Update (11/19/2014): On Wednesday, a federal judge struck down Montana's ban when he ruled in favor of four same-sex couples who sued to have their marriages recognized by the state. According to the ACLU of Montana, same-sex couples can marry immediately.
Just a few years ago, the fight for marriage equality looked incredibly bleak. More than half of all states had banned same-sex marriage through ballot initiatives or legislation, with some states going so far as to inscribe same-sex marriage bans into their constitutions.
Supporters of marriage equality today are reversing the situation at an astonishing pace. A massive 2012 campaign by marriage equality activists to reverse the pattern of defeat they'd suffered at the ballot box, as well as the Supreme Court's 2013 decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act have proven to be major catalysts for change.
But progress has been uneven. Depending on the state, the right to same-sex marriage relies on voters approving a new constitutional amendment, legislators repealing a law, or judges striking down the ban (and the judge's decision surviving the appeals process). States with domestic partnerships or civil unions don't offer nearly the same protections for couples as states that recognize same-sex marriage. For instance, Wisconsin law allows domestic partnerships but makes it illegal for same-sex couples to travel out of state to marry. Couples who do so, and continue living in Wisconsin, risk a $10,000 fine and nine months in prison.
Below are two maps that will help you keep it all straight. The maps, which are continually updated, tell you everything you need to know about how marriage equality is spreading across the country.
First, here's a look at where same-sex marriage stands in each state:
Where Is Gay Marriage Legal in the US?
The current status of gay marriage across the US. Latest state to legalize highlighted below. Click any state for details.
Ban struck down, appeal pending
Banned, currently challenged in court
As the above map shows, more states ban same-sex marriage today than allow it. But that's only part of the story.
Although the end of DOMA didn't have an immediate effect on state laws, the 2013 Supreme Court ruling signaled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Accordingly, federal judges in nearly a dozen states—the ones in light green on the map above—have overturned such bans. (In each case, the state has appealed.)
With that in mind, the fight for marriage equality looks very different—more like a movement that is succeeding at a faster clip every year:
The tipping point came in 2012, when voters in Washington, Maine, and Minnesota recognized the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Of the nearly two-dozen states that recognize some form of same-sex unions, more than half joined the pack in just the past two years.
The NBA weighed in Tuesday on the calamity that is racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, handing down a lifetime ban from the NBA (which is a big deal) and a $2.5 million fine (which isn't, really). Professional sports team owners have been known to be assholes in all sorts of ways, but some take it to another level. Here are four owners who, like Sterling, caused controversy thanks to their racism, but unlike Sterling never got the boot because of it.
Marge Schott, Cincinnati Reds:
Marge Schott only owned the Cincinnati Reds for 15 years, but in that time the equal-opportunity racist uttered slurs against blacks, Asians, gays and Jews. She was fined $25,000 in 1993 ($41,000 in today’s dollars) and suspended from day-to-day operation of the Reds for a year. She got in trouble in 1996 for reiterating earlier comments about how Hitler started off as a good leader but later took things too far. Some choice nuggets: "Only fruits wear earrings,"; referring to one of her black players as her "million-dollar nigger,"; and referring to one of her former marketing directors as a "beady-eyed Jew." Schott eventually caved to MLB penalties and public pressure, selling most of her shares in 1999.
Tom Yawkey owned the Boston Red Sox from 1933-1976. Many know that he was a recalcitrant racist, fighting integration until 1959 and giving the Red Sox the dubious distinction of being the last integrated team in baseball, a full 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. Even as he tried to defend himself from charges of racism, he told Sports Illustrated in 1965 that “colored people” were “clannish” and blamed them for the perception that he was racist.
George Preston Marshall bought the Boston Braves in 1932. Four years later, he had changed the team's name to the [Redacted] and moved it to Washington, DC. While he left a legacy of change within the NFL—championing splitting the league into two divisions, deciding a champion with a playoff system, and accepting the forward pass—Marshall is best remembered for decades of unrepentant racism. He steadfastly refused to integrate his team, even after every other owner in the NFL had done so, leading Baltimore African-American sportswriter Sam Lacy to dub Washington the "lone wolf in lily-whiteism." The team signed its first black players only after the federal government threatened to revoke its stadium lease in 1961.
Despite all his work opposing integration, Marshall was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the website of which lists his contributions to the NFL with only a passing note of how he "endured his share of criticism" for his racism. At Marshall's funeral in 1969, then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle said, "Mr. Marshall was an outspoken foe of the status quo when most were content with it." Where it counted, though, Marshall was exactly the opposite.
Calvin Griffith, Minnesota Twins
Calvin Griffith inherited the Washington Senators baseball team from his uncle Clark Griffith in 1955. Despite claiming the team would stay in Washington "forever," Griffith moved the franchise to Minnesota in 1961, where it became the Minnesota Twins. While that may have made him a DC sports pariah, Griffith's low point came in 1978 during a speech in Waseca, Minnesota. Local reporter Nick Coleman was there to write down what happened when the owner was asked why he had moved the team:
At that point Griffith interrupted himself, lowered his voice and asked if there were any blacks around. After he looked around the room and assured himself that his audience was white, Griffith resumed his answer. "I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota," he said. "It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don't go to ball games, but they'll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. It's unbelievable. We came here because you've got good, hardworking, white people here."
Multiple black players requested trades from the Twins after the comments were made public, with future hall-of-famer Rod Carew telling Jet Magazine, "I’m not going to be another nigger on his plantation." Griffith sold the Twins in 1984. Twenty-six years later, the team built a statue of him.
As Cliven Bundy's words ricochet through the news cycle, it's worth noting that he's not the only Bundy who's had some whack things to say in the annals of American history. Can you guess which Bundy uttered the truly…special…quotes below?
Photos: Al Bundy: Wikipedia; Ted Bundy, AP; Cliven Bundy, John Locher, AP; McGeorge Bundy, AP.
President Obama's recent announcement that his administration would rethink its deportation policies and practices was welcome news in some quarters. But Obama's words didn't do much for immigrants rights activists, who have taken to calling him the "deporter in chief" and are planning a series of rallies around the country tomorrow, April 5, urging the president to suspend future deportations.
That's because the Obama administration is either flirting with or has crossed the 2 million deportation mark. It took George W. Bush, whose administration faced greater political pressure to clamp down on immigration, nearly two full terms to reach that number; Obama hit it in slightly more than one. Here's a brief explainer on Obama's deportation milestone:
What exactly do we mean when we say "deportations"? The government measures deportations in two broad categories: removals and returns. Generally, removals are more serious and carry deeper legal ramifications than returns. Removals are orders issued by a judge, while returns, though also serious, are less strict and allow a person to apply to legally return much faster. (Many people caught at the border used to end up as returns, but that has changed in recent years.) So, although it can be confusing, when people talk about Obama's record-breaking 2 million deportations, they're really talking about removals. According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data, there was an average of about 40,000 removals each fiscal year from 1892 to 2008. Fiscal years 2009-12 saw an average of about 396,000. The surge in deportations came in the mid-1990s during the Clinton administration, and has been on a steady rise ever since.
How do Obama's numbers compare to those of previous administrations? Based on the DHS data and a Bloomberg Businessweek report from late last year, the Obama administration has carried out roughly 1.8 million removals in his time in office through September 7, 2013. That's less than George W. Bush's overall total of slightly more than 2 million, but even conservative estimates of the number of deportations in fiscal year 2014 would have Obama crossing that mark right about now and on pace to crush it by the end of his presidency. (The number represents total removals, not the number of people removed; one person could be sent back to their country of origin several times.)
How has the removal/return breakdown changed over time? Due to shifts in immigration enforcement policies beginning in the mid-1990s, the number of removals has gone way up while the number of returns has dropped, a trend that has accelerated in a dramatic way since the mid-2000s. Removal numbers jumped in 1997 following the passage of 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which gave immigration officials much more power in enforcing immigration law and ultimately deporting people. For example, the government deported nearly 70,000 people from October 1, 1995, through September 30, 1996. The next fiscal year, that figure jumped to more than 114,000 and has risen steadily from there. The most recent full fiscal year of data (2012) put the total at 419,384. Incomplete data for fiscal year 2013 added another 343,000.
The 1996 law also gave immigration officials the power to review immigrants' status and decide their fate in cases when a prior order of removal exists. In those instances, an immigration official can reinstate an order of removal without any judicial review, offering little recourse for an immigrant. The 1996 law also created the legal framework for the 287(g) program, which allows state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws. In 2005, the federal government introduced "Operation Streamline," which allowed immigration courts to hear and decide the cases of dozens of immigrants at a time.
The effect of these escalating policies, among others, has created an environment in which it's easier for an immigrant to qualify for a removal versus a return, and easier for the government to choose that route, says Ben Winograd, an immigration attorney at the Immigrant & Refugee Appellate Center. "In terms of how immigration enforcement is carried out, it's really a crossing of the Rubicon," Winograd says.
Who is being deported? In an analysis of fiscal year 2013 immigration removals, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that 59 percent of its removals (roughly 217,000) involved people who had previously been convicted of a crime. Most of the 152,000 deportations involving people without criminal convictions (about 84 percent) happened at the border, which technically extends 100 miles into the country's interior. ICE officials claim the agency emphasizes deporting people who are recent illegal entrants, fugitives, or who pose risks to national security or public safety. A March 2011 ICE memo stated that the agency only had the capacity to remove 400,000 people per year, so it had to focus its efforts. Three months later, then-ICE Director John Morton called for "prosecutorial discretion" in less serious immigration cases, but researchers and immigrant rights advocates said the policy was inconsistently applied, at best.
It's also true that many deportations involve parents of US-born children. Between July 2010 and mid-October 2012, the most recent period with data available, people with US-born children were deported more than 200,000 times. In a March 2012 report to Congress, ICE estimated that about 100,000 parents of US-born children were deported between 1997 and 2007.
So what are immigrants rights advocates most upset about? As immigration enforcement efforts have shifted to become more stringent over the last few years, the evolution from mostly returns to mostly removals has harsh real-world consequences. In protesting these changes, immigrant rights groups have focused on the impact they have on families.
"Any day now, this administration will reach the 2 million mark for deportations," said Janet Murguia, the head of the National Council of La Raza, when she criticized Obama earlier this month. "It is a staggering number that far outstrips any of his predecessors and leaves behind it a wake of devastation for families across America."
The statistics, on their own, could be misleading, and some have said advocates like Murguia are simplifying the situation. It's important to note that many of the Obama administration's removals happen along the 100-mile border zone, and that interior deportations have dropped significantly during Obama's time in office. But still, the shift in policy from returns to removals carries significant legal implications for immigrants and has a major impact on people who get caught trying to reenter the country.
Many immigrants come to the United States trying to work and send money to their home countries. ICE's top five countries of origin for removals in fiscal year 2013—Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic—received a combined $36 billion in remittances in 2012, according to World Bank estimates. Along with supporting families back home, many support families and businesses here in the United States.
The emphasis on removals has created a perilous situation for undocumented workers increasingly rooted in the United States; now, they can be charged with felonies if caught illegally reentering the country after a formal order of removal. A recent Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report notes that a growing portion of convictions in federal court are people convicted of immigration violations. In 1992, immigration offenses made up just 5 percent of federal convictions. By 2012, that number had jumped to 30 percent, most of which were convictions for illegal reentry.
"Individuals who come back after being deported, or come back after being returned, primarily they're coming back for a reason," says Karen Lucas, a legislative associate at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Our system has been broken for so long that such a large percentage of the 11 million [undocumented] really do have roots in this country."