From 2009:By ABBY GOODNOUGH Published: April 4, 2009By ABBY GOODNOUGH Published: April 4, 2009 BOSTON — The Iowa Supreme Court’s approval of same-sex marriage on Friday gave advocates an important first victory in the nation’s heartland, thwarting the notion that only the Northeast will accept it.
But for now, New England remains the nucleus of the same-sex marriage movement, with a campaign under way to extend marriage rights to gay men and lesbians in all six of the region’s states by 2012.
Massachusetts has allowed same-sex marriage since 2004, and Connecticut began allowing it last fall. The Vermont Legislature just voted to let same-sex couples marry, and supporters hope to gather enough votes to override a veto promised by Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican.
New Hampshire is not far behind; its House of Representatives approved a same-sex marriage bill last month. The legislatures in Maine and Rhode Island are considering their own versions, though they are not as far along in the process.
Across New England, advocacy groups have been raising money, training volunteers and lobbying voters and lawmakers as part of a campaign they call “Six by Twelve,” led by the legal advocacy group that persuaded the Supreme Courts in Massachusetts and Connecticut to allow same-sex marriage in 2003 and 2008.
Equal rights advocates said Friday that while the Midwest in general was culturally and politically different from the Northeast, Iowa shared New England’s independent streak and so was a logical place to file another court challenge.
“We picked Iowa because many of us who don’t live in the Midwest might think of it as being a conservative monolith,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, which argued the Iowa case. “But people who know Iowa have been saying for some time that it is different from its neighbors. There’s a tradition of independence and willingness to stand up on issues of fairness.”
As in most New England states, voters in Iowa cannot initiate constitutional amendments, a common strategy for blocking same-sex marriage elsewhere. In California, voters last fall amended the State Constitution to ban such marriages after a court decision made it legal. The California Supreme Court is considering a petition to overturn the ban, but many legal scholars have predicted that it will be upheld.
Proponents of same-sex marriage in California are building support among voters in hopes of making it legal there, probably through another ballot measure in the next few years. And at least six states outside New England (Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Washington) have same-sex marriage bills before their legislatures this year, but none are expected to pass.
Critics say the success of the movement in New England is largely because courts and legislatures, not voters, are making the decisions. Voters have approved constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in 26 states since the Massachusetts law, a landmark, took effect; the constitutions of four other states also limit marriage to heterosexuals.
“Activists have targeted these states because they think it’s going to be easier to convince legislators than the populace,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, a group established to fight same-sex marriage. “They’re doing everything they can to keep the public from having a part in this process.”
But Prof. David H. Watters, director of the Center for New England Culture at the University of New Hampshire, said there were also deep-rooted cultural reasons for the momentum here.
Same-sex couples have found acceptance in New England for over a century, he said, especially among its large intellectual class. In the late 1800s, marriage-like relationships between upper-class women in and around Boston were so common that a phrase — “Boston marriage” — emer