Gay Marriage Likely in New Jersey and Virginia, Not in Mississippi
Gay marriage cases are proceeding slowly but surely in the wake of the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in July. Thirteen states have legal gay marriage, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, there are currently active cases in 18 states. So where are marriage rights likely to be won next?
Gay marriage cases are proceeding slowly but surely in the wake of the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in July. Thirteen states have legal gay marriage, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, there are currently active cases in 18 states. A July Gallup poll shows that 52 percent of U.S. adults favor legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, while 43 percent are opposed. Even former President George H.W. Bush attended a gay marriage last week. So where are marriage rights likely to be won next?
Virginia: Moderately Likely
Virginia's had a gay marriage ban on the books since 2006, and that ban is now getting a high-profile challenge from the lawyers who helped overturn Prop 8 in California. David Boies and Ted Olson announced on Monday that they will represent two gay men who say they were denied a marriage license in Norfolk Circuit Court. The lawyer team is famously an odd couple — Boies is a liberal Democrat and Olson is a conservative Republican. And the ban they're challenging is particularly harsh: It also denies recognition of gay marriages officiated in other states.
But Boies and Olson say that's what gives their case a good shot. Olson told The Washington Post, "The more unfairly people are being treated, the more obvious it is that it’s unconstitutional." Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (above right) has indicated that he will defend the ban in court. According to a Washington Post poll in May, 56 percent of Virginians think gay marriage should be legal, while 33 percent do not.
New Jersey: Very Likely
A New Jersey judge ruled on Friday that the state should start offering gay marriage licenses by October 21st. But that doesn't mean gay couples are home free — Governor Chris Christie (right) has already indicated that he would appeal Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson's decision. He also thinks the gay marriage issue should be put to a statewide vote. He said in a CBS interview Sunday, "My view on it is, put it on the ballot. Let the people decide."
Christie is currently running for reelection, and his Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, said she would work to legalize gay marriage if elected. New Jersey currently offers same-sex unions, but gay rights activists argue that those unions do not provide the same benefits as marriage. A Quinnipac poll released in July shows that 60 percent of New Jersey residents think gay marriage should be legal, while 31 percent oppose it.
Mississippi: Not Likely
Mississippi is an extremely conservative state, and most of its constituents don't favor legalizing gay marriage. However, one resident is attempting to get the state to recognize her gay marriage — so that she can get divorced. Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham married her wife in California, but the two lived together in Mississippi until they separated in 2010. Czekala-Chatham is now seeking a divorce to protect her children from a previous relationship. She's worried that her wife will get her children's inheritance if the couple doesn't divorce.
Even Czekala-Chatham's lawyers don't seem optimistic about the case, however. "My client is not looking to start gay marriage in Mississippi. She wants the marriage from another state to be recognized so she can get a divorce and protect herself," said attorney J. Wesley Hisaw. Matt Steffey, a constitutional law professor at Mississippi College, told the Associated Press that Czekala-Chatham doesn't have very good odds: "There's no right to terminate a gay marriage in Mississippi any more than there is a right to consummate one." He added, "This is a test case. At worst, it's simply an exercise in futility. That said, all test cases look like an exercise in futility until they succeed."
In 2011, only 13 percent of the state's residents approved of gay marriage. However, according to a recent Human Rights Campaign poll, 58 percent of residents under 30 favor gay marriage.
(Photos via Associated Press.)