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Continued: Supreme Court rulings energize both sides as many states face battles over same-sex marriage

  • Article by: DAVID CRARY , AP National Writer
  • Last update: June 29, 2013 - 7:20 AM

Michigan's constitutional ban, also approved in 2004, is the target of a pending lawsuit by Detroit-area nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse seeking a right to jointly adopt each other's children. The federal judge hearing the case had been waiting for the Supreme Court before issuing a judgment.

In New Mexico, two gay men from Santa Fe asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to decide whether same-sex marriage is legal. The lawsuit contends that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the state constitution, including provisions prohibiting gender-based discrimination and guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

New Mexico is one of only five states — along with West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Indiana — that has neither extended legal recognition to gay couples nor enacted a ban-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. There also is litigation in three states offering civil unions to gay couples, providing the rights and responsibilities of marriage but not extending that title.

In New Jersey, one lawsuit contends that civil unions do not fulfill a state Supreme Court mandate from 2006 that gay couples receive equal treatment to married heterosexual couples. The plaintiffs say they will soon file a motion arguing that, in light of the Supreme Court ruling, the only thing that is keeping the couples from equal treatment is the state law.

New Jersey's Democratic-majority Legislature passed a bill last year to legalize gay marriage, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. He says the matter should be decided in a referendum.

"There is no longer any excuse to delay," said Troy Stevenson of the gay-rights group Garden State Equality. "It is as immoral as it is impractical to force any New Jersey family to be stripped of critical economic and legal protections every time they cross the Hudson or Delaware Rivers."

Hawaii's civil union law, adopted in 2011, is being challenged in federal court by two women who want to marry rather than enter into a civil union. Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who supports a right to same-sex marriage, says the Supreme Court ruling on federal benefits for same-sex couples bolsters his argument.

Illinois also allowed civil unions in 2011, but efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the recently ended legislative session fell short. The sponsor of the measure, Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, said the Supreme Court rulings should bolster efforts to revive the bill in the fall session.

Meanwhile, gay-rights lawyers are pressing ahead with a lawsuit on behalf of more than two dozen same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Cook County. The suit also challenges an Illinois law that defines marriage as between a man and woman.

Gay-rights activists in some conservative states say there is no near-term prospect for softening their states' gay-marriage bans, and they're looking toward a more incremental approach.

In states such as Georgia, Idaho and Louisiana, these efforts include lobbying for local and statewide anti-discrimination laws that would extend protections to gays and lesbians.

In Wisconsin, a state that has tilted Democratic in national elections, Republicans now hold power at the Statehouse, and there's little discussion by gay-rights supporters of mounting an effort to repeal the gay-marriage ban approved by voters in 2006.

Instead, gay-rights activists there are trying to defeat a conservative group's lawsuit challenging a 2009 domestic partnership law that ended some legal rights to same-sex couples.

Wyoming has no constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but proposals to permit civil unions and to ban discrimination against gays died in the latest legislative session.

State Rep. Cathy Connolly, the openly lesbian Democrat who sponsored those bills, says Wyoming's strong libertarian streak might be conducive to a legalization of same-sex marriage at some point in the future.

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