2013 was the year that same-sex marriage finally started to gain momentum in state legislatures across the country. Often compared to America’s other great civil-rights struggles, the battle for marriage equality began to heat up to untold temperatures this past year. In 2013 alone, the number of states in which same-sex couples may marry doubled from nine to eighteen (not including Washington, DC)! The practical result is that 39% of the U.S. population lives in a state that has embraced marriage equality. But, while many of the states legalizing gay marriage are home to the sorts of progressive cities one might expect, the most recent state to take up the marriage equality is anything but! Utah, the home of the Mormon Church, among the most conservative of U.S. states, granted its citizens an early Christmas present this past December when a federal judge overturned the state’s long standing ban on same-sex marriage.
Utah state officials are in the process of appealing the ruling, but from December 20th until today more than 900 same-sex couples have tied the knot it Utah, despite the pending litigation. Unfortunately for those who hadn’t yet made it to the altar — everything changed this morning when the Supreme Court, acting on a petition sent to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, ruled that same-sex marriages must be halted pending the outcome of the appeal before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Gay and lesbian rights groups criticized the High Court’s order and vowed to push on with their battle to win marriage rights in all fifty states. Activists from GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) argue that the Court is putting families at risk and dealing a serious blow to the fight for full equality for all Americans.
Although Utah may seem like a surprising choice for same-sex couples to blaze the trails of marriage equality, the overall reaction to same-sex unions in Salt Lake City has been surprisingly positive. SLC residents reported a generally supportive atmosphere, with no protests. Across the U.S., there are more than 40 lawsuits pending in 20 states seeking marriage rights for the LGBT community. In fact, the issue is set to be tackled at trial in Pennsylvania in June of this year. In addition to marriage rights, Plaintiffs these cases are also seeking other rights – the right to adopt children, the right to divorce spouses they married in other states, and their right to inherit from their partners’ estate.
The fight for marriage equality is far from over, and may in fact be just beginning in states like Pennsylvania. Our Western Pennsylvania family law attorneys are experienced in fighting for the rights of LGBT clients. If you’re interested in learning more about same-sex marriage rights in Pennsylvania, contact our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our PA LGBT family attorneys.