06 December 2012

Mexico Legalizes Gay Marriage In Oaxaca

The Volokh Conspiracy helpfully summarizes the latest international developments in the saga to legalize gay marriage (abbreviations in text spelled out where indicated):
The Mexican Supreme Court ruled today that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutionally discriminatory. This follows a 2010 pro-[Same Sex Marriage] ruling that applied only to Mexico City. It’s unclear how broadly this new ruling will apply beyond the Mexican state of Oaxaca, but the news story suggests that individual suits brought in other states will gradually bring same-sex marriage to those jurisdictions.
Marriage, Mexico City, and the Mexican state of Oaxaca will alway be linked in my mind, as Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca were the places I went on my honeymoon.  It is fitting that these Mexican jurisdictions were the first to have legalized gay marriage.

The State of Gay Rights In Colorado And Related Recent History

Colorado, led by an openly gay speaker of the state house, Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver), and an openly gay state senator, Pat Steadman (D-Denver) (both of whom have been my state legislators when I lived in West Washington Park, either before or after redistricting in the wake of the 2010 census) will almost certainly pass a civil unions bill in 2013.  Pat Steadman's partner, alas, died this year before he accomplished.  Parliamentary foul play by Republican state house leaders at the end of the 2012 session of the Colorado General Assembly killed the civil unions bill this year, a move that helped motivate Democrats working to regain a majority in the state house in which they were successful.

Earlier on, I worked on the campaigns of, and was represented in Colorado's state house in West Washington Park by, the state's first open homosexual state legislator, Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver).  I have also practiced law in the district of Colorado's second openly lesbian state legislator, Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge).  Colorado's delegation to the United States Representatives includes Jared Polis (CO-2, D-Boulder) one of the few openly gay representative in Congress and the only gay parent in Congress.

The first pro-gay rights decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), invalidated an anti-gay rights amendment to Colorado's state constitution that would have prohibited local governments from protecting gay rights via civil rights measures, was held to be an unconstitutional denial of equal protection.

Tim Gill, a gay man whose Gill Foundation has been pivotal in advancing the cause of gay rights in the state.  Gill and Polis were two of the key donors who spearheaded a major vitalization of the Democratic party in Colorado.

Colorado's state constitution forbids the legalization of gay marriage but is not drafted in a broad form that would also prohibit civil unions.  State constitutional amendments in Colorado may be proposed either after being referred by supermajorities in the Colorado General Assembly (the legislative votes aren't current there to do that in Colorado), or by a sufficient petition, and then must be approved by majority vote at a general election.  Recent polling indicates that majorities in Colorado would now favor a state constitutional amendment legalizing gay marriage, reflecting a general shift in public opinion on the issue, nationally and globally, over the last decade or so.

Colorado currently has "designated beneficiary agreements" which are well short of civil unions but accomplish some legal ends that can't be secured by other means (such as modifying the right to bring a wrongful death action), and some local governments also have "domestic partnerships" which can open up access to health insurance benefits from employers that cover same sex partners. 

Colorado has also extended a wide range of civil rights protections to gays, lesbians and transsexual individuals, many of which arose from legislation sponsored by Jennifer Veiga, vetoed by Republican Governor Bill Owens, and then signed by Democratic Governor Bill Ritter.

The State of Gay Marriage Globally

Dale Carpenter's post at the Volokh Conspiracy also quickly summarizes the overall state of same sex marriage law:
[Same sex marriage] is now legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico (where same-sex marriages for now are allowed only in Mexico City but are recognized nationwide). It’s also legal in nine U.S. states – Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington — and in Washington, D.C.
Uruguay is likely to pass a bill legalizing same sex marriage on Monday. Litigation in progress in California is posed to legalize gay marriage there is the U.S. Supreme Court does not reverse at 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the subject which it is currently discussing internally whether to review.

Many other U.S. states and countries that are not listed avove have civil unions (i.e. marriage in all but name and a few technical legal respects) or domestic partnerships (i.e. some but not all of the incidents of marriage for same sex or unmarried couples).

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