May 26, 2009 / 8:54 PM / 8 years ago

SCENARIOS: Which U.S. states may legalize gay marriage next

4 Min Read

BOSTON (Reuters) - California's top court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday, but efforts to advance such unions are expanding in other U.S. states.

Below are scenarios for same-sex marriage in the United States.

Further Battles in California

Gay rights advocates in the most populous U.S. state plan to resume their fight and go back to voters either next year or in 2012 in a bid to repeal Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and was passed in November 2008 elections.

The timing for such a vote depends on two things -- expected voter turnout in upcoming elections and how long gay rights advocates reckon they need to campaign.

Some activists said the last campaign failed because it was too short. They had half a year to make a case -- from last May, when the state supreme court ruled that barring gay marriage was unconstitutional, until the November 4 elections.

"What folks in California are doing is assessing a number of factors including when to bring this back to the ballot -- whether it will be in 2010 or 2012," Joe Solmonese, president of gay rights advocates the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, said in an interview.

"And that calculation has everything to do with the voter turnout scenario and which one would be most advantageous."

Focus Turns to Northeast -- New York, New Jersey

After their setback in California, gay rights activists are focusing on New York and New Jersey.

The New York State Assembly passed a bill on May 12 to legalize gay marriage but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Solmonese is optimistic, noting that Governor David Paterson has said he is committed to "full marriage equality in New York State".

A poll released on Tuesday by Siena College showed New Yorkers split 46 percent to 46 percent on whether it should be legalized -- compared with last month's 53-39 approval margin.

Most New York Democrats, young and Jewish voters support Senate passage, the Siena poll found. Most Republicans, older voters, blacks, Protestant and Catholic voters oppose it.

In neighboring New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine has said he will sign a gay marriage bill if it reaches his desk.

Nationwide, a majority of Americans oppose gay marriage. Fifty-four percent of voters in an April 23-26 CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll said such unions should not be recognized, while 44 percent said they should be considered legal.

New England as a Niche for Gay Marriage

Gay marriage has made swift inroads in recent months in New England, where five years ago Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize gay and lesbian weddings. Four of the region's six states have now authorized such unions.

New Hampshire could be next.

A bill to authorize gay marriage in New Hampshire stalled unexpectedly on May 20 because of concessions to religious groups opposed to such unions. The bill has been sent to a committee where lawmakers from both chambers will try to resolve their differences.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled legislature hope to bring a compromise to a vote as early as June 3.

If it passes, it goes to New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a centrist Democrat who has said he will sign the bill if it includes a raft of religious protections. Lawmakers last week rejected his choice of language for those protections.

The governor of neighboring Maine signed a bill on May 6 authorizing gay marriage. It is due to take effect in September, but it could be delayed or even voided if opponents gather enough support for a gay-marriage referendum.

If it is legalized in Maine, that leaves Rhode Island as New England's holdout. Governor Donald Carcieri, a Republican, strongly opposes gay marriage in the heavily Roman Catholic state. The state's House of Representative Speaker William Murphy and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed also have expressed opposition.

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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