In order to fully understand what has transpired this year, one must first look at the groundwork that had been done to bring us to this point. Let's begin with the 2012 elections which proved to be an important moment
for marriage equality. That year's general election saw marriage referendums passed by popular vote in Maryland, Washington and Maine, dispelling the religious right's assertion that no state would ever pass marriage equality if put up for a vote by the people. It was a delicious victory. However, parties on both sides of the debate agreed that all the "low-hanging fruit" had been picked and that any movement going forward would be an uphill battle, with full marriage equality being realized in the United States unlikely any time soon.
But that December, something remarkable happened. The U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear two constitutional challenges to state and federal laws, United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry—the court of appeals case seeking to overturn California's gut-wrenching passage of Proposition 8. The cases were heard and the decisions handed down on June 26, 2013. Prop 8 had been overturned and Edith Windsor had won her case. The decision in that case led perniciously anti-gay justice Anton Scalia to write in his pissy dissent "As I have said, the real rationale of today's opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, is that DOMA is motivated by 'bare . . . desire to harm' couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status."
Meanwhile, marriage equality was proceeding in the states at a surprisingly remarkable clip. In 2013, marriage equality was gained through legislative process in Illinois, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey and New Mexico. On December 20, a Federal judge in Utah declared that state's marriage ban unconstitutional. When the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request to stay the decision, opponents appealed to the Supreme Court who blocked the ruling, sending it back to the appeals court on January 6.
Thus, the stage was set for 2014. In a dizzying string of lawsuits filed in federal and appellate courts, marriage equality began a wild winning streak. In case after case, often citing Scalia's prescient dissent, marriage equality bans were consistently found unconstitutional. Our opponents' arguments were soundly rejected, with the courts determining them to be based solely on animus.
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And how could they not be? They were based on animus. Some judges seemed to take particular delight in pointing out this fact. Any judge with two brain cells to rub together could see through the laughingly transparent arguments. That is until a judge was found who apparently had only one brain cell to rub up against itself. On September 3, 2014, Federal judge Martin L.C. Feldman uphheld Louisiana's ban on same sex marriages, breaking a streak of 21 consecutive federal court decisions overturning the bans since June of 2013. The knuckle-draggers were delighted, citing the decision as proof that marriage equality was not inevitable.
During this time period, the Supreme Court had been intervening on state requests to stay or block lower court decisions from taking place. This all came to a surprisingly abrupt halt on October 6 when SCOTUS, without explanation, declined to hear appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Within hours of this decision, happy couples were headed to their local courthouses to be wed. Things were coming to a head. With all this momentum, we needed one event to occur to finally send this back into the hands of the Supreme Court ... a dissenting opinion from a circuit court of appeals.
A split in the courts finally happened on November 6 when the Sixth Circuit upheld marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Once again our opponents were pointing to this decision declaring that the tide had turned and they were making a comeback. However, as they were celebrating the news, so were marriage equality advocates who viewed this as a pyrrhic victory. This decision now provided the necessary split between the lower courts needed to bring this back to the Supreme Court for a final determination. And it looks as though they will be taking it.
On December 23, SCOTUS announced that they will consider hearing four separate cases filed since the Sixth Court made their decision. This is on top of their decision to discuss hearing a case submitted against the bone-headed ruling by Martin Feldman out of Louisiana as well as a case submitted out of Idaho. Although it is impossible to say whether they will choose to hear oral arguments from any of these cases on their docket, given the events and momentum of 2014, it appears they likely will.
Public support for marriage equality has never been higher, with the number of new supporters growing daily. The Supreme Court will certainly take the social climate under consideration as they debate whether to hear any one of these cases in 2015.
Of course, even if SCOTUS does decide to take up the same sex marriage issue in January, we have no way of knowing how they will ultimately decide. Marriage equality activists definitely feel we will be going into this with a distinct advantage given all that has occurred in 2014. Our opponents are putting on a brave face and saying that they like their odds too, but with a quiver in their voice that belies the bluster.
No matter what happens though, one joyous fact remains. As we close out 2014, nearly 65 percent of Americans now live in a state that grants all loving couples the right to marry the person they love, making 2014 the single-most pivotal year for marriage equality this country has experienced to date. No matter what happens in 2015, we will not stop until 100 percent of Americans know the same joy.