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California's gay marriage pioneers see progress elsewhere

California's legislators were gay-rights trailblazers when a majority passed the first same-sex marriage bill in the United States in 2005.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, and voters passed a ban on gay marriage with Proposition 8. Now gay activists in the Golden State find themselves looking East for fresh inspiration.

In a dizzying series of events, Iowa's Supreme Court and Vermont's legislature legalized gay marriage just this month.

Now New Hampshire and New York – with the Empire State governor's blessing last week – are considering their own state laws approving marriage for same-sex couples.

Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, said his group is hopeful that the Iowa decision will have an impact on public opinion in California, where the state's highest court must issue its second ruling on gay marriage rights by early June.

"Iowa is not thought of as, quote, a usual suspect. It's not Massachusetts. It's not the liberal Northeast," said Solomon, who fought for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Frank Schubert, the Sacramento-based campaign director for Proposition 8, said gay activists' national strategy seems to focus on organizing heavily in states that don't have ballot-measure procedures like California's that could allow voters to foil gay marriage laws or court decisions.

"The other side certainly picked up a few victories in recent weeks," he said.

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