I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about marriage equality, and he noted how surprisingly quickly things were moving right now — three states last fall and three more this spring, with Illinois still a possibility over the next week — and wondered if I thought that meant we might see the freedom to marry recognized in half of the states within a year or two.
My answer was that while I’m certainly elated about the recent developments in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota, I’m a little more cautious — one might even use the word “pessimistic,” modified by “mildly” — about predicting that we’ll see much more progress beyond them any time soon, because those states were, comparatively, the easy wins, the low-hanging fruit. Neither Rhode Island nor Delaware had laws specifically banning the freedom to marry and, in fact, both offered civil unions already; Minnesota did have a statutory ban, but a constitutional amendment was defeated there last fall.
But 30 other states have amended their constitutions to ban the freedom to marry — and some have gone even further, banning civil unions and domestic partnerships as well — and it is not a simple matter to repeal such amendments. Each state has a different process for doing so; in some, only the legislature can begin the process of amending the constitution, in others citizens may do so by ballot initiative. In nearly all cases, however, amending the constitution is neither an easy, quick, or inexpensive undertaking.