How We Got Here: A Timeline of Gay Marriage Rights in America
by Ian Carlino
After a fierce public battle and an “almost” moment in 2009, same-sex marriage is legal in New York. Most other states are experiencing or have experienced similar ups and downs related to marriage equality.
Hawaii Supreme Court orders lower court to hear a same-sex marriage rights case, ruling the state must show a compelling reason to ban same-sex marriage.
Utah isn’t required to recognize out-of-state marriages that violate public policy, according to the nation’s first state Defense of Marriage law, signed by Governor Mike Leavitt.
President Bill Clinton signs into law the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). States retain the right to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed out-of-state.
Hawaii voters tell the state legislature, through an approved state constitutional amendment, that only it has the right to define marriage.
Alaska voters approve a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Vermont becomes the first state to legally recognize same-sex couples, after Governor Howard Dean signs a civil union bill.
Nebraska voters approve a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Nevada voters, after a two-year wait for a majority vote in two consecutive election years, approve a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest, rules the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples equal marriage rights.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, in a short-lived move, authorizes city officials to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses. A few other areas, including New Paltz, New York, and Multnomah County, Oregon, begin officiating same-sex marriages and issuing licenses. One month later, the California Supreme Court orders San Francisco to stop marrying same-sex couples.
President George W. Bush announces support for a federal same-sex marriage ban.
Massachusetts legislature votes to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages but allow civil unions. Before voters can approve or deny the measure, the legislature must pass it again by 2006. Two months later, Massachusetts begins marrying same-sex couples.
Voters in 13 states—Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah—approve state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
Kansas voters approve a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Oregon Supreme Court nullifies nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in violation of state law in 2004.
Governor M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut authorizes civil unions for same-sex couples, effective later that year.
Federal judge strikes down Nebraska state constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples marriage rights.
Massachusetts legislature defeats state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but allow civil unions.
Texas voters approve a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in upholding a 1913 state law, that out-of-state couples may not marry in Massachusetts if the marriage is illegal in their home state.
Alabama voters approve a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
New York Court of Appeals rules the state constitution does not guarantee same-sex couples equal marriage rights. Washington state issues similar ruling later that month.
Connecticut judge rules a same-sex marriage ban is constitutional under “separate but equal” reasoning.
Voters in seven states—Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin—approve state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
Arizona rejects a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and other benefits for unmarried couples.
New Jersey Governor John Corzine signs a bill legalizing civil unions with equal benefits for same-sex couples.
Massachusetts lawmakers uphold the state’s same-sex marriage law, preventing a state constitutional ban for at least five years.
California Supreme Court rules 4-3 that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.
New York Governor David Paterson tells state agencies to recognize legally performed same-sex marriages from other states. In-state same-sex marriages are still not allowed.
Connecticut Supreme Court rejects “separate but equal” reasoning, giving same-sex couples the right to marry in a 4-3 decision.
After a heated debate and extensive court involvement, California voters pass Proposition 8, a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Arizona and Florida pass amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
12 legally married same-sex spouses file a suit against the federal government and DOMA.
Iowa Supreme Court overturns a ban on same-sex marriage, citing California court’s 2008 ruling.
Vermont legislature votes to legalize same-sex marriage. This is the first time a state legislature, rather than a court, has done so.
Maine becomes the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8, but also rules that same-sex couples who married before the 2008 election would still be married under state law.
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signs a bill legalizing same-sex marriage that will take effect Jan. 1, 2010. States that allow same-sex marriage are now: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and Iowa, with New Hampshire ready to go.
Maine voters reject the state’s same-sex marriage law.
New York state senators reject legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage.
US District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker strikes down Proposition 8 in California, saying same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Illinois will, effective June 1, recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.
The Obama administration announces it will no longer defend DOMA in legal challenges.
The federal Respect for Marriage Act is introduced in the House and Senate. It would repeal DOMA.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs a bill that gives same-sex couples the right to marry. The state is the sixth, and most populous, to allow same-sex marriage.
The future of DOMA—the largest roadblock to legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states and federally—looks shaky.
Reuters recently reported that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, on Tuesday, July 26, filed papers in a Manhattan US federal court challenging DOMA. He stated that it violates same-sex couples’ rights to equal protection.
Concurrently, federal bills with similar goals are wading through Senate and House subcommittees. The “Respect for Marriage Act” would repeal DOMA and would recognize the marriage of any same-sex couple.
Schneiderman’s argument is in the context of the case of Edie Windsor. Windsor married her partner in Canada, and when the partner died, Windsor had to pay $350,000 in inheritance tax, even though the federal government didn’t recognize her marriage, Reuters said.
With DOMA out of the way, many more states could legalize same-sex marriage.
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