Supporters of gay marriage have shifted their core argument to emphasize love and family over equality and civil rights.

The Los Angeles Times credited the new tactic in helping three state legislatures approve gay marriage bills in February.

Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire, who championed and signed the state's legislation, told the paper that leaders need to ask themselves, “How would it feel to be a child of a gay couple?”

“How can we tell these children that their parents' love is seen as unequal under Washington law?”

A similar appeal was made by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who said in signing the state's bill into law that all Marylanders want their children to be “protected equally under the law.”

Maryland Delegate Wade Kach had a change of heart and voted in favor of the bill after listening to testimony from gay couples during a marathon 11-hour committee hearing.

“I saw with so many of the gay couples, they were so devoted to one another. I saw so much love,” said Kach. “When this hearing was over, I was a changed person in regards to this issue.”

Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) told the paper that supporters began to change their message in 2008, after passage of Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban.

The Third Way, a centrist Democrat group, late last year launched the Commitment Campaign, which emphasizes commitment over rights in the gay marriage debate.

“Americans in the middle place commitment at the heart of how they see marriage,” the group said in launching its campaign.

According to Third Way, research shows that people who think gay couples want to marry for reasons of love and commitment are more likely to be comfortable with marriage.