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“The election is a symptom of a much larger problem,” Archbishop Cordileone told The Associated Press. “Most people don’t understand what marriage is.”

The Supreme Court at the end of the month is also expected to consider several cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996, which defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman in federal law. Court-watchers such as CNN legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin, New York Law School Professor Arthur S. Leonard, and even Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have speculated that the high court likely will take one or more Defense of Marriage Act cases to settle constitutional issues that have been percolating about gay-marriage rights.

Congressional Republicans are financing the legal defense of the law after the Obama administration Justice Department announced last year it would no longer defend the law in court because of doubts about its constitutionality.

A repeal of the federal act would be a massive victory for gay-marriage supporters and comparable defeat for traditional-values groups.

Blue state targets

Meanwhile, gay-marriage activists are looking to advance in a number of states carried easily by Mr. Obama as they sift through the Nov. 6 returns.

In Illinois, most political leaders support gay marriage and Democrats won “supermajorities” in both houses of the state legislature. In Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, has said he thinks marriage equality is “inevitable.” And in Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, supports gay marriage, as do many lawmakers,

“There’s a wave and we should ride it,” Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay, said on Election Night.

Gay marriage activists in Oregon and Ohio also are angling to repeal their states’ voter-passed amendments upholding traditional marriage.

The battle isn’t just limited to Democratic strongholds. A new group called Arizona Advocates for Marriage Equality was formed in Scottsdale this month and already has sought permission to raise funds for a possible 2014 initiative campaign. State voters rejected a similar proposal just four years ago by 56 percent to 44 percent.

In New Jersey, where Mr. Christie is expected to seek a second four-year term amid speculation he may run for president in 2016, there are parallel tracks, Mr. Goldstein said. One is to get two-thirds support in both legislative chambers by January 2014 to overturn the governor’s veto of the previous gay-marriage law.

“Anyone who sees obstacles, and doubts that we can overcome them, does not know the strength and commitment of our legislative leaders on this issue,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Mr. Quinlan countered that New Jersey lawmakers “barely” got the gay-marriage law passed, “and there’s no way they would have the supermajorities needed in either chamber.”

“What we would like, and what we think is fair, is to let the people decide, and put it on the ballot. This is a huge issue,” Mr. Quinlan said.

Mr. Goldstein said he and his allies are not pursuing a referendum in New Jersey, especially in a year with Mr. Christie at the top of the ticket. The other track to gay marriage in New Jersey is to win a lawsuit that is wending its way to the state’s Supreme Court.

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