Midwest split over same-sex marriage: Illinois, Minnesota now allow it; most other states in region have constitutional or statutory bans

Since his state began to allow same-sex marriage earlier this year, Sen. Scott Dibble has been officiating weddings himself, including for Kansas and Wisconsin couples who traveled to Minnesota for the express purpose of getting married. Five years ago, it was Dibble who did the traveling — to California, so that he could marry his partner under that state’s marriage-equality law. But same-sex marriage has since come to the Midwest, first in Iowa due to a state Supreme Court ruling and now this year as the result of legislative actions in Minnesota and Illinois.

As recently as last year, Dibble says, advocates for same-sex couples in Minnesota were on the defensive, trying to defeat a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That proposal was defeated in a statewide vote that ended up paving the way for approval of this year’s legislation.

“It moved up the time frame significantly for being able to pass a bill, probably by two, three or four years,” Dibble says about how that vote changed the political landscape in his state.marriage map

In Illinois, Rep. Greg Harris first introduced a marriage-equality bill in 2007. It went nowhere. And even earlier this year, he pulled the proposal from legislative consideration because it didn’t have enough votes.

“We had robo-calls flooding districts with misinformation about the bill,” Harris says. “We needed to get back home and educate our constituents.”

When the legislature returned in the fall, too, Harris amended the bill to mollify concerns that it would infringe on religious liberty. Language was inserted to ensure that religiously affiliated private clubs had the right not to host same-sex marriages at their facilities. Harris says the bill also provides blanket immunity to religious denominations and members of the clergy. 

In November, Illinois became the 16th state to allow for same-sex marriage. 

No other Midwestern states are expected to join that list anytime soon. Instead, one question in 2014 will be whether Indiana joins seven other states in the region with constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and civil unions. In 2011, the legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment; it must do so again this year for the measure to be sent to voters. 


Stateline Midwest ~ December 20131.76 MB