January 4, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
A precarious walk down the aisle

Developments in the battle for same-sex marriage rights took place in numerous places throughout the country last year.

• The State Supreme Court in Iowa in April unanimously overturned a statutory ban on same-sex marriage, granting marriage rights to same-sex couples there. It was the first unanimous decision from a court in support of same-sex marriage, and the first win for gay nuptials in America’s heartland.

• Shortly after, the Vermont Legislature overturned a veto from Gov. Jim Douglas (R)
to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. April’s vote in the Vermont State House was 100-49 and had exactly the number of affirmative votes needed to overturn the governor’s veto.

• In April, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed into law a bill allowing gay nuptials performed elsewhere to be recognized in the District. The victory gave way to more jubilation in December when Fenty signed into law a bill allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in D.C. The law is subject to a 30-day congressional review, but opponents are expected to find overturning the law difficult in a Democratic-controlled Congress. Still, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), ranking Republican of a House subcommittee with jurisdiction over D.C., has sworn to fight to repeal the law.

• In California, the State Supreme Court in May made a disheartening decision for supporters of gay nuptials when it upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the Golden State. The court noted, however, that same-sex marriages performed in California before the ban went into effect remain valid. Also in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed into law in October legislation clarifying that same-sex marriages performed elsewhere before Prop 8 passed would be considered valid marriages in the Golden State. For same-sex couples that married elsewhere after Prop 8 was passed, the law also grants the legal benefits of marriage without the nomenclature.

• Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D) signed into law in May legalization that provided marriage rights for same-sex couples there, making him the first governor in the country to sign same-sex marriage legislation into law. The victory was short-lived, however, as the Maine electorate in November approved by 53 percent a “people’s veto” repealing the law.

• In New Hampshire, Gov. John Lynch (D) in June signed into law a bill granting marriage rights for same-sex couples within the Granite State. The governor would only sign the legislation after lawmakers added language clarifying that religious organizations wouldn’t be forced to recognize the marriages.

• The New York Assembly twice this year passed legalization that would have allowed same-sex marriage in the Empire State, making it the largest in the country to have gay nuptials, but the State Senate rejected the bill in December, 24-38.

• In New Jersey, the legislature could this month vote on same-sex marriage
, but the results are uncertain. The Senate Judiciary Committee in December reported out the bill, 7-6, but it’s questionable whether there are sufficient votes to pass the legislation on the Senate floor.

• Movement to expand rights for married same-sex couples also took place in Congress
. In September, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. But key supporters on Capitol Hill have said other pro-LGBT bills would take priority, and Nadler recently said the DOMA repeal won’t happen next year.

• The advancement of same-sex marriage occurred abroad as far away as Sweden and Mexico. In April, the Swedish parliament legalized gay nuptials, making the country the fifth in Europe to pass a law allowing same-sex marriage. And in December, Mexico City also made history when city lawmakers passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage within the municipality.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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