It's not even Valentine's Day and legislators across America are talking about gay love, literally.

Common wisdom would suggest that after losing gay marriage fights in three states on November 4 lawmakers would shy away from the subject. In fact, the opposite is true. This year more states will discuss marriage equality, not merely defending “traditional” marriage, than ever before. Many are stressing the need for more dollars in a weak economy. Gay weddings have created a new economic sector in Massachusetts. The shrinking number of Republican lawmakers might also be contributing to the trend.

In the six state New England region, where two states – Connecticut and Massachusetts – already offer gay marriage, legislators are discussing granting marriage for gay and lesbian couples in earnest.

Lawmakers in four states – Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire – will be reviewing gay marriage bills throughout the legislative session.

Activists in Vermont seem fairly confident their state is about to turn rainbow colored. Vermont was the first state to offer gay and lesbian couples civil unions in 2000.

Beth Robinson, chairwoman of Vermont Freedom To Marry, believes the likelihood of the gay marriage bill being introduced next week passing is “very high.”

In New Jersey, another state that currently offers civil unions, momentum for full marriage is at full steam.

The state's governor, John Corzine (D), is on board with extending marriage from civil unions.

“The chances are strong,” Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality told The Washington Blade.

If enacted, New Jersey would become the first state to legislatively provide gay marriage, rather than by court order. California nearly became that state when lawmakers twice approved a gay marriage bill, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who now says he supports gay marriage, vetoed the legislation.

“It will happen this year,” Goldstein said.

Also likely to happen is gay marriage by another name in Washington state. The state currently bans gay marriage in its constitution, but a 2007 approved domestic partnership law is being expanded to include all the remaining areas currently only granted to heterosexual married couples.

The bill is being sponsored by openly gay Senator Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who sponsored the state's domestic partnership law in 2007, while openly gay Rep. Jamie Pederson (D-Seattle) is sponsoring the measure in the House.

Public hearings on the so-called “everything but marriage” bill started this week. Its sponsors say they have strong support for the bill with 20 senators and 60 representatives already signed on.

Gay marriage faces a less certain fate in New York where it was feared that the leadership had traded away a gay marriage bill for the political support of three prominent senators.

Senator Pedro Espada Jr, Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, and Senator Carl Krugen of Brooklyn each were threatening to leave the Democratic party if Senator Malcolm A. Smith, who has promised to bring a gay marriage bill to a vote, would be made leader of the chamber.

Diaz made it abundantly clear that he could not vote for gay-affirming leadership.

In the end, Smith wrestled into control, and the state's governor, David Paterson (D), has pledged to sign a gay marriage bill. But the senate leadership fight suggests that passing a gay marriage bill will require a great amount of political capital. Political capital Smith may no longer possess.

In two states – California and Iowa – gay marriage may be decided by court order.

Gay activists have asked the California Supreme Court to invalidate a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a heterosexual union. Voters in the state approved Proposition 8 on November 4 by 52%. The measure yanked back a May Supreme Court decision granting gays and lesbians the right to marry in the state.

The state's attorney general, Jerry Brown, agrees with gay marriage proponents. In his filing to the court, he said the amendment should be thrown out because it repeals previously constitutionally protected rights.

Arguments in the case will be heard in March and a decision is expected by summer.

In Iowa, the state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of limiting marriage to heterosexual partners.

On August 31, 2007 an Iowa District Court judge ruled the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. A pair of Iowa State University undergraduates, Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan, quickly found a judge and married before the state Supreme Court issued a stay on the lower court's decision.

Lawmakers in Hawaii will also review the details of gay and lesbian nuptials. A hearing on a bill that would permit gay civil unions is scheduled for today. House Bill 444 is being sponsored by Democratic House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro.

The Hawaii Supreme Court was the first to rule laws limiting marriage to heterosexual unions were unconstitutional in 1993, but the court issued a stay in the matter. By 1998, voters had passed by a large majority (70%) a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (The Hawaii ruling also prompted passage of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.)

Hawaii activists believe the bill will sail through the House, but might run into turbulence in the Senate.

New Mexico Senator Cisco McSorley (D) is sponsoring a domestic partnership bill that would extend marriage-like benefits to gay and lesbian couples.

New Mexico falls in the small category of states that have not acted for or against gay marriage. The state has come close to passing a domestic partner law in the past and the state's governor, Bill Richardson (D), has promised to sign it.

“This has been before the Legislature before and has almost passed,” Dan Tapper, a member the Las Cruces chapter of the gay-affirming group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), told a group of gay marriage backers in Las Cruces. “Hopefully, with a slight change in the composition of our delegation, we might be able to have it passed.”

Finally, Utah will consider gay unions as part of a so-called Common Ground Initiative. Equality Utah, the state's largest gay rights advocacy group, enlisted the support of two openly gay Utah legislators to introduce five bills to the state Legislature. Three bills would bring greater equality to gays and lesbians in the areas of hospitalization, medical care, housing, employment and probate rights.

And a pair of bills would create a domestic partner registry for gay and lesbian couples by repealing a part of Utah's constitutional marriage amendment.

A recent Salt Lake Tribune poll, however, suggest that the domestic partnership bill might be in trouble. The poll found a large majority (70%) of Utah voters oppose any changes to the Utah Constitution that would allow gay civil unions.