UPDATE: Statewide Efforts to Achieve Relationship Recognition

GLAAD Media Field Strategists Adam Bass, Daryl Hannah and Justin Ward contributed to this report.

In Friday’s edition of The New York Times, writer Charlie Savage examines the pending legal challenges to the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" and whether these cases may force President Obama to "take a clear stand on politically explosive questions like whether gay men and lesbians have been unfairly stigmatized” because of the congressional act.  But while there has been little movement on the national stage, states are vigorously taking up the issue of marriage equality.

Colorado

Earlier this month, Colorado Sen. Pat Steadman reassured civil union supporters that he would be introducing legislation during this legislative session.  This past Sunday, nearly 100 supporters of civil unions gathered at the First Unitarian Society of Denver with signs that read “Love is Love.”

“This is something that I think is overdue, something that will protect families and will make our laws a little bit more fair, and a little bit more inclusive so that everyone has the same opportunity to have economic security and stability in their family relationship,” the senator said.

GLAAD worked on the ground with One Colorado to media train 107 individuals and campaign spokespersons to talk about love and commitment.

Hawaii

Last year the Hawaii state legislature approved civil unions, only to see the bill vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle (R).  Neil Abercrombie (D) was elected governor in 2010 and has expressed support for civil union legislation.  The legislature has fast-tracked a bill that is nearly identical to the civil union bill passed last year, and it sailed through the Senate by a 19-6 vote in the first days of the legislative session.  The House is likely to pass the bill in the coming days, and the governor is expected to sign it shortly thereafter.

Illinois

On Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn will sign the historic legislation legalizing civil unions in Illinois and granting hundreds of  gay and lesbian couples  legal recognition from the state. Upon signage, gay and lesbian couples will be able to make medical decisions for ailing partners as well as inherit a deceased partner’s property rights.

When the bill cleared both the state’s House (61-52) and Senate (32-24) last month, Gov. Quinn told the Associated Press: “I think they [businesses and convention organizers] look for a state that is a welcoming, accepting, hospitable place and that’s what we are in Illinois.  We have everybody in and nobody left out.”

Last March, GLAAD, in partnership with Chicago’s Center on Halstead, conducted a media spokesperson training for over 70 LGBT and allied leaders.

Maryland

A Feb. 8 date has been set for the Maryland marriage equality bill hearing.  The bill, which would remove a provision in Maryland law limiting marriage to relationships between a man and a woman, is “one of the highest profile issues before the Maryland General Assembly,” according to The Washington Post.

New Hampshire

In a press release Friday, the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition announced that Rep. David Bates (R-Windham) has introduced a bill that would repeal the state’s one-year-old marriage equality law.  Bates’ introduction of the bill comes despite bicameral support for creating jobs, not repealing marriage equality.  Several of Bates’ colleagues in the legislature have said that a repeal of marriage equality isn’t on this year’s agenda.  Ultimately the House Judiciary Committee must make that decision.  Since marriage equality became the law of the land in New Hampshire in January 2010, nearly 900 committed gay and lesbian couples have legally married in the state.

New Mexico

State Representative David Chavez has introduced two pieces of legislation that would both seek to restrict marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.  The first piece of legislation would change a state law that allows out-of-state marriages to be recognized and would exclude gay and lesbian couples from such recognition.  The second piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Chavez would propose to voters a constitutional amendment to prohibit marriage equality for same-sex couples.  Both pieces of legislation are likely to be heard in the State House in the coming weeks.

Rhode Island

The House Judiciary Committee will hear arguments on marriage equality this Wednesday, Feb. 2, according to The Providence Journal.  With support from openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox, a co-sponsor of this year’s marriage equality legislation, as well as new Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who called for marriage equality during his inaugural address, many observers contend that marriage equality stands its best chance for passage this year.  But there are a few challenges ahead.  Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed has announced she will not support the bill.

As described in the agenda for Wednesday’s hearing, the proposed legislation would “broaden the definition of persons eligible to marry to include persons of the same gender.”  The bill also stipulates that clergy would not be required to perform any particular marriage ceremony.

In November, GLAAD worked on the ground with Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) to train staff, board members, volunteers and couples on how to talk about love and commitment in the media.

Wyoming

The Wyoming legislature is faced with a series of bills to consider, all dealing with how to recognize gay and lesbian couples in the state.  The state House narrowly passed a measure that would prohibit the recognition of out-of-state marriages and sent the measure to the Senate for consideration.  The state Senate passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of all marriages of gay and lesbian couples, but the amendment still faces a vote in the House of Representatives, before being sent to voters for ratification.  Additionally, a bill that would recognize marriage equality was introduced, though it was tabled without a vote.

A measure to recognize civil unions was narrowly defeated in the House Judiciary Committee, despite having bipartisan support.  Several legislators expressed interest in reconsidering the idea of civil unions if the bill was less cumbersome.  “When you love someone, you want to settle down together,” State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R- Cheyenne) said.  “You want to have a life with them.  You want to go into that duty and obligation you have for another human being to care for them in sickness and health.  Civil unions provide that duty and obligation for them to be committed, to care for one another, and to have a life that they can build together.”