Gay-marriage momentum comes to a sudden halt after Illinois

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As Illinois becomes the 16th state to approve gay marriage at a public signing ceremony set for Wednesday, the political trench warfare over same-sex unions may be facing a watershed moment: Illinois is the last state where gay-marriage advocates have an advantage in both the governor’s office and statehouse, and defenders of traditional marriage say the political playing field will be far more level in the remaining 34 states in the years ahead.

The days of “easy targets” for gay marriage are over, said Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which supports traditional wedlock between a man and a woman.

Gay-marriage activists dispute the idea that their victories have been easy but agree that their struggle is far from over. They expect to be active next year in several states, including Indiana and Oregon.

There’s “a shifting landscape” on marriage, said Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality USA.

“When we provide education, when we talk to people, when we live our lives out loud, we’re finding that in states from Iowa to Illinois, from coast to coast, we are winning because people respond to family,” he said, citing growing support in polls for same-sex marriage among the American public as well as among conservatives, Republicans and clergy.

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After a decade of disappointments — at one point, voters in 31 states approved constitutional amendments blocking same-sex marriage — advocates have been riding a remarkable wave of success.

Massachusetts became the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses in May 2004.

This year alone, Democrat-led legislatures in Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii and Illinois moved to legalize same-sex marriage. All of the bills were happily signed by Democratic or independent governors.

The long-contested state of New Jersey recently joined the gay-marriage column when Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, acquiesced after federal judges signaled their support for marriage equality.

Now, however, no state — except for West Virginia, which has a tradition of conservatism on social issues — where gay marriage is forbidden by law or constitutional amendment has a government wholly dominated by Democrats.

That means those activists “have run out of easy targets,” Mr. Brown said.

The “false narrative of ‘inevitability’ ends here,” he said, because most of the remaining states either have constitutional amendments that recognize only man-woman marriages or have significant popular opposition to same-sex marriages.

Undaunted

Gay-rights activists are undaunted.

When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs gay marriage into law, 38 percent of the nation’s population will live in states where same-sex marriage is legal, according to Freedom to Marry.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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