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Marriage equality is a controversial issue in the United States, but like with Civil Rights in the 1960’s, the public consensus seems to be shifting in a big way. Today, an increasing number of Americans see marriage equality as a basic human rights issue.
In honor of equality and of New York City’s upcoming Pride Week, here is a look at the same-sex marriage fight in America.
Gay Marriage Chronology
The battle for marriage equality has been raging in the courts for more than a decade. The interactive infographic below explores milestones in the fight, and the progress of the states as laws have slowly changed from outright constitutional bans to legalization.
Minnesota Legalizes Gay Marriage
The legislative process of ensuring marriage equality has been an exercise in patience. Minnesota is the most recent state to legalize gay marriage (as of May 2013). Including the District of Columbia, it is the thirteenth state to do so. California may be the next state to legalize, depending on what happens when Proposition 8 comes before the Supreme Court.
Marriage at the Supreme Court
For the first time ever, the Supreme Court is hearing two gay rights cases in one term. One challenges DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The other challenges California’s Proposition 8, which revoked same-sex couples’ freedom to marry in that state. Many proponents see both of these as keystone decisions. If DOMA is reversed, it could dramatically change the marriage equality landscape in the U.S., allowing the government to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples across the country. If Prop 8 is overturned, judges nationwide could use the case as precedent, sparking a flood of new legislation.
The Cost of Same-Sex Marriage Bans
While the emotional cost of marriage inequality is obvious, the financial cost is also very real. For example, a typical same-sex couple in Chicago must spend upwards of $10,000 to draft and file the legal documents necessary to attain the same rights enjoyed by every married couple in America.
And the bans aren’t just financially burdensome to the couples who can’t marry, they are burdensome to the states in which they live. The infographic below takes a cold, hard look at the numbers. For example, in New York same-sex couples spent $101.1 million dollars on weddings in the first year of legalization. The total estimated boost to the Massachusetts economy in the first five years was $111 million. And Washington has seen an $88 million influx.
The Challenges to Marriage Equality
People oppose marriage equality for a number of reasons, many of which don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, some opponents claim same sex couples will raise the divorce rate when in fact the divorce rates are lower in states that allow same-sex marriage. Opponents also claim the children of same-sex couples will be at a disadvantage academically. However, a recent study of census records demonstrated that this is not the case, and that academic performance depends on the level of education of the parents and on their socioeconomic status, not on their sexual orientation.
Religious opposition is one of the most common objections to same-sex marriage. Christian religious objectors often say they believe homosexuality is a sin, even though this is never explicitly stated in the New Testament. (It is mentioned in the Old Testament alongside prohibitions about wearing fabrics made from different cloths and eating shellfish. Clearly most modern Christians are not living word-for-word by Old Testament language). The infographic below (which may be controversial for some readers) is a flow chart exploring the reasons why tolerance is an important part of living in a civilized society.
Gay Culture in America
It’s difficult to understand the magnitude of the marriage equality problem without understanding the demographics in America. The infographic below illustrates the distribution of homosexual people across the country. It’s interesting that one of the most densely populated gay states, Florida, has not yet legalized same-sex marriage.
Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.