Winning the battle | Local gay couples tie knot after long wait for equality

Anita Blanchard, left, and Diane McMullin prepare dinner in their Durango home. They say they have been married in their hearts for 21 years. They were finally able to sign legal paperwork Oct. 9 to make it official.

Anita Blanchard, left, and Diane McMullin prepare dinner in their Durango home. They say they have been married in their hearts for 21 years. They were finally able to sign legal paperwork Oct. 9 to make it official.

Marriage equality has been decades in the making for local same-sex couples, but when it came to Colorado in October, they met the news with surprise and excitement.

Chris Gonzalez, left, and Nancy Fritz, hold a marriage license they got in October at the La Plata County Clerk & Recorder’s Office.

Chris Gonzalez, left, and Nancy Fritz, hold a marriage license they got in October at the La Plata County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on same-sex marriage bans in five states Oct. 6, opening the door to gay marriage in Colorado.

Across the country, the scales seem to be tipping in favor of marriage equality. Same-sex marriage is legal in more than 30 states with judges striking down bans in Mississippi and Arkansas at the end of November.

In Texas, the county clerk for the San Antonio area said he was ready to start issuing licenses Wednesday, pending a decision by the judge for the western district of the state, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The national trend toward equality for gay couples is one locals appreciate.

“I think we’re winning the battle little by little,” said Patrick Valentine, who legally married his partner Oct. 8.

In May 2013, civil unions for same-sex couples became legal across Colorado.

“It was a step up, and it was good. It was not the same as getting married,” said Chris Gonzalez, who married her partner of 16 years in October.

Gonzalez and her wife, Nancy Fritz, went to the La Plata County Clerk & Recorder’s Office to get the paperwork for their marriage license Oct. 22. But when they entered the building, they got so excited at the prospect of finally being married that they signed the paperwork on the spot. It felt like a miracle, they said.

“We didn’t think we would ever see it,” Fritz said.

Durango residents Anita Blanchard and Diane McMullin said they have been married in their hearts for 21 years and signed the legal paperwork Oct. 9 to make it official in the eyes of the state. After decades of commitment, they were happy to have the same legal protections as straight couples.

“It has been a hard road when you look back on it,” McMullin said.

She realized that she was different as a child and later feared being kicked out of a rental home or losing her job because of her orientation.

It wasn’t until 1991, when she was in her early 50s, that she felt truly comfortable being open with everyone about her orientation.

“That’s a long time to hide something,” McMullin said.

The next year, she fought a state constitutional amendment, which would have prevented people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from claiming they were discriminated against, among other things.

Blanchard and McMullin said they were heartened when the amendment failed in La Plata County. The law passed statewide, but was later blocked by the courts.

They have long felt at home here. Even in the 1970s, Blanchard felt as though she had found allies in Durango.

Other local couples had very different personal journeys. Gonzalez and Fritz realized that they were gay after failed marriages.

For Gonzalez, it was simple.

“I would never marry a man again,” she said.

Fritz had an epiphany at a Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays meeting. She decided to go after her daughter came out as a lesbian. Sitting there seeing a loving lesbian couple, something changed within her.

Two years later, she met Gonzalez, and the connection seemed natural.

“We understand each other better because we’re both women,” she said.

Valentine, who has been with his husband, Lawrence Broadway, for 15 years, had a similar experience. Until he was 50, he tried to live what he thought was an upstanding heterosexual life and worked at a major corporation.

“There was no place to come out without being ostracized,” he said.

When he came out, he found life far more refreshing. Now, years later, he sees the country shifting toward enshrining full equality.

“It’s time for everyone to have a share at a piece of the happiness pie,” he said.

Source: The Durango Herald, “Winning the battle | Local gay couples tie knot after long wait for equality,” By Mary Shinn Herald staff writer, Article Last Updated: Monday, December 08, 2014 10:34pm

With Federal Court Ruling, Wisconsin’s Marriage Ban Becomes the Latest to Fall

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Today U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled against Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, making Wisconsin the twelfth state to see such a ban struck down in federal court since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage rulings last June.  In Wolf v. Walker, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP sued the state on behalf of four couples seeking to marry, arguing that the Wisconsin’s ban on marriage equality violates the couples’ due process and equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Recently Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker began distancing himself from the state’s marriage ban, saying he didn’t know if it violated the U.S. Constitution or if voters in his state would approve it today.  However, state attorney general J.B. Van Hollen filed a motion in court earlier this month asking the judge to stay her decision if she rules in favor of the plaintiffs.

“Where you live should never limit your ability to marry the person you love,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin.  “All across the country, from coast to coast and everywhere in between, judges are striking marriage discrimination from the books using the U.S. Constitution as their guide.  Because of the couples who brought this case, their attorneys with the ACLU and Mayer Brown LLP, and the hundreds of plaintiffs challenging marriage bans across the country, we as a nation are closer than ever before to full equality under the law.”

A May 2014 Marquette University Law School poll showed 55 percent of registered Wisconsin voters favor allowing same-sex couples to legally marry. Today’s ruling in Wisconsin coincides with the release of new poll results by the Washington Post and ABC News which show that 50 percent of Americans believe that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. Additionally, 56 percent of Americans and 77 percent of those under the age of thirty support marriage rights for same-sex couples.  Today’s results are the latest in an ever-expanding trend showing Americans moving inexorably in the direction of supporting equality for same-sex couples.

There are at least 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 states and Puerto Rico.  So far five federal appeals courts are presiding over 10 marriage equality cases over the coming weeks and months. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, no state marriage ban has survived a court challenge.

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.

Same-sex marriages officially begin in Illinois

Couples attend a beach-front marriage equality ceremony at the Kathy Osterman Beach in Chicago, Sunday, June 1, 2014. Dozens of people attended the event. June 1 marked the first day all of Illinois’ 102 counties could begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a piecemeal start where some county officials began granting licenses months ago following a federal court ruling. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

County clerks in the Metro East will open their doors this morning prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We are good to go,” said Madison County Clerk Debra D. Ming-Mendoza.

She and most of the clerks in Illinois’ 102 counties have had nearly seven months to prepare.

Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage when Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law last November.

But the action came with a caveat: The new law would go into effect June 1. Because the bill did not pass with a large enough majority in the House, it could not be implemented immediately.

That condition sparked a lawsuit by couples in Cook County, where a judge ruled in February that there was no reason to delay issuing marriage licenses. As a result, 15 other counties agreed not to wait, including St. Clair County, where 20 licenses have been issued.

County Clerk Tom Holbrook said he is not expecting a long line of same-sex couples this morning in Belleville. But the unknown is how many of the 200 couples who were issued civil union licenses since June 2011 will want to come in and convert them to marriage licenses, the first day they will be able to do so.

Ming-Mendoza said her office has reprogrammed its computers so that couples can convert their civil unions to marriages and changed marriage forms to give couples choices on how they want to be referred: bride and groom; bride and bride; groom and groom; or partner and partner.

The law officially went into effect on Sunday, and at least five counties were expected to open their offices to issue marriage licenses. But most counties, including Madison and Monroe, will begin today. Holbrook said there was no need to hold special hours in St. Clair County since his office has been issuing them for nearly three months.

Illinois joins 18 other states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing same-sex marriage. Ten years ago – May 17, 2004 — Massachusetts became the first state to begin marrying same-sex couples.

The shift in the political landscape surrounding same-sex marriage has been most pronounced in the past year.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, stating that the federal government must recognize legal marriages between those of same-sex couples. That decision stopped short of saying gay marriage should be legal in every state. However, in a separate ruling the same day, the high court cleared the way for same-sex marriages to continue in California, after a lengthy legal battle.

Since then, 14 federal judges have declared same-sex marriage bans illegal. While most of those decisions have been appealed, the judgments last month in Oregon and Pennsylvania were not.

Now, nearly 44 percent of Americans are living in states that offer same-sex marriage.

Throughout the country, there are 70 active lawsuits challenging same-sex marriage laws in 30 states, including one in Missouri.

On Feb. 12, a lawsuit was filed asking a circuit judge in Kansas City to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples in Missouri who were wed in other states and countries where the unions are legal. The suit filed by the ACLU of Missouri on behalf of eight couples is not asking the judge to declare unconstitutional the ban voters approved in 2004.

With suits filed in Montana and South Dakota last month, North Dakota stands alone as the only state with a ban that has not been challenged.

Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Missouri, said the next step in the Kansas City case comes Sept. 25, when a motion for summary judgment — a decision without a trial — will be heard. Since the suit was filed, two more gay couples have joined as plaintiffs, he said.

Of the 19 lawsuits that have been ruled on in the last year across the country, all have been in favor of those fighting the marriage bans.

“I certainly don’t want Missouri to be the case that goes the wrong way,” Rothert said. “I don’t think it will be.”

Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said that with so many cases working their way through the legal system, “ultimately the Supreme Court will finish the job. We think the country is ready for a nationwide ruling.”

And he thinks based on the growing support across the country for same-sex marriage, the decision will be one that his organization has been fighting for for years.

“As it is now, it makes no sense. You can live in Belleville and be legally married but commute to downtown St. Louis and be treated as legal strangers,” Solomon said. “The patchwork of laws is unsustainable, it’s wrong and it doesn’t make sense.”

Even those who have long fought to keep marriage between one woman and one man are conceding that marriage for same-sex couples will ultimately be recognized nationwide. Last week, Orrin Hatch, a longtime U.S. Senator from Utah, joined the ranks.

“Let’s face it: anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on,” Hatch said.

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, said those against it are finally realizing that “none of those doomsday scenarios are coming true. All that fear-mongering was just that.”

That said, 28 states still have constitutional bans and the results of a Washington Post/ABC News poll released in March show that 50 percent of Americans say the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection gives gays the right to marry, while 41 percent say it does not.

Source:  St. Louis Dispatch, “Same-sex marriages officially begin in Illinois,”

Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Ban on Gay Marriage

Continuing a rush of rulings that have struck down marriage limits across the country, a federal judge in Pennsylvania on Tuesday declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” wrote Judge John E. Jones III of Federal District Court in a decision posted on Tuesday afternoon.

Judge Jones, who is based in Harrisburg, Pa., was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002.

Judge Jones did not issue a stay, writing, “By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania is the last of the Northeast states with a ban on same-sex marriage. Gov. Tom Corbett did not immediately say whether he would ask the Federal Circuit Court in Philadelphia to delay enforcement pending an appeal, and gay rights advocates said they hoped that marriages would start as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Ashley Wilson, left, and Lindsay Vandermay, right, kiss after getting their marriage license on Tuesday. Credit Matt Slocum/Associated Press

 

Couples began rushing to obtain marriage licenses soon after the ruling was announced, according to media reports.

In the last several months, judges have struck down marriage limits in seven states: Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Idaho and, on Monday, Oregon. Courts in several more have said that states must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside their borders.

In most of the cases, courts have delayed implementation until appeals can be argued in federal circuit courts and, perhaps, the Supreme Court. But in Oregon, state officials said they would not appeal, and for now, Oregon becomes the 18th state, plus the District of Columbia, to authorize the marriage of gay and lesbian couples.

The lawsuit in Pennsylvania, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 11 couples, a widow and two teenage children of one couple, is one of more than 70 cases filed around the country since the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act last June.

“It’s kind of overwhelming, and wonderful at the same time,” said James D. Esseks, director of the union’s gay rights programs, who is involved in 11 marriage cases at once. Mr. Esseks said he expected decisions within the next few weeks on similar challenges in Wisconsin and Florida.

After the Pennsylvania case was filed last summer, state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, announced that she would not defend the restrictive marriage law, which was adopted by the legislature in 2006. Mr. Corbett, a Republican, hired private lawyers to argue on behalf of state officials named in the suit.

The state put forth arguments that have repeatedly been rejected by the courts. It argued that the legislature had chosen to protect traditional heterosexual marriage and that nothing in the Constitution established a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, which is not rooted in history and tradition.

The state also argued that a 1972 decision, Baker v. Nelson, in which the Supreme Court declined to review a challenge to a state gay-marriage ban, remains the guiding legal case and that last year’s ruling in Windsor v. United States, holding that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in the states, was actually an endorsement of states’ rights.

But a succession of federal judges, now including Judge Jones in Pennsylvania, have instead relied on the Supreme Court’s finding last year that same-sex marriage bans were fueled by animus and inflicted stigma on gay and lesbian families.

“The plaintiff couples have shared in life’s joys,” Judge Jones wrote in Tuesday’s decision, one of several in federal courts recently that have elicited soaring prose from the judges. But the couples have also shared financial, legal and personal hardships resulting from state discrimination, he went on to say.

He quoted one plaintiff, Deb Whitewood, who told the court: “It sends the message to our children that their family is less deserving of respect and support than other families. That’s a hurtful message.”

Judge Jones, in his ruling, said: “We now join the 12 federal district courts across the country, which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.”

 

Federal judge strikes down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage

Oregon state officials have said they’d be prepared to issue same-sex marriage licenses almost immediately; couples are lined up outside the county clerk’s office in Portland

EUGENE, Ore. — A federal judge on Monday struck down Oregon’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, saying it is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said the ban unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples and ordered the state not to enforce it. State officials earlier refused to defend the constitutional ban in court.

McShane joined judges in seven other states who have struck down gay marriage bans, though appeals are underway.

Oregon state officials have said they’d be prepared to carry out same-sex marriages almost immediately, and couples lined up outside the county clerk’s office in Portland in anticipation of the McShane’s decision.

Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom arrived early Monday at the Multnomah County Building to form the line for marriage licenses. The two have been a couple for 10 years. Engbloom proposed in April, when they celebrated their anniversary by climbing Smith Rock in Cen tral Oregon.

“We always knew we wanted to spend our whole life together,” Brown said. “This opportunity has come, it feels right, everything has fallen into place.”

Four gay and lesbian couples brought the Oregon cases, arguing the state’s marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against them and exclude them from a fundamental right to marriage.

Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum refused to defend the ban, saying there are no legal arguments that could support it in light of decisions last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. She sided with the couples, asking the judge to overturn the ban, and says she won’t appeal.

The judge denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the law on behalf of its Oregon members. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused the group’s request for an emergency stay of that decision, allowing same-sex marriages to proceed.

Gay rights groups previously said they’ve collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on gay marriage in November. But they said they would discard the signatures and drop their campaign if the court rules in their favor by May 23.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. It determined the law improperly deprived gay couples of due process.

In addition to Oregon, federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas recently have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

But opposition remains stiff in many places. Critics note most states still do not allow gay marriage and that in most of those that do, it was the work of courts or legislatures, not the will of the people.

Oregon law has long prohibited same-sex marriage, and voters added the ban to the state constitution in 2004. The decision, approved by 57 percent of voters, came months after Multnomah County briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Multnomah is the state’s largest county and includes Portland.

About 3,000 gay couples were allowed to marry before a judge halted the practice. The Oregon Supreme Court later invalidated the marriages.

Oregon joins the growing list of states where federal or state judges have ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional; among them: Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The decision is here.

Source:  LGBTQ Nation, “Federal judge strikes down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage,” by , May 19, 2014

Arkansas judge strikes down state’s ban on gay marriage

An Arkansas judge Friday invalidated the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Although marriage is not expressly identified as a fundamental right in the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized it as such,” Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled in striking down the 2004 amendment to the state’s constitution as well as a statute passed in 1997.

“This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality,” he wrote. “The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.”

Voters overwhelmingly supported changing the constitution to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Last week, state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, said he personally supported same-sex marriage but would defend the ban in court.

“We respect the Court’s decision, but, in keeping with the Attorney General’s obligation to defend the state constitution, we will appeal,” McDaniel’s spokesman, Aaron Sadler, said Friday after the ruling. “We will request that Judge Piazza issue a stay of his ruling so as not to create confusion or uncertainty about the law while the Supreme Court considers the matter.”

In several other cases nationwide, judges or courts have stayed rulings striking down marriage bans while appeals are working their way through the courts.

Piazza released his decision after county clerks offices had closed for the week. Without a stay, marriage license bureaus are expected to be jammed Monday.

Piazza’s 13-page ruling in Wright vs. Arkansas rests heavily on the landmark 1967 case Loving vs. Virginia, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that state’s ban on interracial marriage.

“It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters,” Piazza wrote. “We will be stronger for it.”

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Since then, federal judges in Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Texas have declared marriage bans unconstitutional. In addition, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee have been ordered to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The nation’s biggest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization praised Piazza’s ruling as a “historic victory for Arkansas values.”

“All across my home state, throughout the South, and around the country, LGBT people and their families are seeking basic respect and dignity,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign and an Arkansas native. “This victory is an essential step on the journey toward full equality for all.”

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to make same-sex marriages legal. Since then, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have followed suit, while 33 states restrict marriage to heterosexuals.

More than 70 lawsuits challenging marriage bans have been filed in 29 states and Puerto Rico, the Human Rights Campaign said. Only Alaska, Montana, and the Dakotas have not faced lawsuits.

Source: USA TODAY 8:14 p.m. EDT May 9, 2014 , by Michael Winter

Contributing: The Associated Press

UPDATE: May. 15, 2014 6:27 PM EDT, JUDGE STRIKES ALL ARKANSAS BANS ON GAY MARRIAGE

UPDATE: The Associated Press, “Judge strikes all Arkansas bans on gay marriage,” By ANDREW DeMILLO and CHRISTINA HUYNH, May. 15, 2014 6:27 PM EDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gay marriages quickly resumed in Arkansas on Thursday after a state judge whose previous order had sown confusion among county clerks expanded his ruling to remove all vestiges of same-sex marriage bans from the state’s laws.

Click on link above for full article.

 

Gay Rights Push Shifts Its Focus South and West

 "We can’t allow two distinct gay Americas to exist," said Tim Gill, a Colorado philanthropist. Credit Matthew Staver for The New York Times

“We can’t allow two distinct gay Americas to exist,” said Tim Gill, a Colorado philanthropist. Credit Matthew Staver for The New York Times

The country’s leading gay rights groups and donors, after a decade focused on legalizing same-sex marriage, are embarking on a major drive to win more basic civil rights and workplace protections in Southern and Western states where the rapid progress of the movement has largely eluded millions of gay men and lesbians.

The effort will shift tens of millions of dollars in the next few years to what advocates described as the final frontier for gay rights: states like Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas, where Republicans dominate elected office and traditional cultural views on homosexuality still prevail.

The new strategy reflects the growing worry within the movement that recent legal and political successes have formed two quickly diverging worlds for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Americans: one centered on the coasts and major cities, and another stretching across the South and up through the Rocky Mountains, in states where gays enjoy virtually no legal protections against discrimination.

 Chad H. Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, spoke about gay rights at Mississippi’s State Capitol last year. Credit Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Chad H. Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, spoke about gay rights at Mississippi’s State Capitol last year. Credit Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

“We can’t allow two distinct gay Americas to exist,” said Tim Gill, a Colorado philanthropist whose foundation is putting about $25 million into a handful of mostly conservative-leaning states over the next five years. “Everybody should have the same rights and protections regardless of where they were born and where they live.”

The push is likely to encounter resistance. Gay rights groups will be engaging in communities where churches and other religious institutions are tightly woven into daily life, and where efforts to expand civil rights protections to gays are sometimes viewed as an attack on people of faith.

“Mississippi has the highest church attendance per capita in the nation,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “People have strong convictions based on faith. It’s not an opinion. It is their understanding of religious truth. And they are not going to walk away from it just because it’s unpopular.”

The shift is in part a way for leaders of the gay rights movement to reckon with their sudden success in the battle over marriage. A decade ago, just one state, Massachusetts, allowed same-sex marriage. Today it is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

One early test of the new effort will come in Houston next month, when the mayor, Annise D. Parker, will seek to pass an ordinance forbidding businesses and city agencies to discriminate against residents based on sexual identity, race or gender.

“Texas doesn’t recognize gay marriage, and I don’t see that changing,” said Ms. Parker, the city’s first openly gay mayor. “But people being able to work and pay taxes — it’s a much easier discussion.”

In some states, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union and groups Mr. Gill helps fund plan to lobby for nondiscrimination ordinances in housing and employment and for legislation allowing gay parents to adopt. In other states, they are building new grass-roots organizations and pushing for the election of openly gay and lesbian officials where there are none.

In a nod to the dominant political culture in the South and West, the effort will rely heavily on outreach to Republicans and clergy, as well as to African-American civil rights organizations. Gay rights leaders are also quietly forging partnerships with major corporations based in Southern and Western cities, hoping to leverage their ties to Republican officials. That strategy proved successful last month in persuading Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona to veto a measure that would have allowed businesses there to deny services to lesbians and gay men on religious grounds.

Those involved in the planning described it as the biggest realignment of gay rights activism in a decade, one that will shift the movement’s focus into territory where there is almost no unified network of support and where gay people are more likely to hide who they are, making them more difficult to reach.

“The prevalence of the closet presents a challenge far greater than what we’ve seen in the other regions of the country,” said Chad H. Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which is opening up field offices in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas in an effort to build stronger ties to schools, religious institutions and political cultural leaders. “You risk being kicked out of your home. You risk discrimination on the job or being fired. You risk rejection at your place of religious celebration.”

 Carla Webb and Joce Pritchett, at home with their children in Jackson, Miss., joined the Human Rights Campaign's efforts. Credit James Patterson for The New York Times

Carla Webb and Joce Pritchett, at home with their children in Jackson, Miss., joined the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts. Credit James Patterson for The New York Times

Gay rights leaders are also worried that future court victories could leave gay men and lesbians in some states mired in a legal paradox: They might be free to marry but could still lose their jobs in the 29 states where it remains legal to fire employees for their sexual orientation.

In some of those places, gay and lesbian couples are more likely to be raising children than in places like New York or California, where same-sex-led families are less common.

The Human Rights Campaign, which is spending $8.5 million and hiring 20 people for its Project One America effort in the South, has conducted extensive research on the day-to-day experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in its three focus states. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed were in committed relationships. And a quarter of gay parents surveyed had no legal relationship to their children because of state prohibitions on gay adoption, including those helping their partners raise children from a previous heterosexual marriage.

Mindful of cultural differences, the Washington-based group is also seeking to adapt to the rural South as it cultivates ties to local church leaders, N.A.A.C.P. officials and educators. That includes holding meetings at local Waffle Houses — but not on Wednesday nights, when many people are in church.

Mr. Gill’s foundation and an affiliated political advocacy group, Gill Action Fund, will engage first in states like Missouri and Texas, underwriting polling, research and lobbying costs and recruiting donors for existing state organizations. Next month, at an annual conference called OutGiving, which draws hundreds of the country’s leading gay donors, Mr. Gill will call on other donors to join the effort. He has invested more than $300 million of his own fortune on gay rights causes.

Other gay rights organizations are also moving to expand their footprint in the South. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports lesbian and gay candidates for public office, is focusing on states like Idaho and Mississippi, which have no openly gay elected officials at any level, and those like Michigan, which have none in their state legislatures.

The A.C.L.U. has intensified efforts in legislatures across the South and in other states where conservative lawmakers are pushing “religious liberty” legislation to exempt businesses from some anti-discrimination rules. The group and other civil rights organizations persuaded lawmakers in Mississippi to strip some provisions from one such bill last month.

In many ways, the playbook for this effort was written in Colorado, where Mr. Gill, a Denver software mogul, set up his foundation two decades ago.

At the time, the state was dominated by Republicans, the home base of prominent evangelical and conservative groups like Focus on the Family. Mr. Gill and other advocates poured millions of dollars into educational initiatives and liberal nonprofit groups, splitting social conservatives from the state’s business establishment and working to elect pro-gay rights lawmakers.

Today, Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office. Discrimination based on sexual orientation was outlawed in 2008, and lawmakers approved civil unions in 2013. Mr. Gill’s organization and other groups are now pushing for full marriage rights for gays.

Mr. Gill, who usually shuns interviews, said he was speaking out now to try to persuade others to join the less glamorous state-level advocacy, before a presidential election begins to consume a lot of activists’ time and money.

“I want them to look at the other 29 states where nothing has happened,” Mr. Gill said. “I want them to say, ‘How can we fix this?’ ”