Friday, May 1, 2009

Marriage Equality Estimates and Predictions

So, I'm not sure whether it was boredom or the sinus headache, but I decided to figure out when marriage equality would actually be a reality in each state given how the legislative process works. I wanted to see which states would begin issuing licenses first, and then decided to do some projections about possible states. Here is the list of states that currently have marriage equality or legislation pending which would allow for marriage equality, their expected effective date, and the percentage of the national population that would be living in places with marriage equality at that time, given 2008 census estimates:

  1. Massachusetts, 2.1% (May 17, 2004)
  2. Connecticut, 3.3% (November 12, 2008)
  3. Iowa, 4.3% (April 27, 2009)
  4. New York, 10.7% (Est. June 15, 2009)
  5. California, 22.8% (Est. June 15, 2009)
  6. Vermont, 23.0% (September 1, 2009)
  7. Maine, 23.4% (Est. September 15, 2009)
  8. Washington, D.C., 23.6% (Est. October 1, 2009)
  9. New Hampshire, 24.0% (Est. January 1, 2010)
  10. New Jersey, 26.9% (Est. January 15, 2010)

Now, a few notes about these states. 4 are for sure, and 6 aren't (one isn't even a state). I'm only including these 10 for right now because they are the ones with visible momentum toward marriage equality. I may later try to extrapolate some more data and give some estimates for other states, but I don't want to be too premature.

New York:

The Governor of New York, David Paterson, has been an invaluable ally for the LGBT community in New York, even given the criticism that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer would already have had this bill passed. The bill he is pushing is bill A07732 (Primary sponsor O'Donnell, D-69, 55 co-sponsors) in the Assembly and S4401 in the Senate (Primary sponsor Duane, D-29, 18 co-sponsors). There are 150 members of the State Assembly and passage through that chamber should be accomplished by the end of next week since the bill is already out of committee and being moved to third reading. The speed is probably due to the fact that they have already been through this bill before in 2007.

The Senate is where things get complicated. The Senate Majority Leader, Malcolm Smith did not want to introduce a bill unless it would pass, fearing that it would make the legislation harder to pass or push it out by a year or two. However, Sen. Tom Duane of NY's 29th Senatorial District, an advocate of the policy not to pursue the bill unless it would pass, has introduced the legislation. This means that it will be sent to committee, and could be out within a week or two. Making matters more interesting, a group of 3 Democrats were holding out on confirming Smith as Majority Leader, supposedly because they didn't want this legislation to see the light of day in 2009. Now, 1 of the "Gang of 3", Sen. Pedro Espada is co-sponsoring the legislation. The main opposition to this bill is coming from Senator Ruben Diaz, a Democrat from the Bronx who is an ordained minister that has frequently registered opposition to anything affiliated with LGBT people including the Gay Games of 1994 and the Harvey Milk School. Republicans in the state Senate have been told by their leadership that they may choose to vote their conscience, allowing the bill to possibly be carried with bipartisan support. Of the Republican members of the State Assembly that voted for the 2007 bill, none lost election due to their vote on that bill.

This bill has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but is not on the agenda for their next meeting (May 5, 2009, 10 am). The committee only meets once a week on Tuesday at 10 A.M., but is not required to meet every week. The Chairman, Senator Sampson, is not a co-sponsor of the legislation, and Ruben Diaz sits on this committee. However, of the 22 committee members including the chair, 8 Senators have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill. Hopefully this is a good sign and will help it move out of committee and onto the floor. I would imagine a floor vote would take place within a week, given that the Majority Leader is in favor of this legislation. The bill requires 32 votes to pass since there is no Lieutenant Governor to break the tie should it only get 31 votes.

A recent poll puts support in New York State at 53% for marriage equality. If this bill passes, the effective date is immediate. I would assume that they would allow a few weeks for county clerks to adjust, and I estimate the bill could be through the Senate by the end of May, thus my calculation of June 15, 2009. Just a side note, the NY State Legislature ends its session on June 22nd.


This is a hypothetical date, given that the court hasn't ruled and their decision is highly uncertain at this point. Oral arguments dictated that the justices would probably choose to uphold Prop 8, but given the recent advances in marriage equality across the country, the CA Supremes are going to be feeling extreme pressure about right now. Iowa's Supreme Court quoted the In Re: Marriage case to support their ruling, and the CA Supremes would be overruling their own prior ruling given that they previously upheld the rights of the LGBT minority last year. This incident is just more proof that CA needs to hold a constitutional convention. Also, Kate Kendell, Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, published a letter on her blog today stating that she thinks the court must overturn the Proposition. What is certain from the outcome, however, is that all of the groups pushing for this Proposition should be wary if it stands. In essence, it declares that California is under mob rule and that any disliked minority could be targeted next.

Out of irony, I think that the court may release its ruling on Friday, May 15, 2009, on the one year anniversary of its prior opinion. If the ruling is in our favor, it would take effect after thirty days, making June 15, 2009 the date where Californians could legally perform same-sex marriages again. If the Proposition is upheld, I expect it would be repealed by 2010. I say this because at this time, California will probably be one of only two states (the other being Colorado) where the repeal may be on the ballot. If that is the case, I would expect a legal date of December 1, 2010.


Maine seems to be a shoo-in. Testimonies regarding marriage equality were heard by the Judiciary Committee last week, and it sailed through the Senate this Wednesday. I'm not sure if they held that Judiciary Committee meeting with both Houses because of the number of people expected, or if it is standard practice in Maine to have a committee comprised of members of both chambers. Anyways, the bill should reach the Assembly floor next Tuesday, May 5, 2009. Given that the bill had over 60 Co-Sponsors and it was supposed to have a more difficult time going through the Senate (where it passed 21-14), I think it could be to Governor Baldacci's desk by the end of next week. Baldacci is mum on whether or not he will sign, but it has been indicated that his position about same sex marriage has changed and he is now unopposed. If he signs it, the bill will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. They are scheduled to end the session on June 17, 2009, which would give a legal date of Tuesday, September 15, 2009. Btw, the bill is LD 1020.

One thing to beware of here is the possibility of a people's veto on this bill. Opposition is starting to mount, and may be lead by Richard J. Malone, Archbishop of Portland, Maine. However, past campaigns against LGBT rights is Maine have proven unsuccessful and Mainers are vehemently opposed to outside input on their legislative process, meaning a California-like initiative would be widely held in contempt.

Washington, D.C.:

Although it isn't a state, I include it because for all intents and purposes it operates separate of all the states. The D.C. City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that would recognize marriages performed elsewhere earlier would be recognized there. The ordinance will have a second reading and vote on May 5th, after which Congress has 30 days to review it. I am unsure if Congress really has any power over it because there is fiscal cost to D.C. that they haven't already recognized during the implementation of Domestic Partnerships in the District. I personally am inclined to believe that Congress has moot power over this, but they could indefinitely delay it or disapprove of the law. Again, I'm not sure that they actually have the power to do this because of the lack of a fiscal cost to D.C.

The City Council at that point would probably introduce a bill to allow for same-sex marriages to be performed there. 2 of the city council members are openly gay, and the Mayor, Adrian Fenty seems to be ok with it. The wildcard is Marian Berry, a D.C. City Councilman that was recently seen with a bunch of anti-marriage equality people at a rally. Although he is acting alone, the implications aren't clear what effect this may have on the Council or the Mayor. The later bill would follow the same procedure as this one, so it would have a first reading sometime in July, a second reading and final vote in August, and if untouched by Congress, become effective by October 1, 2009.

New Hampshire:

This bill recently passed the New Hampshire State Senate, where it was amended and sent back to the Assembly. No word on when they will take a final vote on the bill with the amendment before it is sent to the Governor. The Governor recently made statements that the LGBT community should be more concerned with federal recognition of their civil unions than working toward marriage equality in the state. I kind of agree with him, but it doesn't really give us any indication as to whether or not he would veto HB 436. He has gone on record as being opposed to same-sex marriage and only signed the civil unions bill two years ago, so there are no guarantees here.

If the bill does pass, it is written in the bill that it will take effect January 1, 2010. Interesting Note: Same-gender couples must both be 18, regardless of sex, whereas in a heterosexual marriage, the boy may be 14 and the girl 13. I think it has something to do with having children out of wedlock, but it's still interesting to note.

New Jersey:

There have been no bills placed before the legislature yet that deal with marriage equality. The word is that legislators are waiting until after the November elections to make their move. New Jersey's legislature is full time, meaning that their sessions can go the entire year. In essence, right after the election legislators could pass a marriage equality bill that would be forgotten before the next elections come in 2011. Governor Jon Corzine has already stated that he would sign the bill, especially since New Jersey commissioned an independent panel to study civil unions and whether, in fact, they are equal to marriage, as that's what the Supreme Court of New Jersey required when it ruled in Lewis vs. Harris that the state must provide equal legal protections to same-sex couples. Interestingly, the court was split 4-3, because the 3 dissenters felt that civil unions weren't enough and that the legislature must provide for same-gender marriage. The panel released its results on December 10, 2008 and recommended that New Jersey become the next state to allow for marriage equality. Polls show the state is almost split, but the legislature should act just after the elections.

If we estimate that it will take about 6 weeks to move through both chambers, the bill should be signed by the end of December, and allowing for county clerks to change their forms, I estimate that the legal reality of same-gender marriage in New Jersey will be about January 15, 2010.

So, these are my predictions/estimates for the first 10 places in the country that will have marriage equality. I may try and do some other predictions, but it all depends on how things shape up in the next few weeks.

It is interesting to note that 5 of these states are in New England. I say this because New England seems to have the most politically engaged population in the country. It is no wonder then that those legislators who are closest to the people can see how they are affected when equal rights aren't provided. As a side note, the lower house in the New Hampshire legislature has 400 members meaning that they represent 3,290 people according to the 2008 census estimates; in Utah the ratio is 1 legislator per 36,486 residents.

Any thoughts?