The Next Battleground States For Gay Rights

Same-sex marriage supporters are celebrating recent victories in Illinois and Hawaii — but which states can we expect to legalize gay marriage next? After Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois signed marriage equality in his state into law Wednesday, the United States now has 16 states recognizing gay marriage. But if you thought the battles waged in Illinois and Hawaii were hard, just wait until you hear about the legal warfare currently being waged for LGBT equality in 10 other states across the country.

Of course, the recent Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act has emboldened and reenergized the movement. Since June, marriage battles have been won in Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Minnesota — four states in less than five months. Never before has there been such a quick succession of states legalizing marriage equality.

Some of the supporters of marriage equality have also been unexpected — Frank Schaefer of Pennsylvania put himself at risk of trial for performing his son's gay marriage, which is against the rules of the United Methodist Church. Nike recently climbed on the marriage equality bandwagon when it came out in support of Oregon's marriage equality initiative, and Mayor John Manchester of Lewisburg, West Virginia just became the first West Virginian mayor to join Fairness WV, a group that supports overturning West Virginia's gay marriage ban. There's lots of reason to hope.

Here are the 10 states where battles over marriage equality and LGBT rights will be fought next.

1. Arkansas

A few weeks ago, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniels (pictured above) gave the OK to the wording of a ballot measure that would allow marriage equality. Interestingly enough, the language of the ballot measure doesn't specifically call for marriage equality — it would overturn the 2004 marriage amendment (which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman) and redefine marriage as a "union between two people regardless of sex."

McDaniels' motion came just four months after 11 same-sex Arkansas couples asked a judge to overturn the marriage amendment. On December 12, the state court will have a hearing on the amendment. Not bad for a notoriously conservative state.

2. Florida

This year spelled bad news for Florida gay rights. The legislature voted against a statewide domestic partner registry that would have allowed same-sex partners healthcare visitation rights; and gay individuals are still not allowed to adopt children.

On the bright side, many cities and towns have started local domestic partner registries. On November 12, a Florida judge also called for Professor Mark Regenerus to explain how his study on children with same-sex parents (which supported the idea that children with same-sex parents are less likely to succeed than children with mixed-gender parents) was published without peer review.

Hopefully, soon enough, the Sunshine State will allow more same-sex couples to have a little more sunshine in their lives.

3. Idaho

Months ago, one day after the Supreme Court DOMA ruling, the Idaho Press Tribune published an article headlined (with a slight misspelling), "Supreme Court Ruling May Open Up Gay Married Couples to Benefits in Idaho."

Over four months later, on November 8, four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against Idaho's same-sex marriage ban. That also happened to be the same day that Hawaii's marriage equality bill passed through its House. Who said activism wasn't contagious?

4. Indiana

This is just plain awful: The House in Indiana has started an amendment called HJR-6 that would strip Indiana same-sex couples of their protections and rights.

But wait — there's lots of good news. Plenty of people and institutions have publicly opposed this measure, including Ball State University and Indiana University. And this merits a fist pump: two days ago, 300 clergy members came out in opposition of Indiana's gay marriage ban.

Read the full letter that the clergy members wrote here.

5. Kentucky

In September, a judge ruled that since Geneva Case's Vermont civil union with her partner Bobbie Joe Clary was not recognized in Kentucky. Case would not be protected from having to testify against Clary in a murder case.

However, Case has continued to claim that that she retains spousal privilege, and shouldn't have to testify. This is an ongoing case, and it has sure sparked the opposition of gay activists in the state.

6. Mississippi

Same-sex divorce — and the benefits that come with it — is as much a right as same-sex marriage. In Mississippi, Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham (who married her partner in California) is trying to get Mississippi to recognize her marriage and then allow her to divorce, so that she and her former partner straighten out property ownership, alimony, and parental rights.

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7. Nebraska

ACLU Nebraska's lawsuit against the state has already been three months in the making. The lawsuit began after Greg and Stillman Stewart, a same-sex couple from California with a 30-year relationship and five adopted children, moved to Nebraska and tried to adopt more kids. Nebraska gave them the big red light and the ACLU got involved.

See them above, portrayed with three of their adopted children. And be sure to look out for Stewart and Stewart v. Heineman next year when it fights the issues out in court.

8. North Carolina

This battle has been ongoing for over a year now. On May 8, 2012, North Carolina approved a same-sex marriage ban.

In a turn of events, this October, North Carolina official Drew Resinger accepted 10 marriage requests by same-sex couples — in spite of the fact that gay marriage is still banned in the state. Why?

Lisa Bovee-Kemper, an assistant pastor who's trying to marry her same-sex partner Cindy, told Talking Points Memo "this was important because we are legal strangers in North Carolina. Even though North Carolina doesn't recognize our marriage, there's something important about existing in public records."

9. Pennsylvania

With a Pennsylvania pastor now accused of breaking church law after he officiated his son's same-sex marriage, the battleground in this state is sure to be fierce. Beyond that high-profile case, 21 same-sex couples have already filed a lawsuit against the state. We're putting our bets on this one — Pennsylvania is the only state left in northeast that doesn't allow for same-sex civil unions or marriage. Cross your fingers that it'll crumble under their influence soon.

10. West Virginia

Last and not least, there's good old West Virginia.

In October, three same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the same-sex marriage ban in the state. It's a state to watch for sure.

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Well, There you have it. Ten states with an ample amount of opportunity to change.

But while the quick succession of battles being fought may be heartening, let's remember that marriage equality is not the last battle. Getting rid of homophobia — and all that comes with it, such as hate crimes and discrimination — is another battle we'll need to wage. We think even Mary Cheney would agree.

Images: Huffington Post, Gideon Alper/, Nick Groff/Idaho Press Tribune, puddin18/Tumblr, memegenerator,, balterings/Tumblr, someecards