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.”




Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #freedomtomarry #gaymarriage #marriageequality stories and more


  • gaym50ish

    I think it’s significant that the last time the referendum process was used in New Jersey was in 1915, when the all-male electorate voted to deny voting rights to women. Could there be any better illustration of why civil-rights issues should not be put to a popular vote?

  • ZacharyG

    As much as i would love to see Mississippi on this list, I really think that it will take a federal mandate to force it here. I just can’t see Mississippi repealing it’s amendment banning marriage equality it passed in a knee jerk reaction years ago. Anyways, I guess I will just have to keep on suffering in this backwards state.

  • scottevill

    “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.”

    I’m not for a referendum in NJ, either, though I think we would win it, but Raymond Lesniak needs to do his homework and not just spew talking points. The Koch Brothers, loathsome as they may be, actually SUPPORTED marriage equality in New York so it’s a good bet their buy-in could be gotten in NJ as well.

  • mpls770

    Dark horse winner in this race could be Minnesota. We just beat our anti-marriage amendment, and the election gave both houses to the Democrats for the first time in 25 years. Governor Dayton is a staunch support of our cause as well, which means we have the votes and the signature to get a repeal of our DOMA law passed. We’re in a unique position in that instead of a law then a referendum as other states have done, MN may end up doing it backwards! Legislators have been making veiled comments to the media about “keeping the momentum going” and “continuing the discussion about marriage.” The general feeling is that we will get something passed in the next legislative session.

  • deltabadhand

    I’d like to see my state, Pennsylvania on this list too, but don’t have much hope. If Jersey and Delaware go for marriage equality, we’ll be the odd man out in the Northeast.

  • just as good as you

    I’m guessing Rhode Island. It’s the only state in New England without marriage equality.

    And, House Speaker Gordon Fox has announced plans to call a vote on gay marriage when lawmakers return in January. This sounds very promising.

  • just as good as you

    @ZacharyG: Don’t “suffer”. Go get legally married. You CAN, you know. Neither New York nor Canada has any residency requirements to get legally married. Admittedly, your State might not acknowledge it, but the moment the mis-named “Defense” of Marriage Act gets repealed, you’ll be eligible for those 1,176 Federal “effects that flow from marriage”.

    (And to Hades with Haley Barbour. ;{O)

  • brent

    @gaym50ish: How do you define civil rights? Is the right to own a gun a civil right? If you don’t put it up for a vote how do you decide it?

  • brent

    @scottevill: If the Koch brothers support gay marriage then how are they loathsome?

  • shevmonster

    It’s really unfair that we should have to wage referendum battles just to get the same basic rights everyone else takes for granted, but life isn’t fair and it’s a waste of time whining about it. In states were we can enact it legislatively, we should do it that way. In states where we need to go to a ballot, we should do it that way. Sure, the Supreme Court should read the constitution as treating all people as equal and give us our rights today because justice delayed is justice denied, but ultimately, the cry babies who are against freedom and equality won’t have anything to cry about when we win our rights through the legislative and ballot process, and we won’t spend decades reeling from a national backlash the way abortion rights groups have done.

    We as a community need to be willing to stick our necks out and do the hard work and live with the painful process of getting our rights up on the ballot and fight for those rights. It is a horribly difficult process, but what we accomplished on November 6 was earth shattering. We may want to wait for the next presidential election in most cases so that we get the benefit of high voter turnout, but I really think we need to fight it out this way to really win and win convincingly.

  • shevmonster

    @just as good as you: That is actually incorrect. The federal government determines whether you are married by whether the state wherein you reside considers you married. If the Supreme Court finds DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional, then same sex couples who live in states with same sex marriage will get the federal benefits. Same sex couples living in states without same sex marriage will not get the federal benefits. DOMA section 2 is the part of DOMA that says that states do not have to acknowledged same sex marriages from other states as an exemption from the full faith and credit clause of the constitution. There are lots of exemptions from the full faith and credit clause so it is unlikely the Supreme Court would find it unconstitutional, and, moreover, none of the cases before the Supreme Court are even looking at Section 2 of DOMA. If you want to be married under federal law, you’ll need to live in a state with marriage equality, until and unless the Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to marriage equality under the 14th Amendment.

  • bobydkd

    On 11/19/2012 add California (again). SCOTUS will announce it will not hear the Prop 8 appeal.

  • jniceny

    **“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.**

    The Koch brothers are not philosophically against marriage equality.

  • just as good as you

    @shevmonster: I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    Currently, as you point out, the mis-named “Defense” of Marriage Act establishes a “one-way, anti-federalism” in that it allows the several states to dictate Federal policy. When it is overturned, the Federal Government will be free to register all legal marriages. Those marriages done in New York are perfectly legal. It is the home states’ refusal to acknowledge their legality that will likewise be found Un-Constitutional. And I’m sure there’ll be a few (more) lawsuits before the dust gets settled.

    Is Section 2 simply one of those lawsuits in waiting perhaps? (Especially in light of the self-exemption from the FF&CC?)

    Wasn’t the FF&CC what caused all states to be required to recognize inter-racial marriages after the Loving decision?

    Thanks for your input.

  • just as good as you

    @jniceny: But their tens of millions of dollars support anti-equality politicians, so their “philosophical” view is moot.

  • JOHN 1957

    Many a face broke when all the monies they poured into their hopeful Mitt Romney campaign came to naught. Simple solution, if you don’t believe in gay marriage then don’t get one. Live and let live and don’t impose you ignorance on the world. You are not allowed to me who I can love and who I can marry when I have to pay dues on every level like everybody else. Double standards eventually come back to bite people in a hurtful place.

  • Freddie27

    Whenever SCOTUS announces in late November that it will not be hearing the Prop 8 case, because the suit only deals with California, then the Golden state can resume with same-sex marriage. I predict Rhode Island, Minnesota and Delaware legislatively legalize same-sex marriage in 2013. Illinois is surprisingly conservative, I predict it fails to pass there. Hawaii could also be a dark horse, as the constitutional amendment there doesn’t ban gay marriage, but simply allows the legislature, not the courts to define it. Even if there were another referendum, I predict we win in a state that voted over 70% for Obama. I’m all for a referendum in New Jersey, as we would win it. I know civil rights shouldn’t be up for a vote and all that, but let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face. I predict Oregon votes it in 2014/16 and it passes in Illinois and New Mexico by 2016. Then 2016-2024 will be dominated by getting swing states to pass it: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada. Then hopefully the Supreme Court will intervene b4 we have to convince the South.

Comments are closed.