In a sign that momentum may be shifting toward gay rights advocates, bills that would legalize marriage between same-sex couples are pending in Maine and New Hampshire as well as in New York. Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would create civil marriages, and Minnesota is looking at a proposal to make marriage gender-neutral. If approved, each would have the effect of allowing gays to marry.
"As couples start to marry for real, much of the public are finding their day-to-day lives aren't changing very much, and that's helping to deflate the rhetoric from opponents of gay marriage," says Dan Hawes, director of organizing at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The events of the last several weeks in two such really very different places show the building of momentum."
But, pointing to the 30 states with DOMA amendments, opponents of same-sex marriage say they are confident that legalization will remain confined to a few states.
"If there really is any momentum, it's going to encounter some pretty serious obstacles," says William Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation in Lehi, Utah. "We're talking about a handful of states [that may legalize same-sex marriage] that are pretty unique in terms of their political and social climate."
Courts and minority rights
Historically, courts often have acted to define legal protections for minorities, such as in legalizing interracial marriage or desegregating schools, before legislatures. Such rulings have helped to change public perception of an issue, and subsequently, prompted legislative action.