If You Don’t Pay Attention to these Marriage Equality Cases Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

As I alluded to on Friday, last week we saw several more amazing strides in the push for marriage equality. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it as much as I can: we are witnessing an amazing point in history. And if you’re not paying attention, being a part of this moment will pass you by. 

By taking time to really understand how these cases unfold, 50 years from now, when we can’t imagine a time when same-sex couples couldn’t marry (see 1967’s Loving v. Virginia), we can say we saw marriage equality come to pass….step by step by step. 

In case you missed the news preparing for Valentine’s Day or binge watching House of Cards (season 2 is amazing), here’s what you need to know:

1)   On Monday, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto filed a motion to withdraw the state’s defense of its same-sex marriage ban. Eight couples had lost their challenge to the state’s ban in the district court. However, the AG felt the state’s stance couldn’t withstand the required legal scrutiny. Ms. Masto cited the 9th Circuits recent decision that potential jurors couldn’t be dismissed based on their sexual orientation – SmithKline Beechum Corp v. Abbott Laboratories . If you haven’t already done so, check out Ari Ezra Waldman’s analysis on how the SmithKline Beechum case could impact all marriage equality cases.

2)   On Wednesday, a federal judge struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn II held that Kentucky’s ban violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. You should note this case differs from other federal same-sex marriage cases. The decision doesn’t deal with the state’s own ban on same-sex marriage, just its refusal to recognize those marriages validly entered into in other states.  

3)   And then on Thursday U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s state ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Judge Wright concluded that without question “marriage is a fundamental right” and that Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens were simply trying to “exercise a right enjoyed by the vast majority of Virginia’s adult citizens.” Also of note, Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, didn’t defend the law because he also felt it violated the Equal Protection Clause. He joins AGs of four other states – Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Nevada  – who have refused to defend same-sex marriage bans in their own state.

Watching all of this play out is so fascinating to me. Every one of these cases provides a different piece of the puzzle to what I believe will result in full marriage equality. The Supreme Court will undoubtedly have to weigh in on the issue and create some continuity in the system.

 Stay tuned! You’ll regret letting these moments pass you by.