Friday, January 14, 2011

States to Watch in 2011 for Marriage Equality

     2010 was an excellent year for the gay rights movement as we saw the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, as well as excellent rulings from the Judiciary in California, Washington state, Washington D.C., and Massachusetts. 2011 looks like an even more important year for LGBT rights, for though federally the climate is grim, in the individual states there is a growing interest in LGBT issues - both in the positive and negative sense. These are the states which this blog, and you readers, should keep tabs on in the coming months.

Iowa - With the switch in control of the Governorship and the states House of Representatives to Republicans control there is concern that they will attempt to push for a voter referendum on the legalization of same sex marriage. This being said, the state Senate is still firmly in control of the democrats, and the Democratic leader of the Iowa Senate has forcefully stated that he will not allow an amendment to be put on the ballot by the Republicans.

New Hampshire - With the switch in control to the Republicans of both the House and the Senate, there has been concern by marriage advocates that they would attempt to roll back the states legalization of same-sex marriage. But just this week, the Republicans released their agenda for the year - gay marriage being an issue that is noticeably absent. Though this is the case, there is still talk that anti-marriage equality members within the House and Senate will pressure the leadership to allow a vote on the issue.

Rhode Island - As reported in this blog before, with the recent election of Lincoln Chafee to the governorship, as well as a strong pro-marriage equality majority in the state legislature, there is a very strong chance that we may see marriage equality become a reality for Rhode Islanders in the coming months!

Maryland - Again, because of the past elections, there is now a very substantial pro-marriage equality delegation in the Maryland legislature, and because of the movement of some key Senate committee seats, it is very likely that within the next three months - for the Maryland legislature has a 90 day session which began on Wednesday - that they will affirm that every Marylander has a place at the marriage alter. Governor O'Malley has affirmed that he will sign a marriage equality bill if it reaches his desk. Republicans have also vowed that they will introduce civil union legislation in this coming session as well.

New York - With the control of the state Senate moving from Democratic control to Republican control, the chances for a marriage equality bill being passed in the state has been drastically reduced. That being said, activists in the state are convinced that they can convince Republicans in that body to support a marriage equality measure - by showing them that no anti-gay marriage candidate won a state office. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that he will sign a marriage equality bill if it comes before his desk.

North Carolina/West Virginia/Minnesota/Wyoming - In these four states, marriage equality advocates have their work cut out for them. As Republicans have taken control of all three legislative bodies in these states, there is rumblings that there will be anti-marriage equality amendments proposed. These states must be watched with interest.

Colorado - Though the Republicans took control of the state House, Democrats in the body have vowed to introduce in the coming session a bill that would legalize civil unions in the state.

Hawaii - With the newly elected governor Neil Abercrombie saying that he supports civil unions, the legislature of this state will most likely move to pass the same bill that last year the previous Republican Governor vetoed.

Montana - Last year seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit requesting a formation of a domestic partnership registry in the state. Though the state bars marriage equality because of a constitutional amendment, they have sued stating that the state should at least recognize their relationships as valid. The case is currently pending in court.

Though I am sure that there are more States to watch, these are the key States. Noticeably I left out California, for though this an important state in the marriage equality battle, its case has moved past the state level and has morphed itself into a federal issue. The same with the case currently going through the courts in Massachusetts.

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