As same-sex couples said “I do” in Oregon and Pennsylvania, the newest states in the equality lineup, speculation turned to guessing at No. 20.
Will it be Utah? Nevada? Arkansas? Virginia? Kentucky? Idaho? Judges in those states have overturned bans on same-sex marriage, but the rulings were put on hold pending appeals.
Or might it be Florida, where on July 2 a Miami judge is set to hear a challenge to the state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.
Or one of the other 23 states, including Wisconsin, where same-sex couples have sued to overturn anti-gay amendments or statutes denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry?
Oregon’s ban crumbled on May 19. Even before U.S. District Judge Michael McShane issued his ruling, state officials had vowed there would be no appeal — they hadn’t even defended the ban in court.
Pennsylvania’s ban toppled on May 20, with Gov. Tom Corbett announcing on May 21 that there would be no appeal of the decision from U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III.
Jones wrote in his ruling, “In the 60 years since Brown was decided, ‘separate’ has thankfully faded into history and only ‘equal’ remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage. We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”
In the same week, Florida’s lawsuit was marked up for a hearing and Utah was ordered to recognize the marriages of the more than 1,300 gay couples who said “I do” before the U.S. Supreme Court paused the wedding march while the lawsuit runs its course.
“It seems that every passing day brings LGBT Americans a new victory in our unwavering march toward justice,” said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.
The legalization of gay marriage in Oregon created a block of equality states on the Pacific coast.
And Pennsylvania was the last state in the Northeast to bar gay marriage.
The decision not to appeal the ruling in Pennsylvania could send a message to other Republican governors who have cited an obligation or best-interest in defending their state’s anti-gay bans, including Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
“Gov. Corbett’s decision not to waste taxpayers’ money defending the indefensible denial of the freedom to marry even one day longer is the right decision for Pennsylvania, for families and for the country — and one more big step forward to celebrate,” said Evan Wolfson of the Freedom to Marry. “Pennsylvania is showing the country that when gay couples share in the freedom to marry, it’s joy, love, security, and happiness and a stronger community for everyone, and no one loses. And this latest decision by a Republican governor not to try to keep gay couples from marrying is additional proof that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”
Corbett, in not pursuing an appeal, joined other Republicans in withdrawing a defense of marriage equality bans in court, including Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who refused to defend Prop 8.
“Given the high legal threshold set forth by Judge Jones in this case, the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal,” said Corbett in a statement. “Therefore, after review of the opinion and on the advice of the Commonwealth legal team, I have decided not to appeal Judge Jones’ decision.”
With same-sex marriage legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, 44 percent of Americans live in an equality state.
Bans are the target of lawsuits in 30 other states.