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Dreaming big: Gay guide to the state of marriage equality in the U.S.

Emboldened by Election Day victories in Maine, Maryland and Washington state, marriage-equality supporters are pushing to legalize same-sex weddings in other states.

This all comes as the U.S. Supreme Court decided last Friday that it would take up two cases: California's Proposition 8 case as well as the Edie Windsor case involving the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Marriage equality has spread to Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington state.

Civil unions are legal in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Domestic partnerships are recognized in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Almost half of Americans live in the 21 states that provide some level of recognition for same-sex couples.

Here is a roundup of what is about to happen in 2013 and beyond that.

ILLINOIS

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is urging state lawmakers to send him a marriage equality bill during the early January lame duck session.

SDGLN media partner Chicago Phoenix has the story.

Illinois approved civil marriage in 2010, and Gov. Quinn signed the bill into law on Jan. 31, 2011.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, calls marriage equality his third priority for the Illinois Legislature.

[UPDATED DEC. 13]

Today Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans announced that they will call for a vote early in 2013 on House Bill 5710, The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

"By bringing the marriage bill to a vote, Rep. Harris and Sen. Steans the co-sponsors of HB 5170 have brought hope to thousands of same-sex couples across Illinois," said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal. "Whether it's through the courts or through the legislature,
Illinois same-sex couples and their children need the freedom to marry now, and it's encouraging that our elected officials agree. The time is
now."

[END OF UPDATE]

In the meantime, Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit suit seeking marriage for same-sex couples in Illinois.

NEW JERSEY

The New Jersey Legislature approved marriage equality earlier this year but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill, saying he preferred a statewide vote on the matter. At the time, his critics slammed him for putting basic human rights up to a vote.

But on Monday, openly gay Assemblyman Reed Gusciora introduced legislation that would ask voters to approve same-sex marriage, but he will face an uphill fight from fellow Democrats who don’t want to put people’s rights to a public vote. Freedom to Marry says work is underway to override the governor's veto.

Meanwhile, a marriage-equality lawsuit is proceeding in state court.

RHODE ISLAND

In Rhode Island, openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox has pledged to bring back a bill to legalize same-sex weddings. That is expected to occur in January.

Rhode Island allows civil unions, but remains the last New England state to embrace full equality for gay and lesbian couples who want to marry.

MINNESOTA

Last week, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he would sign into law any bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in his state.

Voters in Minnesota in November rejected an attempt to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

OREGON

In Oregon, supporters are gearing up to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and there is talk of placing a referendum on the ballot in 2014.

DELAWARE

Advocates in Delaware are hopeful to upgrade state laws from permitting civil unions to allowing same-sex marriage. Civil unions began on Jan. 1 of this year.

The latest polling shows that marriage equality is supported by a plurality of residents.

SDGLN media partner Huffpost Gay Voices reported that Equality Delaware has been galvanized by the Election Night victories and the Supreme Court's decision to hear the marriage cases.

So far, however, none of the LGBT groups has announced their plans for Delaware.

Gov. Jack Markell said in March that gay marriage is "inevitable" in his state.

HAWAII

Residents of Hawaii have had civil unions since Jan. 1 of this year, and advocates are continuing efforts to get the legislature to approve marriage for all.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, is a big advocate of marriage equality and would sign any bill that came to his desk.

Hawaii has flirted with marriage equality since 1993, but a series of lawsuits and legislative actions have thwarted such efforts.

Equality Hawaii is leading the charge in the Aloha State.

NEVADA

In Nevada, there is a broad domestic partnership law even though same-sex marriage is banned in the state's constitution.

In late November, a district judge in Nevada ruled against same-sex couples who sued for the right to marry in the state. That Lambda Legal case known as Sevcik v. Sandoval was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the anti-gay marriage group defending the case has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case instead, apparently trying to influence the high court on the gay-rights cases it has taken for review in March 2013.

COLORADO

A blue state legislature, to be seated in January, and a Democratic governor likely means that at the very least that Colorado is poised to get civil unions, but some activists want more.

Currently, same-sex marriage is banned by the state constitution.

OHIO

Freedom to Marry coalition is trying to qualify a petition to repeal Ohio's 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. If successful, the issue would be placed on the November 2013 ballot.

Polls show Ohioans are split on the issue. A poll conducted Nov. 5 for the Columbus Dispatch shows 47% oppose the existing ban and 42% support it. A poll released Dec. 12 by Quinnipiac University found that 45% favor marriage equality and 47% don't. This widely contrasts with a Washington Post poll in September than found 52% of Ohioans supported marriage for all and 37% didn't.

Additional resources

Marriage Equality USA's marriage equality map, featured above, can be found HERE.

Freedom to Marry's website can be found HERE.

The Human Rights Campaign's marriage equality guide can be found HERE.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Nate Gowdy of Seattle Gay News and Nate Gowdy Photography graciously shared SGN's photos with readers of San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. Gowdy said he put together a team of four photographers to document more than 100 gay and lesbian couples who got married on Sunday, Dec. 9, the first day same-sex marriage was legal in the state of Washington.

"What an amazing day in Seattle," Gowdy said.

Top left: Jaina Hill-Rodriquez and Erica Hill-Rodriquez are all smiles after getting married at Seattle City Hall. They exit the building to applause and well-wishes from visitors, who threw rice and rose petals and offered flowers to all the newlyweds. Photo by Nate Gowdy.

Middle left: Michael Pirkle and Steve Austin share an intimate moment after getting married at Seattle City Hall. Photo by Jennifer DeLeo. Another photo of the couple is found on the front cover of SDGLN.

Bottom left: Corianton Hale and Keith Bacon were beaming with joy after getting married at Seattle City Hall. Photo by Nate Gowdy.

To enjoy more marriage photos from Seattle Gay News, click HERE.