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Same-sex Marriage Advocates Cite Recent Victories in Several US States

The northeastern state of New Hampshire will become the sixth state to allow gay couples to marry when the governor signs new legislation adopted earlier this month, which is expected soon.

This follows approval of the practice in a series of states, mostly in the northeastern region of the country. New Hampshire is one of four states that have acted in the past two months. Some proponents see this as a turning point in public opinion.

The opposition has pushed for statewide referendums on the issue, instead of action by legislatures and courts.

Voters defeated same-sex marriage referendums in California and several other states last year. But since then, advocates for gay marriage have triumphed in Iowa, Vermont and Maine. All three states moved within the past two months to allow gay couples to wed and will soon be joined by New Hampshire.

And this month, the District of Columbia's City Council took the step of legally recognizing gay marriages performed in other states.

Council member David Catania backed the measure. He calls it the first hurdle toward allowing gay marriage to be performed in the nation's capital. "Should we go forward, and I expect we will, with full marriage equality, I don't fear a referendum on the subject because I think a majority of our citizens - a fair majority of our citizens - would come out and support marriage equality," he said.

Americans are divided on the issue. More than 40 states now legally ban same-sex marriages. Some allow civil unions, a legal step short of marriage.

Five states, mostly in the northeast, allow marriage. In some cases, most recently Iowa in the center of the country, state courts have decided the matter.

Three other states are moving forward. The New Hampshire law is expected to take effect soon. In New York and Rhode island, legislators are debating the issue.

Laws in both New Jersey and New Mexico, in the west, are silent though court action has prevented gay marriages for now.

Critics of gay marriage, including large religious and politically conservative organizations, have spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns that advocate only marriage between a man and a woman.

Tim Goeglein is with Focus on the Family, a ministry that promotes social and political issues. He says recent state victories do not reflect majority views across the country.

"When the people are asked, the people say, 'We want traditional marriage.' But in too many instances where courts are given that ability, they make a decision that is not in sync with where the American people are," said Goeglein.

Catania says while same-sex marriage is not universally accepted, he believes future generations will likely see the issue differently. "And I think, in all honesty, 20 years from now, once we've embraced full marriage equality in the District, the next generation will wonder what all the fuss was about," he said.

Gay marriage advocates and opponents are turning their attention to states they consider to be the next battleground for legal action, mostly in the northeast.