Coming Soon—to a Country Near You

Sweden recently became the seventh country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Gender-neutral marriage licenses will replace the civil-union option that has been available since 1995. While same-sex marriages then will be legal, no given religious institution will have to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. To date, Belgium, Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, and Spain have legalized same-sex marriage.

Japan’s more convoluted semisolution to the question of gay marriage is to allow its nationals to marry same-sex foreign partners in those countries where gay marriage already is legal. Japan itself does not allow same-sex marriage at this time. The new ruling means a previous document required for citizens to marry abroad that did not allow the spouse to be of the same sex now will be issued for same-sex spouses who are single and of legal age.

And here at home?

While the wheels of justice slowly grind in California—where the verdict on Proposition 8 will be announced sometime in early June—the Vermont House of Representatives has voted in favor of legislation allowing committed same-sex couples to marry under state law. The vote of 95-52 followed on the heels of the Vermont Senate’s 26-4. Once confirmed, the bill will be sent to Governor Jim Douglas. Although he has promised to veto the bill, the Legislature can vote—by a required two-thirds of legislators present in each chamber—to override the veto.

There are several amendments to the Vermont legislation. As stipulated in Sweden, one would guarantee that churches not be obligated to marry same-sex couples. Another keeps the words “husband” and “wife” on marriage licenses, yet affirms that same-sex couples may marry. A third allows private church-based organizations to refuse their facilities and membership to same-sex couples.

Just in as we go to press, I learned the Iowa Supreme Court has issued a unanimous ruling that the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples, making Iowa the third state to legalize same-sex marriage. In its decision, the court upheld a 2007 district court judge’s ruling that the law violates the state constitution. It strikes language from the Iowa code limiting marriage to only between a man and a woman.

Just as a reminder that all is not light and optimism, the ubiquitous Fred Phelps, the power behind Westboro Baptist Church, has declared that his Topeka, Kansas-based group will picket Bethesda, Maryland’s Walt Whitman High School on April 24. Why? Because its namesake was a “filthy fag.”

Keep your seatbelts fastened—the bumpy ride’s not over yet.

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