The governor of Delaware is confident that his state will legalise marriage equality in 2013.

Jack Markell, a Democrat, told the Huffington Post that work on legislation “probably will” start as soon as the next session.

He added: “I think it’s always important to have gubernatorial leadership, but the other thing it’s very helpful to have – the real hero of getting civil unions done [in the state] — was not me. The real hero and heroine were a couple of people who led a group called Equality Delaware.”

Delaware legalised civil unions for gay couples in 2011 but gay rights advocates want to see full marriage equality rights.

Mr Markell said: “The grassroots efforts can be so powerful. So there was a group of people – many of them gay or lesbian but many of them not – who lobbied the heck out of this and they did it all over the state.

“I think having that group of people who were willing to work very very hard with my support is what it will take.”