Rainbow Spring: Where States, Lawmakers Stand on Gay Marriage

Jody Brannon

Call it Rainbow Spring, where lawmakers are coming out in support of gay marriage faster than raindrops refract colors across the land. (Note: It rather could be colored purple, red, or pink — see The Atlantic’s brief history of color use in LGBT-rights campaigns).

At last count, 51 senators back same-sex marriage, and The Washington Post shows the numbers from 1996 to 2012 with a striking chart that looks like a green pasture leading up to the Capitol steps and the Capitol itself.

And while the Supreme Court justices are mulling their decisions on two cases regarding gay unions, Rush Limbaugh says allowing gay marriage is inevitable. Time magazine, with kissing couples on its cover, simply said, "How Gay Marriage Won."

Gay marriage is not the law of the land — only nine states and the District allow gay couples to wed, including Colorado starting May 1 — but as National Journal’s Jill Lawrence explains, it’s easier to jump on the gay bandwagon than to deal with the gun standoff.

Included here is NJ’s coverage on the topic since January. As an example of flip-flopping that has occurred on the issue, no sooner had NJ’s Michael Catalini written last Tuesday about the seven remaining Democratic senators who had yet to announce a stance than Florida’s Bill Nelson did so in an op-ed, writing, "To discriminate against one class and not another is wrong for me."

With Nelson’s announcement, our sister publication the Atlantic Wireproduced a map that shows which states have one or two senators in support of gay and lesbian nuptials. On the red side of the map, Republicans have been slower to change their position, though Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine might be next to do so.

The trailblazing states that allow same-sex marriage include two with Republican governors (Iowa and Maine). The other seven are led by Democratic governors (Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington).

Which may explain why lawmakers from Alaska and Maine could shift on the issue. Like Colorado and Vermont, the 49th state is known as a state of individualists and socially liberal on many issues, and Collins serves a Maine constituency that voted, 53 percent to 47 percent in the November ballot measure, to support gay marriage.

On the map below, you can consider the demographics of the nine states, by race, compared with the national average. Some observers equate a liberal stance on the issue with a greater density of cultures and races. The New England states, with a high proportion of whites, are fastest to embrace a rainbow outlook.