Gay-marriage supporters on the hunt for their 10th victory are eyeing Illinois as a likely candidate and several other states as strong possibilities.
Nine states and the District perform and recognize same-sex marriages, while 30 states have voter-passed constitutional amendments against it.
In Illinois, one of several states that offers civil unions to gay couples, Democratic political leaders, including President Obama, U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have urged state lawmakers to adopt gay marriage instead.
Last week, an Illinois state senate executive committee approved a bill authorizing gay marriage. Due to the short, lame-duck schedule and missing lawmakers, however, proponents could not bring the bill for a floor vote.
After the new Illinois legislature is sworn in Wednesday, "We have to start from scratch and introduce a fresh bill," Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive of Equality Illinois, said Friday.
The November elections gave Illinois Democrats supermajorities in both state chambers, and "mathematically speaking, it would be definitely possible to pass the bill without Republican support," Mr. Cherkasov said.
Previous gay-related laws, though, have been enacted with bipartisan support, and there will be strong efforts to win Republican votes for gay marriage, he said. In the recent Senate committee vote, Mr. Cherkasov added, the Republican minority leader said that while she couldn't vote for the gay-marriage bill yet, she "looks forward to building bipartisan support for the bill."
In Illinois, the House has 118 members, 71 of whom are Democrats; 60 votes are needed to pass a gay-marriage law. In the Senate, there are 59 members, 40 of whom are Democrats; 30 votes are needed to pass a law.
Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, promised that "strong, grass-roots opposition" would continue against gay-marriage legalization efforts.
Illinois Democrats are not in lockstep on this issue — at least six Democrats "were vocally opposing" gay marriage in the lame-duck session, said Mr. Gilligan.
"We were able to articulate grave concerns about the legislation. So that's what we will continue to do, and we will hope and pray that lawmakers will see our side and we will be able to stop it," he said.
Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Muslim, Mormon and other pastoral leaders representing 1,700 Illinois religious groups sent a letter Wednesday to all 177 lawmakers, asking them not to view marriage as "an emotional bond between any two adults."
Marriage between a man and a woman is the "natural basis of the family," they said, and there is "real peril" that, under a gay-marriage law, individuals and religious organizations will be compelled to support it, in violation of their consciences and religious liberties.
Illinois gay-rights leaders, however, are determined to win their state.
"Whether next week, next month, this spring or in the months ahead, freedom to marry for same-sex couples will be won in the Illinois General Assembly or in the courts," said John Knight, who handles gay issues for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. His organization is representing some of the dozens of gay couples who have gone to court to repeal the Illinois state law that outlaws gay marriage.
In other states:
Rhode Island lawmakers have introduced gay-marriage bills in both Democrat-led chambers. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, and Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, who is openly gay, support gay marriage; Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed does not. Rhode Island currently offers civil unions for same-sex couples.
Minnesota, where state Sen. Scott D. Dibble, a Democrat who is openly gay, has pledged to introduce a gay-marriage bill. In November, Minnesota voters rejected a traditional-marriage amendment and ended the Republican legislative majorities that put the amendment on the ballot. Minnesotans United for All Families, a pro-gay-marriage group, is urging lawmakers to pass a gay-marriage bill, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign it. Proponents of traditional marriage have promised not to give up the fight, despite their losses at the polls.
In Wyoming, state Rep. Cathy Connolly, a Democrat who is openly gay, said it's likely a bill for gay marriage or civil unions will be introduced this year. "I think the time is right," she told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, citing gay-marriage victories in the states and federal level under the Obama administration. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.
In Indiana, lawmakers are slated to consider an amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The amendment passed the 2011 legislature, but must pass again in the next two years for it to be presented to voters in 2014. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.
In Pennsylvania, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican, has promised to introduce a state marriage amendment to keep marriage between one man and one woman. "Marriage is a common good, not a special interest. Special interests should not have the right to redefine marriage for all of us," he said. Republicans control both chambers.
In New Jersey, lawmakers in Democrat-led chambers have until January 2014 to override Republican Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a gay-marriage bill.
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