Legislative Changes to Same-Sex Marriage Laws in 2013

February 10, 2014

Army ssm wedding ringsThe year 2013 brought many important changes to the issue of same-sex marriage.  Brian Ahrens and Nick Arth recently provided a recap of judicial developments on the topic, at both the federal and state levels.  While courtrooms across the country were addressing the issue, a handful of state legislatures also entered the discussion in 2013.

On January 1, 2013, legislation from Maryland’s 2012 session laws went into effect.  Maryland expanded its definition of a valid marriage to “two individuals who are not otherwise prohibited from marrying” and deleted legislative language limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

Early in 2013, Delaware, Minnesota, and Rhode Island also passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage.  Effective July 1, 2013, Delaware removed its legislative prohibition against same-sex marriage, and recognized marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships solemnized out-of-state.  Minnesota also deleted language limiting marriage to one man and one woman, and amended its definition of marriage to “a civil contract between two persons,” which went into effect on August 1, 2013.  Finally, Rhode Island granted equal access to marriage and stated that marriage “is the legally recognized union of two (2) people,” also effective August 1, 2013.

Later in the year, the Illinois legislature passed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act and the Hawaii legislature passed the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013.  Both laws have the purpose of extending the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples.  Moreover, because Illinois and Hawaii previously permitted civil unions for same-sex couples, both laws allow those in civil unions to apply for marriage licenses.   Hawaii’s law went into effect December 2, 2013, and Illinois’ law will take effect June 1, 2014.

It is likely that 2014 will see more legislative developments on this topic.  For example, H.B. 1153 in the Indiana legislature proposes to ban same-sex marriage through a state constitutional amendment.  If approved, the bill would go before voters in the 2014 general election.  The United States Congress also has several bills on the topic, including H.R. 3829, and H.R. 2523, which seek to affirm states’ rights to regulate marriage.  Furthermore, S. 1808 proposes that the federal government shall not take any adverse action against a person acting in accordance with religious beliefs that a marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  Thus, although 2013 saw many developments on this topic, it is clear that our state and federal legislators will continue to grapple with the issue throughout 2014.