The Maps, They Are A-Changin'

This week, when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law that brought civil unions to Illinois, I got to color my home state yellow, and it made my whole week.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post about making maps. ‘Cause I’m a dork like that. Seriously though, it was shortly after several state legislatures had made major strides forward in relationship recognition for same-sex couples, but two of those hard-won new laws were threatened by repeal at the ballot box.

Turned out that we won one (Washington), lost one (Maine), and since then there have been additional updates to the maps as D.C. passed a marriage law and several other states declared that they would respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. But as exciting as those additions were, they couldn’t compare to making Illinois yellow.

I was born and raised in Illinois – Oak Park, to be precise – so knowing that same-sex couples there will now be granted all the rights and responsibilities of marriage (if not the name) available under state law gives me a special sense of pride. There’s also a certain sense of security in knowing that if I moved back home again, my relationship would be granted the same level of protection that it is granted now.

More than just giving me my own personal satisfaction, Illinois’ passage of civil unions means that the idea that same-sex couples and their families deserve recognition under the law now has a firm foothold in the middle of the country. Added to Wisconsin’s limited domestic partner registry and Iowa’s full marriage equality, a large swath of noncoastal America is now covered by some type of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

Recently, James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s LGBT Project, gave a presentation where he compared our current relationship recognition map to the way the same map would have looked in 2000 and 2005. Not to be out-dorked, I took those maps and made them into a nifty little animation. I think you’ll see James’ point: The progress we’ve made in a just a little over a decade is impressive:


The best part: 2011 has just begun. There are campaigns going on in state capitols across the country that aim to grant more recognition and rights to same-sex couples in more states than ever before. In fact, Maryland could begin voting on a bill that would expand full marriage to same-sex couples as soon as next week! If you live in Maryland, or know someone who does, use the ACLU of Maryland’s advocacy page to encourage legislators to pass the marriage bill.

Because updating our relationship maps with new states is one task that never gets old.

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