This month, Hawaii and Illinois will become the 15th and 16th states to legalize same-sex marriage.
Hawaii’s road to same-sex marriage began 20 years ago when a Hawaii Supreme Court decision held that statutes restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples were discriminatory. Baehr v. Lewin (Hawaii Sup. Ct. 1993). While this decision spurred the gay rights movement nationwide, it sparked a backlash in Hawaii. The state passed a statutory ban on same-sex marriage in 1994, followed by a constitutional ban. On November 13, 2013, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) signed a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry beginning December 2, 2013. Same-sex couples (and opposite-sex couples) will still have the options of entering into reciprocal beneficiary arrangements or civil unions.
On November 20, 2013, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) will sign a bill legalizing same-sex marriage there. Same-sex couples will be able to marry beginning June 1, 2014. New Jersey started performing same-sex marriages last month.
This recent activity brings the total to 16 states plus the District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriage, with more states expected to follow. The Supreme Court’s Windsor decision striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last June is credited with sparking this movement. The New Mexico Supreme Court heard arguments in a same-sex marriage case on October 23, 2013, with a decision expected next year. Also in 2014, Oregon, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, and Ohio are gearing up for challenges to repeal their constitutional bans next year. Nevada’s constitutional ban may fall in 2016. At the same time, Indiana is taking steps to preserve traditional marriage. The state already has a statutory ban on same-sex marriage, but is moving toward a constitutional ban.