WASHINGTON -- Delaware could legalize marriage equality next year, according to Gov. Jack Markell.

Markell, a Democrat, supports legalizing same-sex marriage, and he has said in the past that he believes marriage equality is "inevitable" in his state. He previously predicted the Delaware legislature would take up the issue "probably within the next few years."

But in an interview at The Huffington Post's offices on Monday, Markell said he expected the legislature to work on it as soon as the next session.

"I think it probably will," he said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia.

Democratic governors in Maryland and New York, two states that recently signed marriage equality into law, took the lead on shepherding the bill through the legislative process and making it a key priority. (The law is not in effect in Maryland yet, pending the outcome of a November ballot referendum.)

Markell said he was willing to play a similar role in Delaware, although he said the real leadership will come from LGBT groups.

"I think it's always important to have gubernatorial leadership, but the other thing it's very helpful to have -- the real hero of getting civil unions done [in the state] -- was not me," he said. "The real hero and heroine were a couple of people who led a group called Equality Delaware."

Delaware legalized civil unions in April 2011. Advocates who had been working to eradicate discrimination against LGBT individuals formed Equality Delaware and helped draft the comprehensive civil union legislation that eventually passed the state legislature.

"The grassroots efforts can be so powerful. So there was a group of people -- many of them gay or lesbian but many of them not -- who lobbied the heck out of this and they did it all over the state," said Markell. "I think having that group of people who were willing to work very very hard with my support is what it will take."

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  • Connecticut

    Since November 12, 2008

  • Delaware

    Gay marriage law <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/delaware-gay-marriage-law-_n_3232771.html" target="_blank">enacted</a>, weddings to begin July 1.

  • Iowa

    Since April 3, 2009

  • Maine

    In 2012, Maine voted in favor of a ballot amendment to legalize gay marriage.

  • Maryland

    The gay marriage bill was signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on March 1, 2012. Opponents later gathered enough signatures to force the issue back onto the ballot in November 2012, but voters rejected the effort against gay marriage.

  • Massachusetts

    Since May 17, 2004

  • Minnesota

    Same-sex marriage bill signed into law in May. Gay marriages will begin in August.

  • New Hampshire

    Since January 1, 2010

  • New York

    Since July 24, 2011

  • Rhode Island

    Bill passed in May. Law takes effect on August 1, 2013.

  • Vermont

    Since September 1, 2009

  • Washington

    On February 13, 2012, Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) signed a law allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies to begin on June 7, 2012. The process was delayed by gay marriage opponents who gathered enough signatures to put the issue up to a state vote in November 2012. They voted to approve it on Election Day.

  • Washington D.C.

    Since March 9, 2010

  • California

    The state initially began conducting gay marriages on June 16, 2008. On November 5, 2008, however, California voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state's constitution to declare marriage as only between a man and a woman. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled against that law, and the state shortly thereafter began sanctioning same-sex nuptials.