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Catching Up On The Current State Marriage Equality Efforts

This three-day weekend seems like an apropos time to reflect on all the many recent advances in legal recognition for same-sex couples. Here is a break-down of where things stand in each of the states we’ve been following this year:

Legislation

WASHINGTON: With Gov. Chris Gregoire’s (D) signature on Monday, marriage equality became the law of the land in Washington state, though that law does not take effect until June 7. Unfortunately, conservatives had already raised over $1 million to start collecting signatures for a referendum — a “people’s veto” — which will likely delay the law from taking effect until after the November election. To maintain the newly passed law, voters will have to approve Referendum 74.

NEW JERSEY: Both chambers of New Jersey’s legislature approved a marriage equality bill this week, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed it late Friday afternoon. Aside from a proposal by one Republican senator, there is currently no effort to take the matter to a ballot initiative. The legislature has until January 2014 to override Christie’s veto, but it does not currently have the votes to do so.

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MARYLAND: After contentious debate and numerous amendments Friday, the Maryland House narrowly passed a marriage equality bill. Though the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has held hearings on the measure, it has not yet advanced it to the full chamber, but advocates are optimistic about its passage there. As currently written, the law will not take effect until January 2013, but as in Washington, the law will likely be challenged by a referendum in November.

ILLINOIS: A marriage equality bill was recently introduced in the Illinois House, but it’s unclear that it will have much success. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he would support the measure, and Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has stopped short of openly supporting it himself, but has said he’ll help build a majority.

RHODE ISLAND: Advocates are calling for marriage equality to be reintroduced in Rhode Island after last year’s effort led only to the creation of civil unions. Given residents can marry in all neighboring states, it is unsurprising that in the first four months they were available, only 39 couples obtained civil unions.

COLORADO: Colorado is again reconsidering legalizing same-sex civil unions. Just this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation, but like last year, it is in the Republican-controlled House where the bill’s fate will be decided.

WEST VIRGINIA: A lawmaker in West Virginia introduced a bill this week that would create same-sex civil unions. It’s unclear if it has any chance of advancing.

Ballot Initiatives

NORTH CAROLINA: On May 8, North Carolinians will vote on a discriminatory constitutional amendment banning all legal recognition of same-sex couples, including marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. Pam Spaulding, an LGBT blogger who resides in the state, has a thoughtful take on how detrimental this amendment would be to the state.

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MINNESOTA: Minnesota’s marriage inequality amendment isn’t on the ballot until November, but over $2 million have already been raised between both sides of the fight. This week, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee defeated a legislative effort to rescind the ballot question, allowing the plebiscite to proceed.

MAINE: LGBT activists in Maine have succeeded in advancing a ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage, the first time such a vote has been taken affirming the right instead of denying it. Though referenda on gay rights are frowned upon for the way they can polarize communities and amplify anti-gay stigma, activists point out that a legislative approach was already attempted in 2009, but it was overturned.

CALIFORNIA: Obviously, the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling against Proposition 8 is an important victory, but California marriage equality will not return until after the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case later this year. This week, the group Love Honor Cherish announced it has abandoned its attempt to repeal Proposition 8 through a new ballot initiative.

NEW MEXICO: A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was defeated in committee this week. Though it has not been tested by the courts, the state’s attorney general issued an opinion last year that New Mexico law allows for the recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.