Buoyed by unprecedented victories at the ballot box, an energized gay-rights movement is looking ahead — building a state-by-state strategy for winning marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples across the country.
With Washington now firmly in the win column, advocates are turning their attention to key states where they see their best chances not just for getting same-sex marriage approved but also rolling back more than 30 state constitutional bans that prohibit such unions.
And their opponents, while acknowledging defeat this week, say they are prepared to fight them at every turn.
This week’s election wins in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington suggest that in addition to working through legislatures and the courts, gay-marriage supporters for the first time can also look to the electorate.
More immediately, they are looking to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is to decide Nov. 20 whether to take up a series of cases, including two that challenge the federal government’s denial of benefits to married gay couples.
“We know the hard work is ahead, but I’d much rather be us than them — our opponents,” Fred Sainz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights organization, said of this week’s victories.
“So while we celebrate today, we rededicate ourselves to hard work tomorrow. We do not view this as a moment to slow down, but an opportunity to double down.”
With Washington’s Referendum 74 ahead 52 percent to 48 percent, Preserve Marriage Washington, the campaign that had worked to defeat it, conceded Thursday.
In a statement, campaign officials said that while they are disappointed, they are not defeated.
“We are fighting for a cause that is true, and beautiful, and right — the sacred institution of marriage,” Joseph Backholm, the organization’s campaign chairman said in a statement.
“It’s a cause worth fighting for, and we will continue to educate citizens and policymakers on the timeless truth that real marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Approval of the ballot measure makes Washington the third state this week to back gay marriage and one of nine, along with the District of Columbia, where gays can legally wed.
In this state, same-sex couples may begin applying for licenses as early as Dec. 6 — ahead of both Maine and Maryland, the two other states where voters Tuesday approved gay marriage.