With Delaware legalizing gay marriage yesterday, the total number of states to now legally recognize such unions is eleven, nearly doubling the number of states in which same-sex marriage was legal last year.
Delaware joined its neighbor Maryland and nearby District of Columbia as jurisdictions that have recently approved same-sex marriage. Last week, Rhode Island became the 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the bill within an hour after the bill passed, as a chorus sang "Chapel of Love" and crowds cheered.
To date, 37 states ban same-sex marriage through constitutional amendments or legislative initiatives, while New Jersey and New Mexico neither ban nor permit same-sex marriage.
Eyes now turn to California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon, as these states stand poised to override voter mandates at the ballot through legislation.
California's 2008 Proposition 8, passed by a simple majority, is now before the Supreme Court with a ruling expected in June 2013. Depending on how the Court rules, same-sex marriage could become legal in California.
In Illinois, same-sex marriage supporters anticipate that a vote will be held before the General Assembly adjourns within a few weeks. The state Senate approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage on Valentine's Day and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn plans to sign the bill. The House remains a few votes short in order to pass it. The issue has caused division among Republicans as well, as Pat Brady, the Illinois GOP chairman, stepped down because of his support for same-sex marriage.
In Minnesota, legislation has cleared both the House and the Senate committees and is expected to come before the House on Thursday, May 9th. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) legislators control the House and Senate. Seventeen of the non-metro DFL legislators are considered to be swing votes because they represent districts whose constituents voted last year in favor of a constitutional amendment that defined marriage between one man and one woman.
During last year's election, Minnesota voters defeated the proposed constitutional amendment by 52-47 percent, the same day that voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington voted for legalizing same-sex marriage.
In New Jersey, the legislature, comprised of a Democratic majority, is seeking to override last year's veto by Republican Gov. Chris Christie's. When Christie vetoed the bill to legalize same-sex marriage, he stated that the issue should be left to the voters. If same-sex marriage is on the 2014 ballot, voters will likely support it according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, which reveals support by a margin of 64-30 percent.
In Oregon, same-sex marriage advocates, with the support of Gov. John Kitzhaber, are seeking to propose that a constitutional amendment be added to the 2014 ballot to reverse a 2004 ban on gay marriage passed by voters.
Many who support same-sex marriage being defined by legislatures and courts agree with the sentiments expressed by Jeffrey Toobin, who recently advocated in the New Yorker that, "times have changed. Gay people deserve changes in the law-now. That's why we have courts."
Yet, others believe the decision should be left to the voters. Gary Bauer, president of American Values argued that, "Over 30 states in this country have voted that marriage is between a man and a woman and, of course, the votes are only being held because there has been this radical movement in the last couple of decades that's trying to redefine marriage."
Likewise, he argued that people are changing their minds on the issue because, "there's been a full-court blitz by the popular culture, by elites and all kinds of folks to intimidate and to cower people into no longer defending marriage between a man and a woman."
According to a survey conducted on Election Day 2012 for the National Organization for Marriage by pollster Kellyanne Conway, 60 percent of voters who actually cast ballots in the 2012 election believe that marriage is the union between one man and one woman.
The Supreme Court will rule on two historic cases related to marriage in June 2013, one on California's Proposition 8 and the other on the Defense of Marriage Act.