconsin are awaiting an appeal from that state’s Republican Attorney General after a District Judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban earlier this month.
At press time 31 states still banned same-sex marriage in some form, including: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.
“The huge change [since last year] is that we now have a court case in every single state that doesn’t have marriage equality,” Silva said.
As the cases in the 31 states without marriage equality wind their way through the legal system, Silva said he thinks we’re inching closer to another major DOMA-like decision.
“I think we’re all pretty surpsied at how quickly everything is going,” he said of the increasing rate of change. “I think we’re eventually going to have a 50-state solution at the Supreme Court.”
In the meantime, a movie about the effort to pass and then strike down California’s Prop 8, “The Campaign,” is rolling out across the country now. Another film, the five-years-in-the-making “The Case Against 8,” which goes behind-the-scenes with the unlikely lawyer duo behind the effort to overturn California’s law, is screening now in select cities and will debut on HBO on June 23.
What Will The DOMA Decision Look Like 10 Years From Now?
We all love a moment of clarity. That minute, or day, or week you can point to years from now and say, “This is when things changed.”
Was the repeal of DOMA one of those moments? Yes, but it’s also a bit early to call it the defining moment in the march toward marriage equality. “It will always be a series of moments where we can say that was it,” Silva said. “The DOMA decision will be a huge piece of that history. Every court case since then has rested upon the legal writings of the court [in DOMA].”