Moving Forward with Relationship Recognition and Marriage Equality

by HRC Staff

Electoral victories in key states on November 4th, along with renewed energy and commitment from supporters of equality in the wake of devastating losses at the polls in Arizona, California, and Florida, will provide new opportunities to advance marriage equality and other recognition for committed gay and lesbian couples and their families.

The current landscape: Ten states and the District of Columbia offer full marriage rights or some degree of recognition for all committed gay and lesbian couples.

Several additional states provide limited benefits to their gay and lesbian state employees in committed relationships: Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Mexico and Rhode Island.

We are poised to make significant progress over the next few years, securing state recognition for committed gay and lesbian couples in new states and moving states that already recognize same-sex couples to full marriage equality.

New York - A new fair-minded leadership in the New York State Senate may allow a vote on marriage equality. A bill to provide full marriage equality in the Empire State has previously passed the State Assembly and is supported by the governor, but has been blocked from a fair vote in the State Senate by anti-equality leadership. With new leadership in the Senate, 2009 could be the year for full marriage equality in New York.

New Jersey - A majority of New Jersey residents support full marriage equality, and the shortcomings of civil unions in the state have been well documented. Governor Corzine supports moving from civil unions to marriage, and a majority of state legislators could move quickly on this issue.

Vermont - The Green Mountain State pioneered civil unions for same-sex couples. After nearly ten years, though, many agree that it's time to move from civil unions to full marriage equality. State Senator John Campbell will introduce a bill to do just that when the legislature returns in January.

Iowa - The state supreme court will soon hear arguments in a marriage equality case, with a ruling likely in 2009. If the Court rules against discrimination, protecting the ruling with grassroots organizing will be key.

New Mexico - A bill to provide domestic partnerships with all the state-level benefits of marriage passed the State House this year but fell just one vote short of passing the State Senate. With gains at the ballot box for supporters of equality, 2009 may be the year to finally pass domestic partnerships in the Land of Enchantment.

Rhode Island - The Ocean State is surrounded by marriage equality. With both Massachusetts and Connecticut now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, it's only a matter of time before legislators in Rhode Island follow suit. A marriage equality bill has been introduced in Rhode Island in each of the past several legislative sessions and will be back again in 2009.

Maine - Marriage equality will be on the agenda in Maine next year after gains for pro-equality legislators in this year's elections. A great deal of grassroots organizing work remains to be done before state leaders are likely to approve a bill, but the conversation in
Maine has moved to full marriage equality.

New Hampshire - Lawmakers in the Granite State approved civil unions for same-sex couples in 2007, but already the talk has shifted to full marriage equality.

Colorado - After passing a second-parent adoption law last year, pro-equality Colorado legislators will come back in 2009 looking to provide some level of protection for the state's gay and lesbian couples and their families.

Delaware - Supporters of equality gained a significant number of seats in the state legislature on November 4th. With a fair-minded governor, those electoral gains could translate to some basic protections for gay and lesbian couples, along with critical anti-discrimination legislation.

Maryland - After a disappointing court ruling, supporters of equality turned to the state legislature last year seeking full marriage equality. In this first round of debate, same-sex couples secured only the most basic protections for their families. But advocates will be back next year hoping to move key legislators to support marriage equality.

Washington - Over the past two years, legislators in Washington first approved then expanded a state domestic partnership program. With key protections still absent, and reelection victories for fair-minded legislators and Governor Chris Gregoire, look for renewed debate about expanding domestic partnerships and moving to full marriage equality.

National - President-elect Obama has included repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the creation of civil unions at the federal level in his transition team's equality agenda. Even with more fair-minded representatives and senators in Congress, achieving these victories will likely not come overnight and will require significant additional public education and grassroots lobbying.

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