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New map lays out the 50 states' divergent paths on gay marriage

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On the cusp of Supreme Court arguments that could reshape how America defines marriage, a new color-coded map from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows just how varied the 50 states have become in their approaches to same-sex unions.

While nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage, 34 states forbid it, according to research compiled from the National Conference on State Legislatures and Pew’s news service, Stateline.

Election Day in November was a particularly pivotal day, with voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approving same-sex marriage — a stark turnabout from previous state referendums on the topic, in which voters tended to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Pew’s data shows that six states — Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island — allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions, while California hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that effectively banned same-sex marriage in the state.

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits gay married couples from getting the federal benefits that heterosexual couples can obtain.

Four states — California, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin — do not allow same-sex marriage or civil unions, but do recognize domestic partnerships.

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