"The national marriage project was assiduously avoiding a federal court challenge. They were working slowly toward [it]," says Marc Spindelman, a law professor at Ohio State University and an expert on gay and lesbian rights. But, he adds, "if there's a circuit court that's likely to recognize same-sex marriage" it's the Ninth Circuit, under which the district court falls and which is often branded the most liberal.
Until now, gay-marriage advocates had been largely lock step in pursuing a state-by-state strategy. And it appeared to be working. Courts in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa have legalized same-sex marriage while legislatures in Vermont and New Hampshire have extended marriage to gay couples. In December, the city council in the District of Columbia voted to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.