Who's Next? The Marriage Equality Waiting Room

Which states will be the next to institute marriage equality — and just how will it happen?



Within just a few weeks, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota have established marriage equality for same-sex couples, following an equally successful Election Day in Maryland, Maine, and Washington last November. In the past year, the number of states that extend marriage rights to same-sex couples has literally doubled. But now that same-sex couples in 12 states plus the District of Columbia can legally wed, LGBT people in 38 other states are left waiting for full marriage rights. That's why we've ranked the remaining states in the order of likeliness to establish marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The Advocate's ranking takes into account current relationship laws, pending lawsuits and legislation, the number of gay state officials, the percentage of gay couples, the latest opinion polls, the governor's political affiliation, and whether there has been any attention from national organizations such Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign, or the American Civil Liberties Union on particular states. The states were awarded points based on these various factors, with the number after each state representing its total score. This produces a list of sure bets and surprises that outline the marriage equality lobby's playbook for the next couple of years. That is, of course, unless the U.S. Supreme Court miraculously decides to not only overturn the Defense of Marriage Act but also Proposition 8 and all constitutional marriage bans in every state.

If the miracle route doesn't take shape, James Esseks of the ACLU says the first step is to continue winning marriage in states where passing a law is all that's required. The next battle would target states with constitutional amendments by working on repealing them, and then replacing those laws with marriage equality laws, as is currently the plan in Nevada and Oregon. Those states also would require a voter initiative to legalize marriage, which has become a successful effort for marriage equality activists as of late.

"We're going to need to keep doing this work and keep working in state legislatures where there isn't a constitutional amendment and pushing to get every one of those states," Esseks says.