What State Could Be The Next Marriage Equality Battleground?

We’re still on an emotional honeymoon over the recent marriage-equality wins at the voting booth in Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington State. But as long as we continue the piecemeal approach to equality, there will always been another battle to fight.

While everyone is still charged up, we decided to take a look at some of the states that may be facing legislation to enshrine or ban same-sex marriage in the next year or tow.

Of course, politics is a funny game: The right combination of events—a groundbreaking court-ruling or a politician with an agenda—could turn any of the 40 states without marriage equality into a battleground.

What’s the situation like in your state? Share in the comments section.


New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gay-marriage when it passed his desk earlier this year and, even though the tide has turned elsewhere, some gay-friendly lawmakers don’t want marriage equality put to a public vote in the Garden State.

“I still don’t believe we should put civil rights onto a referendum,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who sponsored the earlier bill.

Its chances at passing will be smaller in an off year with Christie still in the governor’s mansion. And without a Romney campaign to run, “God knows how much money the Koch brothers, the Mormon Church and Sheldon Adelson can put together to poison the airways with their hate,” ponders pro-equality Sen. Raymond Lesniak.

For now, same-sex marriage’s best shot is through the courts or a veto-proof bill in the New Jersey Legislature.

Then again, Garden State Equality president Steven Goldstein sees a third option: getting Christie to come around. ” I hope the election of 2012 has taught him that his two goals—keeping New Jersey happy and keeping his presidential prospects on fire—are no longer mutually exclusive,” says Goldstein. “America, just like New Jersey, has turned the corner not only on marriage equality, but on a host of other social issues.”



Sources are claiming the Beaver State could face a gay-marriage ballot question in 2014, even though Oregonians passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex nuptials in 2004.

Is doesn’t hurt that the neighboring Washington just passed it. Or that state House Democratic Leader Tina Kotek is a lesbian—and next in line to become the next state House Speaker.

Despite some activists’ call to pursue marriage equality this year—while the issue was dominating headlines (and opening pocketbooks)—Kotek says waiting was the right call: “Having those wins in other states is the momentum we need.”

She’s ready for it to be put to a public vote, but others are suggesting holding off until the next presidential race, in 2016. “They will definitely do better in a high-turnout election, because it would bring out younger voters who are more comfortable with gay marriage,” says Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts.



Delaware doesn’t have referendums (referenda?) so the road to equality will be through the Statehouse. And though it hasn’t come before the legislature, newly re-elected House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth) thinks it could come as early as next year:

The lawmaker who’s expected to become Delaware’s next House Speaker says a marriage equality bill is likely to come before the General Assembly in 2013—and says he’ll vote for it. Pete Schwartzkopf, a Democrat from Rehoboth Beach, whose district includes a large gay population, said Tuesday that legalizing gay marriage is a “no-brainer,” especially considering his district’s demographics, and “the right thing to do.”

Gov. Jack Markell made a similar prediction recently, but downplayed his own role in the process: “I think it’s always important to have gubernatorial leadership, but… the real hero of getting civil unions done was not me. [It was] a couple of people who led a group called Equality Delaware.”
With neighboring Maryland now a marriage-equality state and last week’s election seeing key state Senate spots won by solidly pro-equality lawmakers, things look good. And activists in the state are ready for action: “Delaware Right to Marry has mobilized more than ten thousand supporters of marriage equality across the spectrum: gay, straight, male, female, White, African-American, Latino, and beyond,” says director Bill Humphrey. “It’s the biggest citizen campaign in the state since 1933.”


Rhode Island

Last Tuesday’s election results put more marriage-equality supporters in the Rhode Island General Assembly, emboldening House Speaker Gordon Fox to announce plans to call a vote on gay marriage when lawmakers return in January. ‘‘This election shows there’s been a real change on this issue,’’ Fox, who is openly gay, told The AP. ‘‘I’m hopeful. There’s definitely a trend here. There’s a wave and we should ride it.’’

Keeping up with the Joneses might help, too: Rhode Island is last state in New England that doesn’t allow gay couples to tie the knot. (Who wants to be behind New Hampshire?)

And it’s not much of a stretch, since out-of-town same-sex marriages are already recognized, thanks to an executive order by Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Ray Sullivan, director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, is looking to press the issue in the statehouse next year: ‘‘We are emboldened by the momentum of this election cycle and will steadfastly work to make 2013 the year that Governor Chafee finally signs marriage equality into law.”



The Prairie State already has equal-marriage legislation before the General Assembly and Rep. Greg Harris, who co-sponsored the bill in February with fellow out legislators Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidy, is hoping the recent wins in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington will help get the bill passed by the spring.

But based on a September poll, it’s not all that popular with the public: The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that 43.6% of Illinois voters support gay marriage. That’s up from 33.6% in 2010, but still less than half. On the bright side, only 20.2% of registered voters oppose giving any legal recognition to same-sex couples—a drop from two years ago, when it was 26.5%.

“The passage of these measures shows that mainstream America has turned a corner with regards to LGBT civil rights,” says Equal Marriage Illinois Project director Rick Garcia. “Although civil unions give many of the same benefits as marriage, it is clear that it is a different and discriminatory institution. Most people don’t even know what a civil union is. People know what marriage is, and same-gender couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-gender couples. Separate is not equal.”