JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opponents of same-sex marriage are scrambling to find effective responses, in Congress and state legislatures, to a rash of court rulings that would force some of America's most conservative states to accept gay nuptials.
Some gay-marriage foes are backing a bill introduced in Congress that would leave states in charge of their marriage policies, though it stands little chance of passing. They're also endorsing bills in statehouses — some intended to protect gay-marriage bans, and others to assert a right, based on religious freedom, to have nothing to do with gay marriages.
Federal judges have voided part or all of the same-sex marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia. Each ruling has been stayed pending appeals, and a final nationwide resolution may be a few years away.
CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois is about to join the ranks of states allowing same-sex marriage.
Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a bill Wednesday making Illinois the 16th state to legalize gay marriage. The event will be held at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Illinois allowed civil unions in 2011. But it was a bumpy road to same-sex marriage in President Barack Obama's home state.
The Illinois Senate approved the measure in February, but the House sponsor said he didn't have the votes. It wasn't called until this month and passed by a close margin.
Those who opposed the measure included some of Illinois most well-recognized religious leaders.
Same-sex couples will be allowed to wed starting in June.
A Pennsylvania pastor charged under United Methodist law with officiating his son's same-sex marriage is scheduled to go on trial.
The Rev. Frank Schaefer, 51, could be defrocked if a jury comprised of fellow Methodist clergy convicts him of breaking his pastoral vows by officiating the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts. Schaefer's supporters argue that church teaching on homosexuality is outmoded.
"Public opinion has changed very rapidly," said the pastor's son, Tim Schaefer, 29. "I hope this leads to a renewed conversation to revisit these policies to see if they are a little archaic."
The nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but rejects the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching." Clergy who perform same-sex unions risk punishment ranging from a reprimand to suspension to losing their minister's credentials.
The issue has split the church. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them face discipline for presiding over same-gender unions.
Critics say those pastors are sowing division within the church and ignoring the church's democratic decision-making process. Indeed, the denomination's top legislative body, the 1,000-member General Conference, reaffirmed the church's 40-year-old policy on gays at its last worldwide meeting in 2012.
The Methodists have set aside three days for Schaefer's trial, to be held at a church retreat in Spring City, Pa., beginning on Monday.
Tim Schaefer, of Hull, Mass., will testify on his father's behalf.
"(The defense wants) to highlight how hurtful the policy of the church is toward the LGBT community," he said.
Tim Schaefer struggled as a teenager, aware of Methodist doctrine on homosexuality. He said he prayed every night that "God would make me normal, take this away from me." He contemplated suicide but knew it would devastate his family. Schaefer finally told his parents at age 17, and he said they accepted him completely.
Years later, Schaefer knew he wanted his dad to perform his wedding ceremony.
"I remember thinking I have two choices: I can ask my dad and know I am putting him in a position ... where he would risk his career, or I could not ask my dad and really risk hurting his feelings. I think he would have been devastated if I hadn't asked him," he said.
Frank Schaefer has said he informed his superiors in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference that he planned to officiate his son's wedding, and again after the ceremony, which took place at a restaurant near Boston. He said he faced no discipline until April — about a month before the church's six-year statute of limitations was set to expire — when one of his congregants filed a complaint.
Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.
A Methodist trial resembles a secular trial in many ways, with counsel representing each side, a judge and jury, opening statements and closing arguments, and testimony and evidence.
The 13 member jury, called a "trial court," will be selected from a pool of 35. It takes at least nine votes to convict. If Schaefer is convicted, the trial moves to a penalty phase, with the same jury settling on a punishment. At least seven members of the jury must agree on the penalty.
Schaefer can appeal a conviction, but neither the church nor the person who brought the charge may appeal an acquittal.
With an executive order, Missouri joins rare company in the fight for marriage equality.
Governor Jay Nixon ordered to Department of Revenue to accept tax returns from same-sex couples who were married in another state. This move mirrors one made by the IRS that same-sex marriages in any state will be recognized for tax purposes.
Missouri is the first state that does not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples but gives those couples the ability to file jointly.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois House has approved legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state.
The vote 61-54 vote sends the measure back to the Senate for minor changes to a version it approved on Valentine's Day. Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll sign it.
Fourteen states plus Washington D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Most recently, New Jersey, Minnesota and Rhode Island have allowed it.
The historic vote in Illinois came after months of arduous lobbying by gay-rights advocates, but the bill was never called for a House vote earlier this year because the sponsor said there weren't enough votes. Proponents say momentum had been building, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Opponents say marriage should remain between a man and woman.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are convening in Springfield for the final three days of their annual fall session.
The action kicks off with Tuesday hearings on corporate tax incentives and stricter gun penalties in the Illinois House.
Same-sex marriage legislation could also come up for a vote in the coming days. The measure was approved by the state Senate in February but stalled in the House in the spring. Advocates have since launched a more collaborative push and several undecided lawmakers announced their support for the measure. Opponents say they're prepared to mount primary challenges against members who vote for the legislation.
Lawmakers are not confident there will be a vote on a deal to solve the state's $97 billion pension crisis, but they say they are making progress on a deal.
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii's battle over gay marriage brought state lawmakers back to work Monday after the governor called a special session that could make the islands a wedding destination for more couples.
Some 1,800 people signed up to testify in person at a Senate committee hearing, which was carried live on TV and local news websites. Dozens of people gathered around three televisions in the Capitol rotunda, cheering testimony they agreed with and singing songs.
Opponents of gay marriage solicited honks and shaka signs from passing motorists on the street, staging a large rally of hundreds of people timed with afternoon rush hour.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the special session after House and Senate lawmakers couldn't muster the two-thirds support needed to do it themselves. He says passing a bill would put Hawaii in line with two Supreme Court rulings that affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Hawaii already allows civil unions, and some members of a Senate committee questioned Monday whether it was important to also allow gay marriage.
After Hawaii Attorney General David Louie said same-sex couples in civil unions in Hawaii who got married in other states would essentially get similar benefits to couples married under the new law, Republican Sen. Sam Slom questioned the point of debating further.
His comments drew responses of "Amen" from some in the crowd.
But Louie, who supports legalizing gay marriage, said traveling to the U.S. mainland is no small issue, given costs and effort needed to arrange a marriage in other states.
"That is not an unsubstantial burden," Louie said.
Judiciary Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee asked Louie to prepare a report detailing any other tangible benefits Hawaii couples would gain or lose, including implications for taxes, insurance and other federal and state benefits.
Louie promised a response and said a law may have implications for Medicaid and Family and Medical Leave Act benefits.
"I have to tell you, I'm kind of confused now," said Sen. Malama Solomon, who said she didn't know until Monday's hearing that gay couples who legally marry in other states would get only minimal benefits by being allowed to marry in Hawaii.
Proponents say they shouldn't have to wait for gay marriage, calling it a civil right, and have argued gay marriage could be a boon for tourism in Hawaii as an appealing destination for ceremonies and honeymoons.
Opponents say society needs to encourage marriage between men and women, in part to protect children. They also say a religious exemption proposed in the bill doesn't do enough to protect people who don't believe in gay marriage from having to facilitate ceremonies. Other opponents want a public vote, rather than a special session in a Legislature dominated by Democrats.
Nearly 4,000 pages of written testimony were submitted ahead of the hearing, which was held under tight security in a crowded basement auditorium in the Capitol.
Testimony was expected to go into the night with a committee vote to send the bill to the full Senate.
On the House side, Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican representing Ewa and Ewa Beach, introduced a proposal to amend the Hawaii Constitution to explicitly restrict marriage to between men and women. The constitution currently gives the Legislature the power to decide whether marriage between two people of the same sex should be allowed.
It's not clear whether McDermott's proposal will be heard before a committee. It had been referred to the judiciary and finance committees, but no hearing was scheduled.
Rep. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the House judiciary committee, said a final decision had not yet been made.
The same House committees scheduled a Thursday joint hearing on the Senate bill to legalize gay marriage, presuming it crosses over from the other chamber.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Opponents of gay marriage have rallied outside the Illinois Capitol a day after thousands of supporters rallied for the legislation.
The "Defend Marriage Lobby Day" began Wednesday with a morning prayer service outside the Capitol. Attendees clustered around a large wooden cross that had been placed at the Lincoln statue. Some participants carried pictures of the Holy Family - Jesus, Mary and Joseph - and posters emphasizing their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
The event included pastors who hope to influence moderate Republicans and socially conservative members of the House Black Caucus.
Same-sex marriage legislation passed the Illinois Senate in February, but gay activists say they're a few votes short in the House.