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Same-sex marriage in the United States

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Same-sex marriage in the United States was initially established on a state-by-state basis, expanding from 1 state in 2004 to 36 states in 2015, when, on June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was established in all 50 states as a result of the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which it was held that the right of same-sex couples to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, is guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[1]

Civil rights campaigning in favor of marriage without distinction as to sex or sexual orientation began in the 1970s.[2] In 1972, the now overturned Baker v. Nelson saw the U.S. Supreme Court decline to become involved.[3] The issue became prominent from around 1993, when the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled in Baehr v. Lewin that the state's abridgment of marriage on the basis of sex was unconstitutional. The ruling led to federal actions and actions by several states to explicitly abridge marriage on the basis of sex in order to prevent the marriages of same-sex couples from being recognized, the most prominent of which was DOMA. In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that it is unconstitutional for the state to abridge marriage on the basis of sex. From 2004 to 2015, as the tide of public opinion continued to move forward towards support of same-sex marriage, various state court rulings, state legislation, popular referendums, and federal court rulings established same-sex marriage in 36 states. In 2011, national public support for same-sex marriage rose above 50% for the first time.[4] In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision of DOMA, declaring part of it unconstitutional and in breach of the Fifth Amendment in United States v. Windsor. The ruling led to the Federal Government's recognition of same-sex marriage, with federal benefits for married couples connected to either the state of residence or the state in which the marriage was solemnized. However, the ruling focused on the provision of DOMA responsible for the Federal Government refusing to acknowledge state-sanctioned same-sex marriages, leaving the question of state marriage laws itself to the individual states. The U.S. Supreme Court addressed that question two years later in 2015, ruling, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that the right of same-sex couples to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

The most prominent supporters of same-sex marriage are human rights and civil rights organizations as well as the medical and scientific communities, while the most prominent opponents are religious groups. The ruling of the Supreme Court in Obergefell occurred following decades of consistently rising national public support for same-sex marriage in the United States, with support continuing to rise thereafter.

The establishment of same-sex marriage is associated with a significant reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among children, with the effect being concentrated among children of a minority sexual orientation. A study of nationwide data from across the United States from January 1999 to December 2015 revealed that the rate of attempted suicide among all schoolchildren in grades 9 to 12 declined by 7% and the rate of attempted suicide among schoolchildren of a minority sexual orientation in grades 9 to 12 declined by 14% in states which established same-sex marriage, resulting in approximately 134,000 fewer children attempting suicide each year in the United States. The researchers took advantage of the gradual manner in which same-sex marriage was established in the United States (expanding from 1 state in 2004 to all 50 states in 2015) to compare the rate of attempted suicide among children in each state over the time period studied. Once same-sex marriage was established in a particular state, the reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among children in that state became permanent. No reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among children occurred in a particular state until that state recognized same-sex marriage. The lead researcher of the study observed that "laws that have the greatest impact on gay adults may make gay kids feel more hopeful for the future".[5][6][7][8][9]

The United States of America is the most populous country in the world to have established same-sex marriage nationwide.


Two men celebrate their marriage in the United States.

Civil rights campaigning in favor of marriage without distinction as to sex or sexual orientation began in the 1970s.[3] In the 1971 case Baker v. Nelson, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples did not violate the U.S. Constitution. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court denied to hear the case, establishing it as a federal precedent as it came from a mandatory appellate review. The issue did not become prominent in U.S. politics until the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision in Baehr v. Lewin that declared that state's prohibition to be unconstitutional.[10]

During the 21st century, while several countries elsewhere in the world were reforming marriage to be an institution without distinction as to sex or sexual orientation, public support in the U.S. for same-sex marriage has grown considerably,[11][12] and national polls conducted since 2011 show that a majority of Americans support establishing it. However at the same time, many states also passed bans against same-sex marriage, either legislatively or by referendum.[13] On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize same-sex marriage following the Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health six months earlier.[14] On May 9, 2012, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to publicly declare support for the legalization of same-sex marriage.[15] On November 6, 2012, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that federal law could not treat as unequal, marriages that individual states had created as equally valid, when it overturned a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus forcing federal recognition of same-sex marriage and marriage-related benefits when related to a same-sex marriage performed by a state that sanctioned such marriages. In the two years following Windsor, U.S. district courts in 27 states[a] and state courts in six states,[b] plus one state court ruling addressing only the recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions,[c] found that same-sex marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution, while two U.S. district courts[d] and one state court[e] found that they did not. The flow of federal appeal cases rejecting same-sex marriage bans was finally interrupted in November 2014. In contrast to all other circuits that had ruled at the time, the Sixth Circuit ruled such bans to be constitutional. The panel ruling reversed six U.S. district court rulings that had found bans on same-sex marriage or its recognition to be unconstitutional, reinstating State bans in the four states served by that circuit (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee).[f][50]

The crowd assembled in front of the Supreme Court shortly before same-sex marriage bans were struck down nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges.

On January 16, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear four cases, on appeal from the Sixth Circuit, on whether states may constitutionally ban same-sex marriages or refuse to recognize such marriages legally performed in another state. The cases were: Obergefell v. Hodges (Ohio), Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee), DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan), and Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky). Decided by the court under the heading of Obergefell on June 26, 2015, in a judgement authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit's upholding of state bans and declared that the Court's rulings must evolve in the light of better understanding of discrimination and the constitutional protections available to protect individuals of a minority sexual orientation, and that same-sex couples have the constitutional rights to marry and to have their marriages recognized.[51] Obergefell therefore overturned the Court's own prior ruling in Baker.

Public opinion[edit]

A CNN poll conducted on February 19, 2015 found that 63% of Americans believed gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, up from 49% in August 2010.[52] A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted from April 16 to 20, 2015 found that 61% of Americans supported allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.[53]

A Washington Post-ABC News poll from February–March 2014 found a record high of 59% of Americans approved of same-sex marriage, with only 34% opposed and 7% with no opinion.[54] In May 2013, a Gallup poll showed that 53% of Americans would vote to establish same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Three previous readings over the course of a year consistently showed support at 50% or above. Gallup noted: "Just three years ago, support for gay marriage was 44%. The current 53% level of support is essentially double the 27% in Gallup's initial measurement on gay marriage, in 1996."[55]

By 2011-2013, public support for same-sex marriage in the United States had solidified above 50%.[56][57][58] Public support for same-sex marriage has grown at an increasing pace since the 1990s.[11] In 1996, just 25% of Americans supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. Polls have shown that support is identical among whites and Hispanics, while support for same-sex marriage trails among blacks.[59] Polling trends in 2010 and 2011 showed support for same-sex marriage gaining a majority, although the difference is within the error limit of the analysis.[60] On May 20, 2011, Gallup reported majority support for same-sex marriage for the first time in the country.[61] In June 2011, two prominent polling organizations released an analysis of the changing trend in public opinion about same-sex marriage in the United States, concluding that "public support for the freedom to marry has increased, at an accelerating rate, with most polls showing that a majority of Americans now support full marriage rights for all Americans."[62]

In 2017, according to a Public Religion Research Institute state-by-state poll, there was majority support for same-sex marriage in 44 states, plurality support in 4 states, plurality opposition in 1 state, and majority opposition in 1 state.[63]

Continual polling by Gallup has shown that support for same-sex marriage has grown rapidly, while opposition has collapsed. In 1996, 68% of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, while only 27% supported. In 2018, 67% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while only 31% opposed.[64]



2011 protest in New Jersey by Garden State Equality in support of same-sex marriage and against deportation of LGBT spouses.

Same-sex marriage supporters make several arguments in support of their position. Gail Mathabane likens prohibitions on same-sex marriage to past U.S. prohibitions on interracial marriage.[65] Fernando Espuelas argues that same-sex marriage should be allowed because same-sex marriage extends a civil right to a minority.[66] According to an American history scholar, Nancy Cott, who rejects alternatives to same-sex marriage (such as civil unions), "there really is no comparison, because there is nothing that is like marriage except marriage."[67]

In the United States, professional organizations including the American Anthropological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Nursing, and the National Association of Social Workers have said that claims that the legal recognition of marriage for same–sex couples undermines the institution of marriage and harms children are inconsistent with the scientific evidence supporting the conclusions: that homosexuality is a natural and normal human sexuality; that sexual orientation cannot be chosen or influenced; that gay people form stable and committed relationships essentially equivalent to the relationships of heterosexuals; that same-sex parents are no less capable than opposite-sex parents to raise children; that no civilization or viable social order depends on restricting marriage to heterosexuals; and that the children of same-sex couples fare just as well or even better than the children of opposite-sex couples.[68][69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77][78][79][80]

Mildred Loving, the joint plaintiff along with Richard Loving in the landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967, which struck down all state bans on interracial marriage in the United States, issued a statement on the 40th anniversary of ruling in 2007 that said:

I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry ... I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.[81][82]

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights organization in the United States, states that "many same-sex couples want the right to legally marry because they are in love — many, in fact, have spent the last 10, 20 or 50 years with that person — and they want to honor their relationship in the greatest way our society has to offer, by making a public commitment to stand together in good times and bad, through all the joys and challenges family life brings."[83]

The NAACP, the veteran African-American civil rights organization, has pledged its support for gay rights and same-sex marriage, stating that they "support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution".[84]

Role of social media[edit]

Supporters of the legalization of same-sex marriage have successfully used social media websites such as Facebook to help achieve that goal.[85][86][87] Some have argued that the successful use of social media websites by LGBT groups has played a key role in the defeat of religion-based opposition.[88]

One of the largest scale uses of social media to mobilize support for same-sex marriage preceded and coincided with the arrival at the U.S. Supreme Court of high-profile legal cases for Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act in March 2013. The "red equals sign" project started by the Human Rights Campaign was an electronic campaign primarily based on Facebook that encouraged users to change their profile images to a red equal sign to express support for same-sex marriage.[89] At the time of the court hearings, it was estimated that approximately 2.5 million Facebook users changed their profile images to a red equals sign.[90]


Rally for Prop. 8 in Fresno, California (October 2008).

Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the beliefs that homosexuality is unnatural and abnormal, that the recognition of same-sex unions will promote homosexuality in society, and that children are better off when raised by opposite-sex couples.[91] These claims are countered by science which shows that homosexuality is a natural and normal human sexuality, that sexual orientation cannot be chosen or influenced, and that the children of same-sex couples fare just as well or even better than the children of opposite-sex couples.[68][69][70][71][92][73][93][75][76][77][94][79][95]

The most prominent opponents of same-sex marriage in the United States have been The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church (represented by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Organization for Marriage.

The funding of the amendment referendum campaigns has been an issue of great dispute. Both judges[96][97] and the IRS[98] have ruled that it is either questionable or illegal for campaign contributions to be shielded by anonymity.

Politicians and media figures[edit]

President Barack Obama interviewed by Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2012.

President Obama's views on same-sex marriage have varied over the course of his political career and become more consistently supportive of same-sex marriage rights over time. In the 1990s, he had supported same-sex marriage while campaigning for the Illinois Senate.[99][100] During the 2008 presidential campaign, he said: "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it is a sacred union. You know, God is in the mix."[101] He opposed the 2008 California referendum that aimed at reversing a court ruling establishing same-sex marriage there.[102] In 2009, he opposed two opposing federal legislative proposals that would have banned or established same-sex marriage nationally, stating that each state had to decide the issue.[103][104] In December 2010, he expressed support for civil unions with rights equivalent to marriage and for federal recognition of same-sex relationships. He opposed a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.[105] He also stated that his position on same-sex marriage was "evolving" and that he recognized that civil unions from the perspective of same-sex couples was "not enough".[106] On May 9, 2012, President Obama became the first sitting president to say he believed that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. He still said the legal question belonged to the states.[15][107] In October 2014, Obama told an interviewer that his view had changed:[108]

Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states. But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that's pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.

Shortly after winning the 2016 election, President Donald Trump said he's "fine" with same-sex marriage and believes it to be settled law: "It's law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean, it's done."[109] This somewhat contrasted with a previous statement he made in June 2015, after Obergefell v. Hodges, in which he said he's personally for "traditional marriage" and that he believed same-sex marriage should be left to the states.[110] In that same statement, however, Trump admitted that overturning Obergefell is not realistic. Several of his federal appointments have also, subsequently, announced they will uphold same-sex marriage and enforce the Supreme Court ruling, while still, in some cases, personally opposing same-sex marriage,[111] namely Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.[112]

Former presidents Bill Clinton,[113] Jimmy Carter[114] and Barack Obama, former vice presidents Dick Cheney,[115] Al Gore,[116] Walter Mondale,[117] and Joe Biden have voiced their support for legal recognition, as have former first ladies Laura Bush,[118] Hillary Clinton,[119] Michelle Obama[120] and Nancy Reagan.[121] Former President George H. W. Bush and his wife former First Lady Barbara Bush have served as witnesses to a same-sex wedding, but neither has publicly stated whether this means they support same-sex marriage in general;[122] George W. Bush reportedly offered to officiate the same wedding,[123] but has similarly not made a public statement regarding his position on the issue (as president, he was opposed). Fifteen U.S. senators announced their support in the spring of 2013.[124] By April 2013, a majority of the Senate had expressed support for same-sex marriage.[125] Senator Rob Portman of Ohio became the first sitting Republican senator to endorse same-sex marriage in March 2013,[126] followed by Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois in April,[127] Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in June,[128] and Susan Collins of Maine a year later.[129]

During the 2008 presidential election campaign, Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin stated: "I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage."[130]

When a U.S. district court invalidated the California referendum that ended same-sex marriages there in 2008, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said it showed "an outrageous disrespect for our Constitution and for the majority of people of the United States who believe marriage is the union of husband and wife".[131] By the end of 2012, Gingrich was prepared to accept civil—but not religious—same-sex marriages and encouraged the Republican Party to accept the fact of same-sex marriage was certain to become legal in more and more states.[132]

In an interview on The O'Reilly Factor in August 2010, when Glenn Beck was asked if he "believe(s) that gay marriage is a threat to [this] country in any way", he stated, "No I don't. ... I believe that Thomas Jefferson said: 'If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket what difference is it to me?'"[133][134]

Before Obergefell[edit]

State laws regarding same-sex marriage in the United States prior to Obergefell v. Hodges1
  Same-sex marriage legal
  Same-sex marriage ban overturned, decision stayed indefinitely
  Same-sex marriage banned where federal circuit court has found similar bans unconstitutional
  Same-sex marriage banned
  Same-sex marriage legality complicated

1 Native American tribal jurisdictions have laws pertaining to same-sex marriage independent of state law. The federal government recognizes same-sex marriages, regardless of the current state of residence.

Prior to Obergefell, same-sex marriage was legal to at least some degree in thirty-eight states, one territory (Guam) and the District of Columbia; of the states, Missouri, Kansas, and Alabama had restrictions. Until United States v. Windsor, it was only legal in 12 states and Washington D.C.. Beginning in July 2013, over forty federal and state courts cited Windsor to strike down state bans on the licensing or recognition of same-sex marriage. Missouri recognized same-sex marriages from out of state and same-sex marriages licensed by the City of St. Louis under two separate state court orders; two other jurisdictions issued such licenses as well. In Kansas, marriage licenses were available to same-sex couples in most counties, but the state did not recognize their validity. Some counties in Alabama issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples for three weeks until the state Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop doing so. That court's ruling did not address the recognition of same-sex marriages already licensed in Alabama, but referred to them as "purported 'marriage licenses'".[135] In two additional states, same-sex marriages were previously legal between the time their bans were struck down and then stayed. Michigan recognized the validity of more than 300 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples and those marriages. Arkansas recognized the more than 500 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples there,[136] and the Federal Government had not taken a position on Arkansas's marriage licenses.

Legal issues[edit]

The legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the United States are determined by the nation's federal system of government, in which the status of a person, including marital status, is determined in large measure by the individual states. Prior to 1996, the Federal Government did not define marriage; any marriage recognized by a state was recognized by the Federal Government, even if that marriage was not recognized by one or more states, as was the case until 1967 with interracial marriage, which some states banned by statute.

Civil same-sex marriage ceremony being performed in San Francisco City Hall in June 2008.

Prior to 2004, same-sex marriage was not performed in any U.S. jurisdiction. It was subsequently legalized in different jurisdictions through legislation, court rulings,[137] tribal council rulings,[138] and popular vote in referenda.[139][140][141]

The Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell renders moot any remaining legal challenges, as it specifically orders states to both issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and to recognize as valid marriages performed in other states.[142]

Federal law[edit]

According to the Federal Government's Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2004, more than 1,138 rights and protections are conferred to U.S. citizens upon marriage by the Federal Government; areas affected include Social Security benefits, veterans' benefits, health insurance, Medicaid, hospital visitation, estate taxes, retirement savings, pensions, family leave, and immigration law.[143]

Since July 9, 2015, married same-sex couples throughout the United States have equal access to all the federal benefits that married opposite-sex couples have.[144]

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted in 1996. DOMA's Section 2 says that no state needs to recognize the legal validity of a same-sex relationship even if recognized as marriage by another state. It purports to relieve a state of its reciprocal obligation to honor the laws of other states as required by the Constitution's full faith and credit clause.[145] Even before DOMA, however, states sometimes refused to recognize a marriage from another jurisdiction if it was counter to its "strongly held public policies".[146] Most lawsuits that seek to require a state to recognize a marriage established in another jurisdiction argue on the basis of equal protection and due process, not the full faith and credit clause.[g]

DOMA's Section 3 defined marriage for the purposes of federal law as a union of one man and one woman.[149] It was challenged in the federal courts. On July 8, 2010, Judge Joseph Tauro of the District Court of Massachusetts held that the denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully married Massachusetts same-sex couples is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.[150] Beginning in 2010, eight federal courts found DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional in cases involving bankruptcy, public employee benefits, estate taxes, and immigration.[151][152][153] On October 18, 2012, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals became the first court to hold sexual orientation to be a quasi-suspect classification and applied intermediate scrutiny to strike down Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional in Windsor v. United States.[154] The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor on June 26, 2013, that Section 3 violated the Fifth Amendment.[155][h]

As a result of the Windsor decision, married same-sex couples—regardless of domicile—have federal tax benefits (including the ability to file joint federal income tax returns), military benefits, federal employment benefits, and immigration benefits.[156][157][158][159] In February 2014, the Justice Department expanded federal recognition of same-sex marriages to include bankruptcies, prison visits, survivor benefits and refusing to testify against a spouse.[160] Likewise in June 2014, family medical leave benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act 1975 were extended to married same-sex couples.[161] With respect to social security and veterans benefits, same-sex married couples are eligible for full benefits from the Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Prior to the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, the VA and SSA could provide only limited benefits to married same-sex couples living in states where same-sex marriage was not legal.[162][163] Effective March 27, 2015, the definition of spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993[164] includes employees in a same-sex marriage regardless of state of residence.[165] Following the Obergefell decision, the Justice Department extended all federal marriage benefits to married same-sex couples nationwide.[144]

The Federal Government recognizes the marriages of same-sex couples who married in certain states in which same-sex marriage was legal for brief periods between the time a court order allowed such couples to marry and that court order was stayed, including Michigan. The Federal Government also recognized marriages performed in Utah from December 20, 2013 to January 6, 2014, even while the state didn't. Under similar circumstances, the Federal Government never took a position on Indiana or Wisconsin's marriages performed in brief periods, though it did recognize them once the respective states announced they would do so. It had not taken a position with respect to similar marriages in Arkansas[166] prior to the Obergefell decision legalizing and recognizing same-sex marriages in all 50 states.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have worked to prevent individual states from recognizing same-sex unions by attempting to amend the United States Constitution to restrict marriage to heterosexual unions. In 2006, the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have prohibited states from recognizing same-sex marriages, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote and was debated by the full Senate, but was ultimately defeated in both houses of Congress.[167] On April 2, 2014, the Alabama State House adopted a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to propose an amendment to ban same-sex marriage nationwide.[168]

State and territorial recognition[edit]

Same-sex marriages are licensed in and recognized by all U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as well as all U.S. territories except American Samoa.[169] On July 3, 2015, the Attorney General for American Samoa stated "we are reviewing the opinion [Obergefell v. Hodges] and its potential applicability to American Samoa, and will provide comment when it is completed."[170] On January 6, 2016, Alabama's Chief Justice, Roy Moore, issued a ruling forbidding state officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[171] The ruling had no effect and all Alabama counties continued either issuing marriage licenses to all couples or not issue licenses at all, and in May 2016 Moore was charged with ethics violations by the state Judicial Inquiry Commission for the ruling,[172] subsequently being suspended from the bench for the remainder of his term on September 30 of that year.[173]

Counties not issuing marriage licenses[edit]

As of June 20, 2017, only Irion county (pink) refuses licenses to same-sex couples.[174]
Counties issuing marriage licenses to all couples (blue) and counties issuing to no one (grey) as of June 2017

Officials of nine counties in two states, Texas and Alabama, are still unwilling to issue licenses to same-sex couples as of June 2017. Those wishing to marry within the state must travel to another part of the state in order to obtain a license. However, some counties may require at least one person to be a resident of the county in order to receive a marriage license.[175]

Counties denying licenses to same-sex couples
(as of June 2017)[176][175]
Status TX AL Total, U.S.
Issues licenses to opposite-sex couples only 1 0 1
Do not issue any marriage licenses 0 8 8
Total, by state 1 8 9
Percent of state population in said counties 0.006 6.0 0.09
  • Officials of one Texas county, Irion, issue marriage licenses but claim they will refuse same-sex couples. None have applied and no legal action has been taken.[174]
  • Officials in eight Alabama counties no longer issue any marriage licenses.[176][175] This is being done in accordance with a state law, which in 1961 was created to preserve racial segregation and made it optional for county clerks to issue marriage licenses. Several have chosen to exercise this option since the Obergefell ruling.[177]
  • Several Kentucky counties initially refused to marry same-sex couples. In response, Kentucky reformed its marriage license forms and removed the name of the county clerk from the licenses. As of June 2016, Chris Hartmann, director of the Kentucky-based Fairness Campaign, said to his knowledge "there are no counties where marriage licenses are being denied" in his state.[178]

Parental rights[edit]

Post-Obergefell, six states have, on occasion, attempted to deny same-sex couples full adoption rights to varying degrees. In Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, and Wisconsin, same-sex couples have been met with rejection when trying to get both parents' names listed on the birth certificate. Alabama's highest court attempted to void an adoption decree obtained by a same-sex couple in Georgia, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, restoring joint custody to the adoptive mother on March 7, 2016. Mississippi had once banned same-sex couples from adopting, but the law requiring this was ruled unconstitutional by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on March 31, 2016. The ruling was described as having the effect of making same-sex adoption essentially legal in all 50 states.[179][180]

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled by a 6-3 vote in the case of Pavan v. Smith that under their decision in Obergefell, same-sex couples must be treated equally to opposite-sex couples in the issuance of birth certificates. In December 2016, the Supreme Court of Arkansas upheld a state law only allowing opposite-sex couples to be automatically listed as parents on their children's birth certificates, while prohibiting same-sex couples from being allowed the same on an equal basis. The Supreme Court summarily reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court, finding that the disparity in treatment was a violation of their decision in Obergefell.[181]

Tribal law[edit]

The Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the states and territories did not legalize same-sex marriage on Indian lands. In the United States, Congress (not the federal courts) has legal authority over Indian country. Thus, unless Congress passes a law regarding same-sex marriage on Indian tribes, federally recognized American Indian tribes have the legal right to form their own marriage laws.[182] As of the time of the Obergefell ruling, 24 tribal jurisdictions legally recognize same-sex marriage. Some tribes have passed legislation specifically addressing same-sex relationships and some specify that state law and jurisdiction govern tribal marriages. As of November 2017, same-sex marriage is legally recognized in 40 tribal jurisdictions.

Local laws prior to Obergefell v. Hodges[edit]

States and territories that fully licensed or recognized same-sex marriage[edit]

Note: This table shows only states that licensed and recognized same-sex marriages or had legalized them, before Obergefell v. Hodges. It does not include states that recognized same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions but did not license them.

States and territories with same-sex marriage before Obergefell v. Hodges.
State or territory Population[183] Date of Enactment/Ruling Date Effective Legalization method Details
Alaska 736,732 October 12, 2014 October 17, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruling in Hamby v. Parnell.[184]
Arizona 6,731,484 October 17, 2014 October 17, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ruling in Connolly v. Jeanes and in Majors v. Horne.[185]
California 38,802,500 May 15, 2008 June 16, 2008 State court decision → (Overturned by constitutional ban) California Supreme Court ruling in In re Marriage Cases. Ceased via state constitutional amendment after Proposition 8 passed on November 5, 2008.
August 4, 2010 June 28, 2013 Federal court decision → legislative statute U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, finding Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Stayed during appeal, affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as Perry v. Brown. Certiorari granted and appealed as Hollingsworth v. Perry to the U.S. Supreme Court; the high court dismissed Hollingsworth for lack of standing and vacated the Ninth Circuit decision below, resulting with the original decision in Perry left intact.[186] Gender-neutral marriage bill passed by the California State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of California took effect on January 1, 2015.[187]
Colorado 5,355,866 July 9, 2014 October 7, 2014 State court decision Colorado district court ruling in Brinkman v. Long
July 23, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ruling in Burns v. Hickenlooper
Connecticut 3,596,677 October 10, 2008 November 12, 2008 State court decision → legislative statute Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health; incorporated into state statutes in April 2009.
Delaware 935,614 May 7, 2013 July 1, 2013 Legislative statute Passed by the Delaware General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor of Delaware.
District of Columbia 658,893 December 18, 2009 March 9, 2010 Legislative statute Passed by the Council of the District of Columbia.
Florida 19,893,297 August 21, 2014 January 6, 2015 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruling in Brenner v. Scott.
Guam 165,124 (not included in population total) June 5, 2015 June 9, 2015 Binding federal court precedent → Actions of territorial officials → Federal court decision → Legislative statute Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson deferred to the controlling precedent set by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Latta v. Otter, ordering that marriage licenses for same-sex couples be processed immediately beginning April 15, 2015.[188] District Court of Guam ruling in Aguero v. Calvo upholding the earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit.[189] Marriage Equality Act, incorporating the decision, passed by the Guam Legislature went into effect on August 27, 2015.[190]
Hawaii 1,419,561 November 13, 2013 December 2, 2013 Legislative statute Hawaii Marriage Equality Act passed by the Hawaii State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Hawaii.
Idaho 1,634,464 October 7, 2014 October 15, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho ruling in Latta v. Otter,[191] upheld by the Ninth Circuit.[192]
Illinois 12,880,580 November 20, 2013 June 1, 2014 Legislative statute Passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor of Illinois.
Indiana 6,596,855 September 4, 2014 October 6, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruling in Baskin v. Bogan. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling.[193]
Iowa 3,107,126 April 3, 2009 April 27, 2009 State court decision Iowa Supreme Court ruling in Varnum v. Brien. One same-sex couple obtained a marriage licensed and married before initial ruling was stayed.[194]
Maine 1,330,089 November 6, 2012 December 29, 2012 Initiative statute Proposed by initiative as referendum Question 1, approved.
Maryland 5,976,407 November 6, 2012 January 1, 2013 Legislative statute → referendum Civil Marriage Protection Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly; petitioned to referendum Question 6, upheld.
Massachusetts 6,745,408 November 18, 2003 May 17, 2004 State court decision Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.
Minnesota 5,457,173 May 14, 2013 August 1, 2013 Legislative statute Passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Minnesota.
Montana 1,023,579 November 19, 2014 November 19, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruling in Rolando v. Fox.[38]
Nevada 2,839,099 October 7, 2014 October 9, 2014 Federal court decision → legislative statute Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Sevcik v. Sandoval. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada's ruling.[195] Gender-neutral marriage bill passed by the Nevada Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Nevada went into effect on July 1, 2017.[196][197]
New Hampshire 1,326,813 June 3, 2009 January 1, 2010 Legislative statute Passed by the New Hampshire General Court and signed into law by the Governor of New Hampshire.
New Jersey 8,938,175 September 27, 2013 October 21, 2013 State court decision New Jersey Superior Court ruling in Garden State Equality v. Dow
New Mexico 2,085,572 December 19, 2013 December 19, 2013 State court decision New Mexico Supreme Court ruling in Griego v. Oliver.
New York 19,746,227 June 24, 2011 July 24, 2011 Legislative statute Marriage Equality Act passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of New York.
North Carolina 9,943,964 October 10, 2014 October 10, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina ruling in General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper.[198]
Oklahoma 3,878,051 July 18, 2014 October 6, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruling in Bishop v. Oklahoma. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the ruling in Bishop v. Smith.[199]
Oregon 3,970,239 May 19, 2014 May 19, 2014 Federal court decision → Legislative statute U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ruling in Geiger v. Kitzhaber. Gender-neutral marriage bill passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Oregon went into effect on January 1, 2016.[200]
Pennsylvania 12,787,209 May 20, 2014 May 20, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruling in Whitewood v. Wolf.
Rhode Island 1,055,173 May 2, 2013 August 1, 2013 Legislative statute Passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor of Rhode Island.
South Carolina 4,832,482 November 12, 2014 November 20, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina ruling in Condon v. Haley.[201]
Utah 2,942,902 June 25, 2014 October 6, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of Utah ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert. Marriages licensed between December 20, 2013, and January 6, 2014. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert.
Vermont 626,562 April 7, 2009 September 1, 2009 Legislative statute Passed by the Vermont General Assembly, overriding Governor Jim Douglas' veto.
Virginia 8,326,289 July 28, 2014 October 6, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruling in Bostic v. Rainey.[202] The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. district court ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer.[203]
Washington (state) Washington 7,061,530 November 6, 2012 December 6, 2012 Legislative statute → referendum Passed by the Washington State Legislature; suspended by petition and referred to Referendum 74, approved.
West Virginia 1,850,326 October 9, 2014 October 9, 2014 Binding federal court precedent → Actions of state officials → Federal court decision Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, recognizing the precedent established by the Fourth Circuit ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer, dropped their defense of the state's same-sex marriage ban.[204] The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in McGee v. Cole overturned West Virginia's statutory ban on same-sex marriage on November 7, 2014.[205]
Wisconsin 5,757,564 September 4, 2014 October 6, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruling in Wolf v. Walker. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling.[206]
Wyoming 584,153 October 17, 2014 October 21, 2014 Federal court decision U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming ruling in Guzzo v. Mead.[207]
Total 221,434,635 (69.4% of the U.S. population)

Effects of same-sex marriage[edit]

The White House, illuminated in rainbow colors, the evening of the ruling, June 26, 2015.

Economic impact on same-sex couples[edit]

Until the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor required the Federal Government to treat legally married same-sex couples on an equal basis with heterosexual married couples, same-sex married couples faced severe disadvantages. The Federal Government did not recognize those marriages for any purpose. According to a 1997 General Accounting Office study, at least 1,049 U.S. federal laws and regulations include references to marital status.[208] A 2004 study by the Congressional Budget Office found 1,138 statutory provisions "in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving 'benefits, rights, and privileges.'"[209] Many of these laws govern property rights, benefits, and taxation. Same-sex couples whose marriages are not recognized by the Federal Government are ineligible for spousal and survivor Social Security benefits and are ineligible for the benefits due the spouse of a federal government employee.[209] One study found that the difference in Social Security income for same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex married couples was per year.[210]

Compared to similarly situated opposite-sex married couples, same-sex couples faced the following financial and legal disadvantages:

  • Legal costs associated with obtaining domestic partner documents to gain legal abilities granted automatically by legal marriage, including power of attorney, health care decision-making, and inheritance[210]
  • A person can inherit an unlimited amount from a deceased spouse without incurring an estate tax, but is subject to taxes if inheriting from a same-sex partner[209]
  • Same-sex couples were not eligible to file jointly as a married couple and thus could not take the advantages of lower tax rates when the individual income of the partners differs significantly[209][i]
  • Employer-provided health insurance coverage for a same-sex partner incurred federal income tax[209]
  • Higher health costs associated with lack of insurance and preventative care: 20% of same-sex couples had a member who was uninsured compared to 10% of married opposite-sex couples[210]
  • Inability to protect jointly owned home from loss due to costs of potential medical catastrophe[210]
  • Inability of a U.S. citizen to sponsor a same-sex spouse for citizenship[210]

Some 7,400 companies were offering spousal benefits to same-sex couples as of 2008. In states that recognized same-sex marriages, same-sex couples could continue to receive those same benefits only if they married.[212] Only 18% of private employers offered domestic partner health care benefits.[210]

Same-sex couples face the same financial constraints of legal marriage as opposite-sex married couples, including the marriage penalty in taxation.[209] While social service providers usually do not count one partner's assets toward the income means test for welfare and disability assistance for the other partner, a legally married couple's joint assets are normally used in calculating whether a married individual qualifies for assistance.[209]

Economic impact on the Federal Government[edit]

The 2004 Congressional Budget Office study, working from an assumption "that about 0.6 percent of adults would enter into same-sex marriages if they had the opportunity" (an assumption in which they admitted "significant uncertainty") estimated that legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States "would improve the budget's bottom line to a small extent: by less than $1 billion in each of the next 10 years". This result reflects an increase in net government revenues (increased income taxes due to marriage penalties more than offsetting decreased tax revenues arising from postponed estate taxes). Marriage recognition would increase the government expenses for Social Security and Federal Employee Health Benefits but that increase would be more than made up for by decreased expenses for Medicaid, Medicare, and Supplemental Security Income.[209]

Mental health[edit]

Based in part on research that has been conducted on the adverse effects of stigmatization of gays and lesbians, numerous prominent social science organizations have issued position statements supporting same-sex marriage and opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; these organizations include the American Psychoanalytic Association and the American Psychological Association.[213]

Several psychological studies[214][215][216] have shown that an increase in exposure to negative conversations and media messages about same-sex marriage creates a harmful environment for the LGBT population that may affect their health and well-being.

One study surveyed more than 1,500 lesbian, gay and bisexual adults across the nation and found that respondents from the 25 states that have outlawed same-sex marriage had the highest reports of "minority stress"—the chronic social stress that results from minority-group stigmatization—as well as general psychological distress. According to the study, the negative campaigning that comes with a ban is directly responsible for the increased stress. Past research has shown that minority stress is linked to health risks such as risky sexual behavior and substance abuse.[217]

Two other studies examined personal reports from LGBT adults and their families living in Memphis, Tennessee, immediately after a successful 2006 ballot campaign banned same-sex marriage. Most respondents reported feeling alienated from their communities. The studies also found that families experienced a kind of secondary minority stress, says Jennifer Arm, a counseling graduate student at the University of Memphis.[218]

At the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial, expert witness Ilan Meyer testified that the mental health outcomes for gays and lesbians would improve if laws such as Proposition 8 did not exist because "when people are exposed to more stress...they are more likely to get sick..." and that particular situation is consistent with laws that say to gay people "you are not welcome here, your relationships are not valued." Such laws have "significant power", he said.[219]

Physical health[edit]

In 2009, a pair of economists at Emory University tied the passage of state bans on same-sex marriage in the US to an increase in the rates of HIV infection.[220][221] The study linked the passage of same-sex marriage ban in a state to an increase in the annual HIV rate within that state of roughly 4 cases per 100,000 population.

A study by the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health found that gay men in Massachusetts visited health clinics significantly less often following the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state.[222]

Marriage statistics[edit]

There is no complete data on the number of same-sex marriages conducted in the United States. Marriages and divorces are recorded by states, counties, and territories, plus New York City and the District of Colombia, but not by the Federal Government. Some states, Oregon for instance, do not distinguish between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages in their official records. The legal records on marriage and divorce belong to the states.[223] In August 2016, the Treasury Department estimated the number of same-sex marriages by linking the tax returns of same-sex couples who had filed jointly in 2014 with their Social Security records. (Although this method excluded couples who file singly, these are small in number; of all married couples who file taxes, 97.5% file jointly.) This research showed that in 2014 there were about 183,280 married same-sex couples in the country, or "roughly a third of 1 percent of all marriages" according to the New York Times.[224]

The following table shows the data for 2015.

Extended content
Number of marriages in the United States in 2015[a] by state (and D.C.)[225]
State Marriages between women Marriages between men Same-sex marriages Heterosexual marriages % same-sex marriages % change from 2014
Alabama 938 508 1,446 736,973 0.20% +0.12%
Alaska 381 125 506 123,576 0.41% +0.13%
Arizona 3,231 2,315 5,546 1,018,830 0.54% +0.17%
Arkansas 729 420 1,149 475,652 0.24% +0.12%
California 23,248 24,571 47,819 5,948,710 0.80% +0.12%
Colorado 3,149 1,777 4,926 960,517 0.51% +0.18%
Connecticut 2,153 1,419 3,572 601,888 0.59% +0.08%
Delaware 756 547 1,303 151,891 0.85% +0.14%
District of Columbia 562 1,690 2,252 51,707 4.17% +0.52%
Florida 8,288 9,339 17,627 3,025,105 0.58% +0.29%
Georgia 2,997 2,576 5,574 1,458,788 0.38% +0.18%
Hawaii 782 766 1,548 240,748 0.64% +0.18%
Idaho 517 245 762 319,338 0.24% +0.07%
Illinois 4,546 4,097 8,643 2,111,988 0.41% +0.10%
Indiana 2,570 1,426 3,996 1,162,269 0.34% +0.11%
Iowa 1,310 669 1,979 595,757 0.33% +0.05%
Kansas 803 389 1,192 536,186 0.22% +0.08%
Kentucky 1,260 793 2,053 741,637 0.28% +0.15%
Louisiana 937 622 1,559 622,220 0.25% +0.15%
Maine 1,277 539 1,816 244,784 0.74% +0.11%
Maryland 3,398 2,220 5,618 928,661 0.60% +0.09%
Massachusetts 6,927 4,338 11,265 1,123,184 0.99% +0.10%
Michigan 2,621 1,538 4,159 1,712,041 0.24% +0.14%
Minnesota 2,879 1,849 4,727 1,037,972 0.45% +0.07%
Mississippi 417 184 601 392,698 0.15% +0.09%
Missouri 1,873 1,125 2,998 1,037,468 0.29% +0.11%
Montana 313 124 437 193,890 0.22% +0.09%
Nebraska 498 279 777 357,420 0.22% +0.10%
Nevada 1,294 1,296 2,590 418,389 0.62% +0.24%
New Hampshire 1,213 536 1,749 260,713 0.67% +0.10%
New Jersey 3,558 2,900 6,458 1,508,687 0.43% +0.09%
New Mexico 1,431 710 2,141 300,782 0.71% +0.13%
New York 9,426 10,231 19,657 2,869,572 0.68% +0.10%
North Carolina 4,073 2,255 6,328 1,609,732 0.39% +0.13%
North Dakota 129 51 180 141,937 0.13% +0.05%
Ohio 2,734 1,816 4,550 1,851,126 0.25% +0.13%
Oklahoma 1,370 679 2,048 638,344 0.32% +0.12%
Oregon 3,368 1,758 5,126 702,890 0.72% +0.19%
Pennsylvania 4,747 3,359 8,106 2,236,796 0.36% +0.10%
Rhode Island 693 457 1,150 165,087 0.69% +0.13%
South Carolina 1,251 786 2,037 752,056 0.27% +0.12%
South Dakota 151 74 226 165,177 0.14% +0.06%
Tennessee 1,748 1,136 2,884 1,083,075 0.27% +0.14%
Texas 8,596 6,466 15,062 4,236,697 0.35% +0.16%
Utah 1,222 820 2,042 556,919 0.37% +0.10%
Vermont 785 399 1,184 118,398 0.99% +0.10%
Virginia 3,404 2,367 5,771 1,445,066 0.40% +0.13%
Washington 6,535 4,624 11,159 1,308,716 0.85% +0.12%
West Virginia 572 256 828 321,715 0.26% +0.11%
Wisconsin 2,001 1,058 3,059 1,093,328 0.28% +0.10%
Wyoming 173 93 265 112,101 0.24% +0.10%
United States 139,834 110,617 250,450 51,809,201 0.48% +0.12%
a. Note that tax returns had to be filed by April 15, 2015. As such, this data reflects the number of same-sex marriages by April 2015, before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Obergefell.

According to the statistics, female couples were four times more likely to have adopted children than male couples. Additionally, male couples earned a pretax average of $165,960 per year, while lesbian couples earned $118,415 and straight couples earned $115,210. Most female same-sex marriages were celebrated in Oakland, Seattle, San Francisco, Springfield (MA) and Portland (OR), whereas most gay male marriages were performed in San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York City, Seattle and Fort Lauderdale.[226]

The Population Reference Bureau reported that by October 2015 486,000 same-sex marriages had taken place in the United States. It estimated that 45% of all same-sex couples in the country were married.[227]

In June 2016, one year after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Gallup reported that nearly 1 million U.S. adults were in same-sex marriages.[228] In June 2017, Gallup estimated that 10.6% of American LGBT adults were married, compared to 13.6% of heterosexual adults. Prior to Obergefell, 7.6% of LGBT adults were married.[229]

Case law[edit]

United States case law regarding same-sex marriage:


  • Anonymous v. Anonymous, 67 Misc.2d 982 (N.Y. 1971). The law makes no provision for a "marriage" between persons of the same sex.
  • Baker v. Nelson, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971). Upholds a Minnesota law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. (Overruled by Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015; see below)
  • Jones v. Hallahan, 501 S.W.2d 588 (Ky. 1973). Upholds the denial of a marriage license to two women in Kentucky based on dictionary definitions of marriage, despite the fact that state statutes do not specify the gender of marriage partners.[230]
  • Frances B. v. Mark B., 78 Misc.2d 112 (1974). Marriage is and always has been a contract between a man and a woman.
  • Singer v. Hara, 522 P.2d 1187 (Wash. Ct. App. 1974). The historical definition of marriage is between one man and one woman, and same-sex couples are inherently ineligible to marry. This ban does not constitute sex discrimination.


  • Adams v. Howerton, 673 F.2d 1036 (9th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 458 U.S. 1111. A same-sex marriage does not make one a "spouse" under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • De Santo v. Barnsley, 476 A.2d 952 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1984). Same-sex couples can not divorce because they cannot form a common law marriage.[231]


  • In re Estate of Cooper, 149 Misc.2d 282 (Sur. Ct. Kings Co. 1990). The state has a compelling interest in fostering the traditional institution of marriage and prohibiting same-sex marriage.
  • Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44 (Haw. 1993). A statute limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Hawaii constitution's equal-protection clause unless the state can show that the statute is both justified by compelling state interests and also narrowly tailored. This ruling prompted the adoption of Hawaii's constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to restrict marriage to different-sex couples and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
  • Dean v. District of Columbia, 653 A.2d 307 (D.C. 1995). DC does not authorise same-sex marriage; denial of a marriage license does not violate the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.
  • Storrs v. Holcomb, 645 N.Y.S.2d 286 (App. Div. 1996). New York does not recognize or authorize same-sex marriage. Overturned in part by Martinez v. County of Monroe in 2008.
  • In re Estate of Hall, 707 N.E.2d 201, 206 (Ill. App. Ct. 1998). Illinois does not recognize a same-sex marriage. The petitioner's claim to be in a same-sex marriage was not in a marriage recognized by law.
  • Baker v. Vermont, 170 Vt. 194; 744 A.2d 864 (Vt. 1999). The Common Benefits Clause of the state constitution requires that same-sex couples be granted the same legal rights as married persons, though it need not be called marriage.


  • Frandsen v. County of Brevard, 828 So. 2d 757 (Fla. 2001). The Florida Constitution will not be construed to recognize same-sex marriage; sex classifications not subject to strict scrutiny under the Florida constitution.
  • Burns v. Burns, 560 S.E.2d 47 (Ga. Ct. App. 2002). Marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
  • In re Estate of Gardiner, 42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002). A post-operative male-to-female transsexual is not a woman within the meaning of the statutes and cannot validly marry another man.
  • Rosengarten v. Downes, 806 A.2d 1066 (Conn. Ct. App. 2002). Connecticut will not dissolve a Vermont civil union.
  • Standhardt v. Superior Court ex rel. County of Maricopa, 77 P.3d 451 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2003) The Constitution of Arizona does not provide the right to same-sex marriage.
  • Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003). The denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated provisions of the Massachusetts State Constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equality, and it was not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.
  • Morrison v. Sadler, 821 N.E.2d 15 (Ind. Super. Ct. 2005). Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act is valid.
  • Langan v. St. Vincent's Hospital, 802 N.Y.S.2d 476 (App. Div. 2005). For the purposes of New York's wrongful death statute, the survivor partner from a Vermont civil union lacks standing as a "spouse".
  • Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, 455 F.3d 859 (8th Cir. 2006). Nebraska's Initiative Measure 416 does not violate Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, was not a bill of attainder, and does not violate the First Amendment.[232]
  • Lewis v. Harris, 908 A.2d 196 (N.J. 2006). Prohibiting same-sex marriage does not violate the New Jersey Constitution, but the state must extend all the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. The Legislature had 180 days to amend the marriage laws or create a "parallel structure".
  • Andersen v. King County, 138 P.3d 963 (Wash. 2006). Washington's Defense of Marriage Act does not violate the State Constitution.
  • Hernandez v. Robles, 855 N.E.2d 1 (N.Y. 2006). The New York State Constitution does not require that marriage rights be extended to same-sex couples.[233]
  • Conaway v. Deane, 932 A.2d 571 (Md. 2007). Upholds a Maryland law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
  • Martinez v. County of Monroe, 850 N.Y.S.2d 740 (App. Div. 2008). Because New York recognizes the marriages of opposite-sex couples from other jurisdictions, it must do the same for same-sex couples.[234]
  • In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d 384 (Cal. 2008). Limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is invalid under the equal protection clause of the California Constitution. Full marriage rights, not merely domestic partnership, must be offered to same-sex couples.[235]
  • Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health 957 A.2d 407 (Conn. 2008). The availability of civil unions but not marriage to same-sex partners is a violation of the equality and liberty provisions of the Connecticut Constitution.
  • Strauss v. Horton, 207 P.3d 48 (Cal. 2009). Proposition 8 was validly adopted, and marriages contracted before its adoption remain valid.[236]
  • Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009). Barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution. Equal protection requires full marriage, rather than civil unions or some other substitute, for same-sex couples.


Challenges to DOMA Section 3
California Proposition 8
  • Hollingsworth v. Perry (2009–2013). California's Proposition 8, a voter-endorsed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, is found unconstitutional in U.S. district court in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The proposition's backers appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upholds the district court's finding of unconstitutionality in Perry v. Brown. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the proposition's backers lacked standing to appeal and left the district court ruling intact.[238]
Same-sex marriage rights
  • Christiansen v. Christiansen. On June 6, 2011, the Supreme Court of Wyoming grants a divorce to two women who married in Canada, but says its decision does not apply "in any context other than divorce".[239]
  • Port v. Cowan (2010–2012). Maryland must recognize valid out-of-state same-sex marriages under doctrine of comity.[240]
  • Garden State Equality v. Dow (2011–2013), New Jersey's civil unions violate due process guarantees; denying same-sex marriage ruled unconstitutional in state superior court. The N.J. Supreme Court refuses to stay the ruling and the state defendants drop their appeal.
  • Griego v. Oliver, 316 P.3d 865 (N.M. 2013). The New Mexico Supreme Court rules that the State Constitution requires marriage rights to be extended to same-sex couples.
  • Kitchen v. Herbert (Utah). U.S. district court, 961 F. Supp. 2d 1181 (2013), rules the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds that ruling upheld on June 25, 2014. All parties support review by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that court denied review on October 6.[241]
  • Whitewood v. Wolf (Pennsylvania). On May 20, 2014, Judge John E. Jones III rules that Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.[242]
  • Geiger v. Kitzhaber and Rummell v. Kitzhaber (Oregon). On May 19, 2014, District Judge Michael J. McShane declares Oregon's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.[243]
  • Bostic v. Schaefer (Virginia). The Fourth Circuit on July 28, 2014, in a 2–1 decision, affirms a district court ruling that Virginia's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional.[244] The Supreme Court denied review on October 6.[241]
  • Baskin v. Bogan (Indiana) and Wolf v. Walker (Wisconsin). The Seventh Circuit consolidated these cases and on September 4, 2014, upheld two district court rulings that had found Indiana's and Wisconsin's bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.[245] The U.S. Supreme Court denied review on October 6.[241]
  • Bishop v. Smith (Oklahoma). On July 18, 2014, the Tenth Circuit upholds the district court ruling that Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.[246] The Supreme Court denied review on October 6.[241]
  • Barrier v. Vasterling (Missouri). State Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs rules on October 3, 2014, that Missouri's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions violates the plaintiff same-sex couples' right to equal protection under both the state and federal constitutions.[247]
  • Caspar v. Snyder (Michigan). On January 15, 2015, U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith ruled that the state must recognize the validity of "window marriages" established on March 21 and 22, 2014, before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a district court ruling in DeBoer v. Snyder that found Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, despite the fact that DeBoer was later reversed.[248] The state chose not to appeal.[249]
  • Obergefell v. Hodges (2013-2015) U.S. Supreme Court case finding state bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. (Overturned Baker v. Nelson)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans are from U.S. district courts in the following states: Utah,[16] Oklahoma,[17] Virginia,[18] Texas,[19] Michigan,[20] Idaho,[21] Oregon,[22] Pennsylvania,[23] South Dakota,[24] Wisconsin,[25] Indiana,[26] Kentucky,[27] Colorado,[28] Florida,[29] North Carolina,[30] Alaska,[31] Arizona,[32] Wyoming,[33] Kansas,[34] Missouri,[35] West Virginia,[36] South Carolina,[37] Montana,[38] Arkansas,[39] Mississippi,[40] South Dakota,[41] and Alabama.[42]
  2. ^ The cases (and states) are: Wright v. Arkansas (Arkansas),[43] In re Marriage of J.B. and H.B. and In the Matter of the Marriage of A.L.F.L. and K.L.L. (Texas),[44] Brinkman v. Long (Colorado),[45] Pareto v. Ruvin and Huntsman v. Heavilin (Florida),[46] In Re Costanza and Brewer (Louisiana),[47] and State v. Florida (Missouri).
  3. ^ Barrier v. Vasterling, Missouri Circuit Court, 16th Judicial Circuit[48]
  4. ^ Robicheaux v. Caldwell (Louisiana), Conde v. Rius (Puerto Rico)[49]
  5. ^ Borman v. Pyles-Borman (Tennessee)
  6. ^ The cases reversed (and affected states) are: Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear (Kentucky), DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan), Obergefell v. Himes and Henry v. Himes (Ohio), and Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee).
  7. ^ Among many examples: (1) the U.S. District Court ruling in Bourke v. Beshear, which required Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages from Canada and several U.S. states, was decided on equal protection grounds alone. The plaintiffs claimed that Kentucky's ban violated the full faith and credit clause, but the court found it unnecessary to address that argument.[147] and (2) the plaintiffs in Robicheaux v. Caldwell, who sought Louisiana's recognition of their out-of-state marriages, argued only on the basis of equal protection and due process. One of the Louisiana statutes they challenged made clear the state's assertion of its right to deny recognition to the legal act of another state: "A purported marriage between persons of the same sex violates a strong public policy of the state of Louisiana". (emphasis added)[148]
  8. ^ Other cases that sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court were Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, and Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management.
  9. ^ In early 2013 the IRS recognized the community property and income of same-sex partners in community property states.[211]


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