Are New State Laws Still Fighting the Old Same-Sex Marriage Battle?

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When it rains, it pours — or so the saying goes. In this case, it’s raining rice and ribbons at marriage ceremonies held across the United States this month after the Supreme Court chose not to hear same-sex marriage appeal requests, effectively legalizing gay marriage in a number of states falling within those courts’ jurisdiction.

Shortly after the decision was made, Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin were all added by the U.S. attorney general as states that would allow same-sex marriage, and it was announced Saturday that both Indiana and Wisconsin would be able to retroactively recognize marriages from June of this year. Over the weekend, six additional states were also added to that list: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

“With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving … full equality for all Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same-sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law.” Let’s look at each of the six new states and what the reaction has been.


Gov. Matt Mead recently indicated that Wyoming would not appeal the decision, according to Freedom to Marry. Of the states recently given marriage equality in the blanket announcement, Wyoming is one with a government that appears to be prepared to take the decision peaceably — not so surprising given the major change in public opinion between 2004 and 2012, according to the Williams Institute.

A poll by the organization shows that in 2004, there was only 26% support for same-sex marriage, but by 2012, this had increased to 41%, a jump that should perhaps make the change in law a smoother transition. This is much in keeping with the trend throughout the United States, in which Americans of all generations are increasingly accepting of the idea. The attorney general’s decision now leaves Wyoming with a strong and certain equal marriage status following his announcement on Saturday.


Alaska’s ban, which is 16 years old at this point, has been far more engrained than Wyoming’s. Gov. Sean Parnell said as of October 13 that he would be defending the ban, CNN reports. However, Holder’s announcement means that the state will be forced to recognize and allow marriages in Alaska regardless of local government plans.


“A number of Attorneys General have refused to defend laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I have not been among that group. I have fought to defend the laws as passed by the voters of Arizona, which I believe is the duty of the Attorney General,” said state Attorney General Tom Horne earlier this month. He went on to explain that as a “good lawyer,” it’s clearly time to recognize legal defeat.

“The probability of persuading the 9th circuit to reverse today’s decision is zero. The probability of the United States Supreme Court accepting review of the 9th circuit decision is also zero,” said Horne in a statement. “Therefore, the only purpose to be served by filing another appeal would be to waste the taxpayer’s money. That is not a good conservative principle.” Horne added that he had decided not to appeal the decision any further, and that Arizona’s 15 county clerks would be instructed to start giving marriage licenses for same-sex couples, effective immediately.


Idaho had requested that the 9th Circuit court’s ruling be frozen, a request allowed by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy but ultimately overturned, opening the doors for same-sex marriage. Earlier in the month, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden made it clear that he planned to “continue to take seriously my responsibility of defending the Idaho Constitution and the policy choices made by voters on the question of marriage.” But given recent developments and the Supreme Court’s signals, there is likely little Wasden can do.

North Carolina

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has publicly stated his personal support of same-sex marriage, though he’s chosen to defend the state’s ban in the past. Given the boat North Carolina shares with Arizona — and the likely futility of further appeal — this makes further litigation seem far less likely.

West Virginia

Same-sex marriage has been allowed and marriage licensees given out in the state of West Virginia since October 9, when Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said that there would be no further efforts made to reinstate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) given the Supreme Court’s decision.

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