Supreme Court is set to tackle gay marriage in a matter of months, but legislative action this week in Rhode Island and Illinois shows that supporters aren't in wait-and-see mode. Buoyed by ballot victories in four states in November, they're now on the offensive in two more; wins would mean that more than 20 percent of Americans live in places that have approved same-sex marriage. Opponents are pushing back hard to make sure that doesn't happen, even as they express confidence that the nation's high court will rule in their favor when it weighs in on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.
"Everyone is looking at the Supreme Court. What happens then defines a lot of more about what happens next in the fight," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage." "We're gonna win that and then there's going to be a state-by-state fight, and our record on that is amazing.".
The scope of any Supreme Court decision is far from clear. They could rule that every American is entitled to the right to same-sex marriage or they could allow states to keep bans on gay marriage or they could do something in between. In the meantime, gay-marriage advocates are pressing the issue at the state level. In addition to Rhode Island and Illinois, lawmakers in Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island reportedly could consider the issue later this year.
"There's always risk when you go to the Supreme Court. You never want to put all your eggs in one basket," said Janson Wu, staff attorney at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.
Wu has been busy in Rhode Island, where bills to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed were introduced in both chambers of the legislature and where the speaker of the House has promised a floor vote this month.
Both sides agree the measure is likely to pass the House. Wu says he's "cautiously optimistic" of a win in the Senate, followed by the governor's signature, while Brown says, "I think we're going to stop the bill.