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Let’s take a second to reflect on 2012 before looking ahead to 2013. Last year saw sweeping victories for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and the state of Washington. Another five states currently have civil-unions laws, including our own New Jersey. Come June, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a historic ruling that could set the course for marriage equality nationwide. With this much momentum, advocates are fighting hard to pass marriage laws in as many states as possible before the court’s decision.
1. Illinois: Since Gov. Patrick Quinn (D) backs marriage equality, and popular support is surging for moving from civil unions to marriage, state legislators will likely hear this issue as soon as this week. President Obama has urged the Illinois General Assembly to legalize same-sex marriage in his home state, telling lawmakers that, if he were still in the legislature, he would support the measure.
2. New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie (R) is the obstacle to overcome here. While Christie vetoed a marriage-equality bill, the citizens and legislators of the Garden State continue to support the idea. It’s entirely possible that the legislature will pass another measure just to put the governor, who has national political aspirations, on the spot. The governor’s likely opponent in his re-election bid will be Newark mayor Corey Booker, also hugely popular and a formidable challenger — as well as a passionate backer of same-sex marriage. The legislature would just love the chance to highlight the disconnect between Christie’s party and most of the state’s voters. Christie argued that marriage should be put to the voters and last month out Assemblyman Reed Gusciora proposed such a measure. If the legislature poses the question to voters in the next election, it looks likely to pass with a solid majority.
3. Delaware: Gov. Jack Markell (D), an LGBT supporter and frequent speaker at regional Human Rights Campaign and other equality events, was re-elected with close to 70 percent of the vote. He has called for the transition from civil unions to marriage equality. Pennsylvania may once again be bordered by another state recognizing full marriage equality.
4. Colorado: While a 2006 constitutional amendment prevents the legislature from enacting marriage equality, a civil-unions bill was only defeated this year thanks to stunning maneuvers by Speaker of the House Frank McNulty (R), who lost his majority and was replaced as Speaker by openly gay Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D), the bill’s chief backer. Polling shows 70 percent of Coloradoans support legal recognition for same-sex couples.
5. Minnesota: Not only did Minnesota voters defeat a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions in November, they also flipped control of both the state House of Representatives and Senate.With Gov. Mark Dayton (D), a strong marriage-equality supporter, at the helm and a clear popular mandate for marriage equality evident from the vote, Minnesota could legalize gay marriage in 2013.
6. Rhode Island: With November’s victory in Maine, Rhode Island is now the only state in New England without marriage equality. The main impediment is the state’s religious demographics — two-thirds of the population identifies as Roman Catholic. But the Ocean State has a history of tolerance. More than half of voters favor marriage equality over the state’s civil-union law, and out Speaker of the House Gordon Fox (D) has promised to bring up a marriage-equality bill this year.
7. Ohio: Citizens are working to replace the state’s ban on same-sex marriage with a pro-equality measure. The Freedom to Marry coalition must gather signatures from 385,253 voters from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties no later than 125 days before the 2013 general election.
8. California: With the Supreme Court set to issue an opinion in the Proposition 8 case, the citizens of the nation’s most populous state will almost certainly see marriage equality again by June.
9. Hawaii: There is currently a marriage-equality case making its way through the federal courts. Earlier this year, a judge upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, which advocates appealed. The Prop. 8 Supreme Court decision could set a precedent for this appeal.
While Pennsylvania is not on the short list yet, expect that out Rep. Brian Sims (D-182nd Dist.) will work hard for marriage equality in Harrisburg. His position and voice on this issue was recently strengthened when Rep. Mike Fleck (R-81st Dist.) came out as a gay man. Having bipartisan support on both sides of the aisle working together on this basic issue of human dignity will hopefully make what has been a very slow progression in Pennsylvania speed up greatly.
While all of the above are just my predictions, what I do know for certain is that 2013 is going to be momentous for LGBTQ equality across the board.