In 2015 the US Supreme Court officially legalized same-sex marriage across the country in Obergefell v. Hodges, cementing a change to the standard that marriage was designed to be between one man and one woman. Though that landmark decision by the Court nullified countless state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from being married, some states are seeking to repeal and replace their laws banning same-sex marriage.
Not only is it an effort to rid states of outdated and homophobic laws, but it’s also an effort to ensure marriage equality is still allowed in the case that the Supreme Court reverses the decision to legalize gay marriage in 2015.
Even nearly six years since the Obergefell decision, twenty-nine states still ban same-sex marriage in their state constitutions, and thirty-one have family law statutes that ban same-sex marriage.
Some states are taking active roles in the replacement of their outdated marriage laws, such as Virginia where Democrats successfully passed bills doing just that. Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin, the first openly gay lawmaker in the state’s legislature, introduced the bill. Shortly after the passage of his bill, Ebbin said to the Washington Post that “[t]his is really just bringing Virginia into the 21st century.”
Virginia’s success in its effort to replace its marriage laws surrounding same-sex marriage stems from the 2019 election where Virginians flipped the state legislature from Republican to Democratic control. Though Virginia was able to successfully legalize same-sex marriage, other states with Republican-controlled legislatures have found no such luck.
Indiana is one of those states, with a legislative body that is nearly always controlled by Republicans. Indiana Democrats attempted to repeal bans on same-sex marriage just as Virginia did, but were met with fierce opposition. The bill failed, leaving Indiana as one of many states with unenforceable marriage equality bans in their state law.
Though efforts to replace bans on same-sex marriage in various states have gone both ways, the topic still remains a heated issue, even years after the Obergefell decision.
The Safety of Same-Sex Marriage
Though many states seek to get rid of their bans on same-sex marriage simply to make strides towards equality, there may be another purpose.
Though rare, it’s not unheard of for the US Supreme Court to reverse a decision. Many progressives fear that the current Supreme Court could attempt to repeal the Obergefell decision if the issue were to arise again. Much of this fear comes with the 2020 confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a confirmation that solidifies a conservative majority in the United States’ highest court.
If a reverse were to happen, any state that still has bans on same-sex marriage in their state laws would be required to adhere to the decision, whereas states that successfully replaced their state laws to allow marriage equality could continue allowing same-sex marriages.
Because the future is so uncertain for same-sex marriage in this country, Democrats in many state legislatures think it should be a priority to replace the aforementioned laws. For now, though, and to the happiness of many, marriage equality is still legal and safe.