It's been a good week for gay-rights advocates. Washington state gained the crucial 25th vote needed to pass same-sex marriage. The news prompted headlines around the country, but it was hardly the only place where such legislation moved forward.
In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley is once again pushing a gay marriage bill. Last year's bill stalled, but this time around, lawmakers are making broader exemptions for religious institutions. O'Malley and other advocates are also trying to drum up public support for the bill, which if passed will likely be put to a public vote this fall. Current polling shows Maryland closely divided on the issue, but no one is tiptoeing around it. Today, O'Malley's wife went so far as to call the bill's opponents "cowards."
Maine advocates announced Thursday that they had more than double the signatures necessary to put get gay marriage on the ballot. While there was little surprise that the coalition had gathered the signatures, some speculated that they would not go forward with the referendum; back in 2009, voters rejected a similar measure after the state legislature approved it. But according to the Bangor Daily News, a spokesperson for EqualityMaine explained that polling now shows 54 percent of Mainers want same-sex couple to have the right to marry.
In fact, many thought the increasing support for gay marriage would put New Jersey governor Chris Christie in a sticky situation. Until this week, the governor had refused to comment on a gay marriage bill in the state Legislature. As the New York Times reports, Democrats hoped he might come out in favor of the bill after he nominated an openly gay lawyer to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Instead Christie pushed to bring the question to voters, voicing support for a referendum—the shrewd and safe political choice for the rising GOP star.
Still, Christie's political skills soon fell short when he offended black leaders around the state by arguing that the civil rights laws could have just as easily been passed by voter referenda "rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South." Just about every one had the same critique—the general population would have taken far longer (if ever) to extend civil rights to black Americans. Instead, granting legal equality required bravery from a minority of activists and lawmakers. It's a lesson many legislators might consider as the fight for gay rights goes on.
In the meantime, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is busy not commenting on his alleged request that the Iowa Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth, a conference on preventing bullying, take his title off of its name.