2010 election results likely to produce sharp divergence in state laws
As the map below shows, most of the state legislative sessions starting this month will be tough sledding for lgbt and abortion rights advocates. The red states in the map are those with Republicans in control of the governorship plus both chambers of the state legislature; the blue states have Democratic control of all three; and the purple states are divided (I have included Nebraska's non-partisan legislature here). Not much blue.
A couple of the blue states (Arkansas and West Virginia) seem anomalous: apparently the 1950's version of conservative southern Democratic control lives on in a few spots. But in several blue states - California and Maryland, for example - the Democratic dominance of state government increased with the 2010 election, notwithstanding the overall Republican tide.
Most of the true blue states already have strong protections against discrimination, and those laws are likely to become even more progressive. Examples include half a dozen states poised to take the next step in terms of lgbt rights protections: there will be major efforts to enact marriage equality in Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington; civil unions in Hawaii; and anti-discrimination protection for gender identity in Massachusetts.
Below is a different map, in which states that currently have an anti-discrimination law or relationship recognition are left blank (white). This map highlights where there is or should be potential to upgrade state laws so that there is a basic level of protection for lgbt people. However, in important swing states where at least an employment law should be an achievable goal - Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania - there is a solid red wall. The same wall extends to large states that should be targets for job protection laws in five years: Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia.
Montana is an exception to the pattern, in that it is a totally blue, non-southern state that does not have either an anti-discrimination law covering lgbt people or a mechanism for recognition of gay relationships. The ACLU has a lawsuit pending there which seeks relationship recognition, and perhaps the state will move legislatively toward job protection. There are a few other anomalies not apparent from the map, such as New York, which has one chamber under Republican control, but may be poised to enact an equal marriage law despite that.
For the most part, though, the maps illustrate that at least for the next few years, advances in lgbt rights are likely to continue...in the states that already have the best laws. And there is likely to be virtually no forward movement in the rest of the nation. On this set of issues, the red/blue split in legal and political geography is going to get much sharper.