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Gay marriage battles loom across US
By Jason Szep
Fri Mar 31, 7:58 PM ET Reuters
Citing polling that suggests opposition to same-sex marriages is receding, gay rights advocates expressed confidence on Friday that such weddings would spread, despite a ruling by Massachusetts' highest court that bars homosexuals from other states from marrying there.
Activists on both sides of the issue were awaiting a court ruling on whether Washington will follow Massachusetts and become the second U.S. state to legalize gay marriage, at least among residents.
"Washington state's Supreme Court right now, any day, is going to deliver their ruling on marriage, so it's something that we've been waiting for a while now to happen," said Brad Luna of gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.
After hearing arguments in March 2005, Washington state's top court will decide whether to overturn two lower court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage. The case was brought by eight same-sex couples denied marriage licenses.
Legal challenges seeking permission for gays and lesbians to marry are pending in 10 states. New Jersey's Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on a bid for gay marriage. Two cases are also winding through New York's court system and could end up in the state's highest court this year.
Massachusetts's highest court ruled in 2003 that it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage, paving the way for America's first same-sex marriages in May the following year.
But on Thursday, that court quashed any chance of Massachusetts becoming the nation's gay wedding capital, ruling that homosexual couples from states that ban same-sex marriages cannot legally be wed in Massachusetts.
The ruling, upholding a 1913 state law barring nonresidents from marrying if their home state would not recognize the marriage, was in response to a lawsuit by gay couples from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
"I really don't anticipate that the Massachusetts ruling will have much of an impact on other state courts because those courts will look at their own state laws and their own state constitutions, and rule accordingly," said Seth Kilbourn, political direct of gay rights group Equality California.
The Alliance to Marriage and other groups which oppose gay marriage said Thursday's Massachusetts's court decision would embolden opposition in states including California, Florida, Iowa and New York where the divisive issue is under debate.
A Pew Research Center poll taken in early March and released last week showed that opposition to same-sex marriage had dropped across the country in the past two years. But it also showed that just over half of Americans still oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
At least 13 states have passed amendments banning gay marriage while two -- Vermont and Connecticut -- have legalized civil unions. California, New Jersey, Maine, the District of Colombia and Hawaii each offer gay couples some legal rights as partners.
The U.S. Supreme Court has not taken a case on gay marriage, leaving states to decide the issue.