The President Supports Gay Marriage. What About the States?

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Yesterday was a great day for equality, and many of us are still celebrating/recovering from celebrating the President's announcement that he personally supports gay marriage.  A mere sixteen years from passing the Defense of Marriage Act under a Democratic President, we've come a long way.  

Though an historic moment for gay rights, the announcement notably stopped at personal support, without calling for any legislative or executive action.  Despite his personal convictions, Obama still believes the legality of marriage should be left to the states.  And, well, some states are better than others.  

The Guardian has a fascinating interactive graphic showing where all of the states stand on gay rights, from treating gay people like second-class citizens to state-run non-stop pride parades (okay, maybe we're not quite there yet).

The graphic shows where states stand on marriage, hospital visits, adoption, employment, housing, hate crime and school discrimination/bullying.  The states with maximum rights in these areas are appropriately represented as a rainbow.  Unfortunately, even though 52 percent of Americans support gay marriage, there is not a corresponding number of rainbows.  


Some highlights:

  • Eight states plus the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.  Ten states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships.  But that leaves thirty-two states legally that have either legally defined marriage to be between a man and a woman or amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
  • By following the link to the graphic, you can see the states weighted equally, or weighted according to population.  Things look better when weighted according to population, largely because of California, New York and Illinois's more progressive policies.  On the other hand, the Southeast and the Midwest make the whole country look bad.
  • Almost every state allows adoption by a single person, with 19 allowing adoption by same-sex couples as well.  But three states (Utah, Mississippi and Michigan) actually allow adoption by single people, but do not allow adoption by same-sex couples. Because one loving parent is always better than two?
  • Texas isn't necessarily the worst state for equality, but only because of legislation that addresses hate crimes related to sexual orientation.  Oklahoma and Alabama, for instance, lag behind – but barely.

Hopefully the President's support for equal rights will help tip some of these states, especially the ones already beginning to adopt some more progressive policies. (Wisconsin? Minnesota? Nevada?).  Because as it stands now, his announcement comes at a time when public support for equality is not reflected in either state or federal policy.  


About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

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