Most states likely to spurn gay-marriage bandwagon

As hundreds of jubilant gay couples became newlyweds in New York over the weekend, their well-wishers included many far-flung gays wistfully aware that their own states may never willingly allow same-sex marriage.

“The victories in other states are always a little bittersweet,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of the gay-rights group Equality Georgia. His state is one of 30 that have adopted constitutional amendments aimed at limiting marriage to one-man, one-woman unions.

In a few of those states — California, Oregon and Colorado, for example — activists hold out hope of repealing the bans. That outcome seems improbable, though, in many heartland and Southern states, and gay-rights leaders there are looking at more modest short-term goals.

They’ll soon get a boost from a leading national gay-rights group, the Human Rights Campaign. It plans to launch a bus tour, starting Aug. 12 in Salt Lake City and ending Oct. 30 in Orlando, Fla., which will carry it through 11 states that ban gay marriage.

Stops along the way are planned in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama — all with no statewide recognition of same-sex relationships and no state nondiscrimination laws protecting gays.

“We’re going into the belly of the beast,” said Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president for communications.

Activists on the bus tour will be hosting forums and workshops, offering advice on how gay communities can empower themselves politically even on conservative turf, notably through local ordinances and initiatives.

Conservative leaders in some of the states on the bus tour route expressed doubt that the advent of gay marriage in New York would have impact on their home turf.

Kerry Messer of the conservative Missouri Family Network said only a federal court ruling could force his state to reverse a ban-gay-marriage amendment approved with 70 percent support in 2004.

“The attitudes haven’t changed since then,” Messer said.

“If anything, I think they maybe have swung a little closer to the traditional marriage idea.”

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