Monday, November 12, 2012

Beyond Washington, Maryland and Maine: New Battleground States for Marriage Equality

Well, it indeed became official late last week that Washington state's referendum on marriage equality was in fact a win for marriage equality. Washington will thus be included with Maine and Maryland as the first three states to approve gay marriage by a popular vote, rather than strictly through legislative or judicial action.  They all did so in this November's elections. These three new states will now join the six other states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Iowa) and the District of Columbia as jurisdictions where gay and lesbian couples may marry.  New battleground states to watch, according to Queerty: New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, Oregon, and Delaware.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington To Approve Gay Marriage

Well, it seems to have happened.  All three of the states - Maryland, Maine and Washington - where same-sex marriage ballot initiatives were voted on yesterday, appear to be creating the right of same-sex marriage.  They join six other states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, and New York) for a new total of nine states, plus the District of Columbia, where gay and lesbian couples may now marry.

(The vote has not yet been officially announced in Washington state, but is expected to come soon.)

These new states will be the first to create marriage equality through a popular vote, rather than through judicial or legislative action.  Three states, including our own Massachusetts, as well as Connecticut and Iowa, have judicially-created gay marriage.  The other three states, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York, have legislatively-created gay marriage.

No doubt popular support for gay marriage equality is growing.  I continue to hope that family law scholar Joanna Grossman was right when, early this year, she optimistically foresaw, as her article title itself (following link) suggested, "the beginning of the end of the anti-same sex movement."  Indeed, another hopeful sign, from yesterday, was that Minnesota's voters rejected the ballot initiative there which called for a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to the traditional, heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman.

I fear, however, that I may also be right in my own more pessimistic response that although progress is real, it is likely to continue to be rather slow.  (Here I am reminded of one of my favorite George Orwell quotes: "Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.") Just as there will be a few states moving in the direction of equality, I believe there will continue to be, for many years, a large majority of states where social conservatives stubbornly refuse to recognize gay marriage.  After all, we're still only up to 9 states plus D.C..  That leaves 41 states without gay marriage, many of which already have bans on gay marriages. And of course we are still living with the federal statute (the Defense of Marriage Act).

Stay tuned.   The U.S. Supreme Court will surely weigh in soon on at least some of the issues presented by the laws for and against gay marriage.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Massachusetts Pets Now Included in Custody and Abuse Protection Orders

Over this past summer, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill, which the Governor signed into law, that provides for the inclusion of pets in custody and abuse prevention orders.  See the recently issued Massachusetts Trial Court memo here.  I blogged about pets in restraining orders five years ago (No Longer Mere Chattel: The Rising Status of Pets in Family Law) when it was still a relatively new thing, and there were only a handful of states with such laws.  Since then, the total, not including the latest addition of Massachusetts, has risen to at least 22 other states, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.