Gay marriage, elsewhere

The Rhode Island House's passage of same-sex marriage legislation by a 51-19 margin - one of the most lopsided pro-gay nuptials votes in an American legislature - has put the smallest state in the headlines for a day. But the Ocean State is not the only site of a same-sex marriage push this year.

Advocates in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, and Minnesota are also making legislative pushes. And the prospects are mixed.

In Delaware, Governor Jack Merkell and House Speaker Peter Schwartzkopf have come out in favor of gay marriage. In Minnesota, activists are fresh off a big win at the polls - in November, voters rejected a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman. But their push for a same-sex marriage bill has won a cool reception from legislative leaders with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the local equivalent of the Democratic Party), skittish about jeopardizing a new majority in the House and Senate. In Hawaii, legislators have introduced a thicket of competing bills that would ban or endorse gay marriage.

In Illinois this month, a lame-duck session push for same-sex nuptials fell short when three supportive senators couldn't make it to the vote - one had a family emergency, another was overseas for his daughter's bat mitvah, and a third was dealing with the death of her mother. But with Democrats in control of the House and Senate in that state, supporters are optimistic that Illinois will soon become the first Midwestern state to approve gay marriage through legislative action (in Iowa, it was a court ruling that made same-sex nuptials legal).

Illinois is the fifth-largest state in the country. If it approves gay marriage, some 20 percent of Americans will live in states that have legalized same-sex nuptials.

Gay rights advocates hope that passage of gay marriage bills in several this spring might influence the Supreme Court, which is hearing two same-sex nuptials cases. The court is expected to rule in June.


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