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The Other


If California indeed sets the pace in this marriage equality marathon, which states will be the next to cross the finish line?

As gay activists celebrate May's California supreme court victory (and prepare for the next battle in November), they're also anticipating the next states to follow in the Golden State's footsteps.

Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, has high hopes for Connecticut. The Connecticut supreme court is currently deciding in Kerrigan and Mock v. Connecticut Department of Health whether limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional -- despite the state's civil union law that offers same-sex couples the same legal benefits married Connecticut couples have. "I think the court is in a good position to bring us the third state with full marriage equality," says Buseck, who is anxious to hear a ruling. GLAD argued this case before the Connecticut high court more than a year ago, and a decision is expected any day.

Lambda Legal has yet to argue its case before the Iowa supreme court. While it has fully briefed the case -- brought on behalf of six same-sex couples denied marriage licenses in Iowa -- the court hasn't yet set a date to hear oral arguments. Expect Lambda to argue, as it did in California, that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the equal protection and due process guarantees in the Iowa state constitution. While arguments are expected in late 2008 or early 2009, it could take more than a year for the court to hand down a ruling, says Jon Davidson, Lambda Legal's legal director.

Then there's New Jersey, which could become the first state to enact marriage equality legislatively rather than via court ruling. In October 2006 the New Jersey supreme court ruled in Lewis v. Harris that same-sex couples must be treated equally under the law and asked the state legislature to decide in that instance how to correct the inequality same-sex couples faced. And while marriage rights would have fulfilled the state constitution's promise of equality, the legislature chose to enact a civil union law. However, leaders in both houses of the legislature now support marriage equality legislation, and New Jersey governor Jon Corzine says he would sign the bill, just not in 2008, a presidential election year.

Which means that New York could steal New Jersey's crown and become the first state to have its legislature adopt same-sex marriage. In June 2007 the Democratic-controlled New York State assembly passed same-sex marriage legislation, becoming the first legislative chamber in the nation to pass a marriage equality bill with bipartisan support. While Gov. David Paterson resoundingly supports marriage equality, the legislation has stalled in the GOP-controlled senate, where Republican majority leader Joseph L. Bruno has refused to take up the bill.

Whether marriage equality lawsuits will be filed in other states depends largely on the outcomes in Iowa and Connecticut. "We've been in kind of a litigation phase on marriage across the country, and that string of existing cases is coming to an end," explains Buseck. Which means, says Davidson, "we'll just have to wait and see."

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William Henderson