Looking Ahead: The Seven States That Could Soon Expand Rights For Same-Sex Couples

Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

With Tuesday’s sweeping pro-LGBT victories in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state, marriage equality will be the law of the land in eight or nine states and the District of Columbia. Another five states have civil unions laws. The National Organization for Marriage, along with other anti-equality organizations, have lost their principal talking point and can no longer claim that every time voters considered marriage, equality loses — so it seems likely the number of states recognizing same-sex couples will continue to climb in the upcoming year.

Here are some states that could consider the issue in the near future:

1. Colorado: While a 2006 constitutional amendment prevents the state legislature from enacting marriage equality, a civil unions bill was only defeated this year thanks to stunning maneuvers by Colorado Speaker of the House Frank McNulty (R) to thwart the majority in his chamber. McNulty lost his majority Tuesday and his likely successor as Speaker, openly gay Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D), is the bill’s chief backer. Polling shows 70 percent of Coloradans support legal recognition for same-sex couples, so movement on this appears likely in 2013.

2. Minnesota: Not only did Minnesota voters defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions Tuesday, they also flipped control of both the state House of Representatives and Senate. The Republican majorities who pushed the marriage inequality amendment onto the ballots will be replaced by a new Democratic majority in each chamber. With Gov. Mark Dayton (D) a strong supporter of marriage equality and a clear popular mandate for marriage equality evident from the amendment vote, Minnesota could also potentially move on this in 2013.

3. Rhode Island: With Tuesday’s victory in Maine, Rhode Island is now the only state in New England without marriage equality. With polling showing more than 56 percent of voters in the Ocean State favoring full marriage equality — instead of the state’s existing weak civil unions law — openly gay state Speaker of the House Gordon Fox (D) has promised to bring up a marriage equality bill next year. Tuesday’s Rhode Island legislative races saw “significant and undeniable gains,” for the pro-marriage-equality side, according to supporters.

4. Illinois: Since Gov. Patrick Quinn (D) backs marriage equality and popular support is surging for moving from civil unions for full marriage, state legislators are pondering a bill for 2013.

5. Delaware: Gov. Jack Markell (D) was re-elected with nearly 70 percent of the vote on Tuesday. He has called the transition from civil unions to marriage equality “inevitable” and expects the legislature to take it up in 2013.

6. Ohio: With poll numbers showing growing support, citizens in Ohio are working to repeal the state’s 2004 marriage inequality amendment and are trying to place an amendment on the ballot in 2013 to replace it with pro-equality language.

7. New Jersey: Though Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill to move from civil unions to full marriage equality last February, the state continues to support the idea. Christie has proposed putting the measure up for a vote, though the success of the initiative may depend on the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial and legislature election results.

With the Supreme Court set to consider whether to take up the Proposition 8 case in California later this month, the citizens of the nation’s most populous state could also once see marriage equality in the near future. The high court is also expected to decide on a challenge to the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act, which could create new protections for all same-sex couples across the country.

Despite the best efforts of anti-equality groups to defeat President Obama and an array of pro-marriage equality Democrats, Tuesday’s results show that the American electorate will no longer be fooled by the gay-baiting homophobic attacks that obstructed progress on this issue for the past two decades.