6 States Where Gay Marriage Could Be Legal by 2016

With DOMA ruled as unconstitutional and Prop 8 overturned, the focus of marriage equality is now on state reactions to the the Supreme Court's late June decisions. Though Prop 8 was seen as a triumph for many in the LGBT community, its narrow lens — it only applies to California — now leaves states to fend for themselves when it comes to deciding on gay marriage. Although the majority of Americans now support marriage equality, the state-by-state battleground will be scrappy.

As of now, there are 29 states with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman. These are clearly going to be the most difficult states to turn in terms of social progress. However, Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, and Arizona may be seeing ballot measures in the fall to overturn these amendments. Out of these, Oregon and Ohio are speculated to be the first states that might do this. That's two.

Next, there are six states — Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, and Oregon — that grant state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples but do not extend marriage rights. Given the current progressive nature of these states, they are probably more likely to extend rights to LGBT couples. Colorado may see this issue at the ballot box in November, and same-sex marriage proponents have already identified Illinois, New Jersey, and Hawaii as the next turf for marriage equality battles, keeping them high on the list. The New Jersey State Legislature voted in favor of same-sex marriages in early 2012, but it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. However, it will likely show up again in the fall, and the governor has said this time he will "let the people decide." So that's four more.

Finally, some states may face the case in court sooner than it is brought to the voters, which is how same-sex marriage may become legal in New Mexico. However, legislators such as Governor Susana Martinez may follow in Governor Christie's footsteps and stifle that process (and progress).

So by 2016, we are looking at a minimum of six states that will very likely recognize same-sex marriage, with the possibility of several others. Gay marriage is already legal in states that are home to nearly 30% of the U.S. population. And as people who would traditionally oppose gay marriage find that family members or friends are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, their sentiments may change. Members of the LGBT community are people who seek love and companionship just like anyone else, and as more people come to realize that, the momentum of equal consideration before the law will build.