For gay-marriage advocates, 2012 marked a major turning point—not only did they see wins in the Washington and Maryland state legislatures, but voters in both states as well as in Maine voted to give same-sex couples the right to get hitched. But 2013 may prove to be even more momentous, as lawmakers in several other states plan to push the issue.
In Rhode Island, where the House Speaker Gordon Fox is gay and an advocate for marriage equality, same-sex couples have reason to start organizing. State Representative Arthur Handy announced Tuesday he will introduce gay-marriage legislation. While Handy is still gathering co-sponsors for his bill, Fox has promised to help move the measure forward, and the president of the state senate has also promised to allow a committee vote if and when the house sends the measure over.
Meanwhile, in Illinois, the pressure on lawmakers to pass gay marriage is growing. According to the Chicago Tribune, media mogul Fred Eychaner, who gave $14 million to President Obama's presidential campaign, is now funding a public-relations campaign in support of marriage equality, along with Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts. Both Eychaner and Ricketts are openly gay. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed CEOs to sign a letter supporting gay marriage as good for business, and already Google, Groupon, and the founder of Morningstar have signed on. The campaign is being managed by ASGK, the PR firm co-founded by top Obama advisor David Axelrod, though, as the Tribune reports, it's not clear who's paying for the top-level services. (Axelrod sold his share when he went to the White House.)
The advocates have already come up against the Catholic Conference of Illinois and other conservative groups opposing the move. But Obama has voiced his support, and the bill could come up for a vote any day now.
Then there's New Jersey. Legislators already passed a gay-marriage bill early last year, only to see it vetoed by Republican governor Chris Christie. Christie suggested advocates put the measure up for a popular vote, and at the time most advocates were only angered by the idea—after all, there'd never been a successful popular vote in favor of same-sex marriage.
Now, of course, there have been three, and Democratic assemblyman Reed Gusciora wants to see his state become the fourth. He's offered legislation to put the measure on the ballot, and in the state Senate, Republican Kip Bateman has introduced a similar bill. Gusciora says it's the last option for the state, since he believes Christie will veto anything that comes from the legislature.
Others are looking for different paths. Many advocates, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney and the chair of LGBT-rights group Garden State Equality, are still hoping lawmakers can override Christie's veto, which would require 11 assembly members and three senators to change sides. While polls show voters in the the mostly liberal state are likely to support a ballot measure, it could be a close vote, and some worry the push for a popular vote will decrease the incentive for any Republican lawmakers to change sides in overriding the governor's veto.
The new state legislative sessions, many of which begin next week, will likely bring other state efforts to legalize gay marriage. In the meantime, gay lawmakers have never been more prominent. Wisconsin's newly-elected Tammy Baldwin will soon become the first openly gay U.S. senator while Arizona's Krysten Sinema will be the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Four state legislatures are likely to elect openly gay speakers of the house.
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