WASHINGTON — The history of the battle over the definition of marriage is part of a larger movement to change laws and public opinion on homosexuality. The issue is complex because the wording of laws on marriage, the rules for amending the state constitutions, the various court precedents and the wording of proposed laws and amendments differ from state to state.
Those desiring to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples have focused their efforts on the courts and liberal-leaning legislatures, while the defenders of marriage as the union of one man and one woman have been most successful when the issue is put to the people through a referendum process.
In 1969, the Stonewall Riot in New York City sparked the “gay pride" movement.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association responded to pressure from homosexual militants who threatened to disrupt their national conference by removing homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. According to Ronald Bayer, who supported the decision, “The result was not a conclusion based on an approximation of scientific truth as dictated by reason but was instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times.”
In 1981, the first cases of what would later be called AIDS were reported. Since then, more than 300,000 men who have had sex with men with AIDS have died. Homosexual activists used AIDS prevention programs to promote the “gay agenda” in schools.
In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state’s prohibition of same-sex "marriages" amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex. In 1998, the people of Hawaii responded to the ruling by amending their state Constitution to authorize the Hawaii Legislature to enact a statutory ban on same-sex "marriage."
In 1996, concerned that other states would be forced to recognize same-sex "marriages" performed in Hawaii, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which restricted federal marriage benefits and required inter-state marriage recognition to only opposite-sex marriages. DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. Vermont that same-sex couples could enter civil unions. In 2009, the Vermont Legislature extended marriage to same-sex couples.
In 2000, Nevada and Nebraska passed referendums defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
In 2003, ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down laws against sodomy.
The Massachusetts Decision
In its 2003 Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court redefined marriage as “the exclusive and permanent commitment of marriage partners to one another” with no reference to the sex of the persons. The court recognized that their decision marked “a significant change in the definition of marriage,” but argued that their decision did not “undermine the institution of civil marriage,” since the plaintiffs “do not want marriage abolished.”
The concurring opinion in this case by Justice John Greaney spoke to those who disagreed with the decision: “Simple principles of decency dictate that we extend to the plaintiff, and to their new status, full acceptance, tolerance and respect. We should do so because it is the right thing to do.”
However, in the 10 years since the decision, Massachusetts has denied tolerance and respect to those who disagree with the decision. Catholic adoption agencies were closed because they would not place children with same-sex couples. Schools have pushed the “gay agenda” starting in kindergarten, and parents have been told they have no right to remove their children or present an alternate point of view. Plays promoting the “gay agenda” and ridiculing religion have been publicly funded and objections to them ignored.
In 2004, 13 states passed amendments to their state constitutions defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This was followed by two states in 2005, eight states in 2006 and three states in 2008. North Carolina approved a state amendment in 2012, for a total of 31.
In 2008, the people of California approved Proposition 8, which declared: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” In 2010, Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional in the district court. This case was appealed and reached the Supreme Court in March of 2013, along with a challenge to DOMA.
After a string of successful referendum campaigns, in 2012, a referendum defending marriage failed to pass in Minnesota, after which the state Legislature passed a law redefining marriage. Today, 13 states have redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, either by court order or legislation. In several states, the legislation was subsequently approved by popular vote. In addition, seven states have approved some form of civil unions.
In April of 2012, the National Organization for Marriage, which is a leader in the movement to defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman, announced that a list of donors it had provided to the Internal Revenue Service had been obtained by the homosexual-rights group Human Rights Campaign and published. Disclosing confidential information from tax returns is a federal crime. Donors so identified reported being harassed, and spokesmen for NOM charged that the disclosure of donors had negatively affected contributions to their work.
The change in momentum may be linked to media bias. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reviewed nearly 500 stories on marriage in January and February of 2013 and found that, by a 5-to-1 margin, they favored legalizing same-sex "marriage."
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and found that those defending Prop. 8 had no standing, effectively upholding the lower court ruling striking it down.
Dale O’Leary is a freelance writer and lecturer and is the author of One Man, One Woman: A Catholic's Guide to Defending Marriage. She currently resides in Florida.