Momentum Update: How marriage moved forward this week in purple and red states

Yesterday morning McClatchy noted that attitudes on the freedom to marry are “changing at breathtaking speed.” The paper quotes prominent Republican pollster Whit Ayres saying, "On no issue in American life have opinions changed as fast as they have on gay rights. It is truly a stunning development."

Indeed. It’s hard to keep up with the flurry of activity around marriage, particularly in more conservative states. Here’s what’s going on and what you may have missed:

In the Courts…

  • Yesterday afternoon, same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit in Wisconsin seeking the freedom to marry. With the addition of Wisconsin, there are now 40 lawsuits in 22 different states challenging same-sex couples’ exclusion from marriage—one of which could make its way to the Supreme Court as early as 2015.
  • Today in Virginia, a federal judge heard a hearing on the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, commented on the hearing: “Virginia is one of several battlegrounds in our campaign to win marriage nationwide - with all the resonance that comes from the case that ended our nation's prior struggle over marriage discrimination, Loving v. Virginia. This time, Virginia's Governor and Attorney General stand on the side of the freedom to marry, as do a majority of Virginians, reflecting the momentum in support we have earned through millions of conversations and years of making the case to the American people.”
  • Later this month in Texas, judges will hear arguments on the constitutionality of banning the freedom to marry. The case surrounds two same-sex couples who filed a request for an injunction in November. If the judge grants the injunction, the case will be eligible for immediate appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals in New Orleans.
  • Federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma recently ruled their own bans on marriage were unconstitutional. Opening briefs have since been filed in the Utah case, while the Oklahoma challenge has been expedited and will be heard at a similar time, by the same three-judge panel. Oral arguments will take place in mid-April.

What the Polls Say…

  • Public Policy Polling is out with a new poll - the first ever showing that a plurality of voters in Alaska, a state with no liberal bastion, back the freedom to marry. Full poll results are expected in the next few days.
  • A Salt Lake City Tribune poll released this month shows that Utahns are split evenly on the question of marriage, with 48% supportive and 48% opposed.
  • For the first time ever, Public Policy Polling found a plurality of voters in Florida who support the freedom to marry, with 47% in favor and 44% opposed.
  • In Pennsylvania, another poll has shown that a majority of voters would support the freedom to marry. In a new Franklin & Marshall College Poll, 56% said they support marriage for same-sex couples, with just 39% opposed. 
  • And in case you missed it, Freedom to Marry’s poll in December showed a majority of registered voters in states without marriage support it (51% support, 41% opposed). Of those opposed, 49% believe marriage will be legal in their state in a couple of years.

 There’s no question the spotlight on marriage has moved to the middle of the country. Where someone lives should not determine if they can marry the person they love, and the rapid movement we’re seeing on the ground is a reflection of the gradual progress that has taken place over time and changed people’s hearts and minds. We may be well on a 2015 timeline for a Supreme Court (although we may be on a further-out timeline) ruling bringing the country to national resolution, but we must continue doing the work. We want elected officials, voters, and justices across the country to know: it’s time for the freedom to marry nationwide, and America is ready.