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May Marriage Momentum

May 16, 2013

With Governor Mark Drayton’s approval Tuesday of marriage equality legislation passed by the Minnesota legislature on Monday, three states legalized same-sex marriage in less than two weeks – Rhode Island on May 2, Delaware on May 7, and Minnesota on May 14. Twelve states and the District of Columbia are now marriage equality jurisdictions.

This is solid confirmation that marriage equality advocates’ five-state electoral sweep last November was not a fluke but a genuine turning of the tide. In the afterglow of that victory, advocates targeted six states for 2013:  Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  Already three of those six are won.

Marriage equality legislation is pending in Illinois, Minnesota’s southern next-door neighbor. Prospects in Illinois were good to begin with, and victory in Minnesota can only help.

New Jersey advocates need to win over three state senators and 12 state assembly members to override Governor Chris Christie’s 2012 veto of marriage equality legislation. Legislators say they have the three, but they aren’t sure about the 12. Still, while the matter has been pending, public opinion has shifted heavily in favor of marriage equality: a Quinnipiac poll released in March showed New Jersey voters favoring marriage equality by better than 2 – 1.

Hawaii has marriage equality legislation pending, but it is inactive. Meanwhile, the public favors marriage equality by a very solid margin of 18 percent.

The Minnesota victory may help equality advocates in another, unexpected state: Indiana. Indiana legislators approved a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2011, after several unsuccessful tries. The proposed amendment must be approved again during the 2013 -2014 legislative session before it can be put to the voters in a referendum. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has not taken a position on the amendment, but he was quoted a few months ago relating concerns about the amendment expressed to him by Indiana businesses. Meanwhile, polling shows that the proposed amendment is disfavored by a striking 16-points among Indianans. With Minnesota advocates crediting last year’s unsuccessful effort to similarly amend that state’s constitution with spurring this year’s successful marriage equality legislation, and with Indiana voters lining up fairly strongly against the amendment, the required second approval of the amendment seems less likely.

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