What's Next For The Gay Marriage Movement?

Now that the weekend's Pride celebrations are over and people are shaking the last bits of glitter out of their underwear, many are wondering what's next on the agenda in the fight for marriage equality. New York legalizing gay marriage on Friday has renewed hope that similar measures could pass in other states, but it's also energized opponents of gay rights.

Gay marriage is now legal in six states plus the District of Columbia, and now with New York in the mix, the number of people living in states with marriage equality doubled, to 35 million. After yesterday's Pride parade, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, "I think you're going to see this message resonate all across the country now. If New York can do it, it's OK for every other place to do it," the Wall Street Journal reports. Gay right supporters are celebrating the law's passage across the country — but many states do not have governors willing to champion gay rights, and finding another Republican-led state senate that would legalize gay marriage seems unlikely.

The Republican legislators who supported the legislation are already being targeted by gay marriage opponents. The National Organization for Marriage is planning to spend $2 million to make sure those Republicans will be defeated in the next election for voting their conscience instead of along party lines. Legalizing gay marriage won't be easy in any state, and several are considering new legislation to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Here's a rundown of the states slated to debate the issue next:

  • Rhode Island: May revive marriage bill that died in the legislature earlier this year.
  • Maryland: Considering pro-gay marriage legislation. A bill was abandoned by Democratic leaders in February because they were concerned it wouldn't pass.
  • Maine: May try to overturn the state's same-sex marriage ban with a ballot initiative.
  • California: Could put a pro-gay marriage initiative on the ballot in 2012, but as discussed earlier, many advocates think their best chance is to wait to see if Proposition 8 is overturned by the courts.
  • Oregon: Considering a pro-gay marriage initiative for next year.

Meanwhile, things aren't looking so good in North Carolina, which could add a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and Minnesota, which already bans gay marriage but will give voters the option next year to go so far as to add a heterosexual definition of marriage to its constitution as well.

Even in the states where gay marriage is more likely to pass, opponents are pledging to fight harder than ever before. Many advocates were encouraged by recent polls that show more than 50% of Americans now support gay marriage. However, those against legalizing same-sex unions have dug up other data:

A May Alliance Defense Fund poll which claimed a 2.53% margin of error found that 62% of Americans think marriage should be defined "only as a union between one man and one woman."

Even if that poll is right, there's always the hope that as more states pass legislation like New York did, more and more people will realize that letting same-sex couples have their civil rights is no threat to the institution of marriage.

New York Gay Marriage Vote Alters Political Battle Lines [WSJ]
Beyond New York, Gay Marriage Faces Hurdles [NYT]

Earlier: California Voters Had Their Chance, Won't Vote Again On Gay Marriage