Where we stand now
For those keeping score at home, same-sex marriage is currently legal in six states: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, as well as in Washington DC, and in two Native American territories in the Pacific Northwest. Maryland and Washington have both passed laws legalizing gay marriage; both bills are being put to referendum this fall. New Jersey passed marriage-equality legislation only to have it vetoed by conservative governor Chris Christie.
Meanwhile, 29 states have passed constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage and nine more have established statutes that explicitly define marriage as between one man and one woman. Minnesota voters will cast their ballots on a constitutional ban this November.
Eleven countries worldwide (including Canada) recognize same-sex marriage.
Polls conducted in 2012 by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Pew Research Center, USA Today and Gallup, and several other outlets all found increasing public support for marriage equality, with pro-marriage numbers hovering between 47 to 53 percent. Changing demographics has a lot to do with this. In their 2009 study, Columbia University professors Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips found that in all but 12 states, more than 50 percent of people aged 18 to 29 supported same-sex marriage.
And in May 2012, President Barack Obama said on national television, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married." Following that big news, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced its formal support for same-sex marriage.
Several states have issued legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which codifies in federal law that marriage is between one man and one woman. The Justice Department said in 2011 that it would stop defending DOMA.
Here in Maine, more than 100 businesses, congregations, and interest groups support Mainers United for Marriage. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland (the axis of Maine's Catholic community) announced earlier this year that it would not play an active role in the opposition campaign, which is being run by the Christian Civic League of Maine and the National Organization for Marriage. However, the diocese is hosting statewide meetings "to teach the faithful about the gift of marriage and the need to embrace and preserve it." For straight people, at least.