06/26/2013 03:21 pm ET

U.S. v. Windsor Decision Could Push State Same-Sex Marriage Laws Through

State lawmakers around the country who have been involved in the marriage-equality debate see Wednesday's Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 as an affirmation that marriage is a state-level issue.

Some state lawmakers have been part of several equality-related fights, including ending state bans on same-sex marriage and ending discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. Lawmakers leading those battles believe that the court's decisions will increase advocacy and the potential for change.

"It is a great step forward for our country and helps reinforce equality and it helps unite Americans a little more," Wyoming state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) told The Huffington Post. "Thinking about it, a new direction will be state by state at this point. The LGBT population can serve in the military and marriage has federal benefits. You’ll see a huge push on a state-by-state basis to ensure same-sex marriage.”

Zwonitzer, who led the fight against a constitutional same-sex marriage ban in his state, said he can see Wyoming becoming one of the next battlegrounds to legalize marriage equality. While Wyoming does not have a constitutional ban, there is a statutory ban on same-sex marriage, although a loophole allows recognition of gay couples married in other states. Zwonitzer said that he could see a court case brewing to force Wyoming to legalize gay marriage.

Wyoming lawmakers voted down same-sex marriage and civil union bills this year. Zwonitzer said he does not see civil unions coming back after the Supreme Court's ruling, noting that after Wednesday it is "marriage or nothing."

“Legislatively same-sex marriage in Wyoming is four years out at best," he said. "Judicially, we could be there in two months, if you had a same-sex couple move and apply for recognition.”

In Michigan, state Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) proposed legislation earlier this week to repeal the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and force a public referendum to legalize it. Zemke said he sees the Supreme Court's ruling as reinforcement as he steers his legislation through the process.

Montana state Rep. Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula), the first openly gay male legislator in his state, said the ruling will open the door to legislation to repeal Montana's constitutional same-sex marriage ban when lawmakers reconvene in 2015. While he does not see the ban being repealed immediately, he can see other equality legislation passing. This year, Montana lawmakers repealed the state's sodomy ban and extended domestic violence protections to same-sex couples.

"Montanans are more and more understanding that gay and lesbian folks are their families, neighbors and co-workers," Bennett told HuffPost.

North Dakota state Rep. Joshua Boschee (D-Fargo), also the first openly gay lawmaker in the state, said the state does not have a strong LGBT advocacy infrastructure right now to push for either legislation or a ballot referendum to repeal the state's same-sex marriage ban.

Boschee noted, however, that the ruling can open the door for the creation of such a group. "States like North Dakota can get forgotten on these issues and we can be a part of the solution," he said.

In Missouri, the Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation to end discrimination against the LGBT population, and the University of Missouri system allowed benefits for same-sex couples starting this year. Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) said that while the discrimination ban did not pass the state House, he believes Wednesday's ruling will give the issue momentum. Webber, the discrimination ban's author, said that he still sees marriage equality taking longer in his state, which has tea party Republican supermajorities in the Legislature. Missouri has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Webber called the ruling a win for Democrats nationally, saying that now Republicans will have to explain their views on a state level. “This was an absolute disaster for the Republican Party," Webber said. "They are going to be absolutely humiliated for the next 20 years. It will be an absolute nightmare for the Republican Party."

But Michigan's Zemke is painting the ruling as a victory for progressives and conservatives. “The people who are pro-equality, this is a victory for them," he said. "This is also a victory for people who are big believers in states' rights and civil liberties. There is a pretty wide audience that won today.”



Politicians React To Prop 8 And Defense Of Marriage Decisions