On May 15, 2008 California became the second state to enact marriage equality, after the Supreme Court of California, of which 6 out of 7 justices are Republican appointees. Opponents, with an effort financed largely by out-of-state donors, placed an initiative, Proposition 8, on the ballot hoping to overturn the Court’s decision rejecting the state’s new marriage equality law. Despite vocal opposition, Proposition 8 barely passed, prompting many organizations including the Log Cabin Republicans to challenge the new law’s violation of Californians' fundamental rights. The Supreme Court of California rejected the appeal on May 26, 2009, eliminating marriage equality from California’s laws. The Court did grant recognition of marriages performed in the interval in which it was legal, which was a key tenet of the amicus briefs. Currently, the federal challenge against Proposition 8 is moving through the courts, led by prominent attorneys Theodore B. Olson and David Boies. More information here.
Civil unions were legalized in 2005 and subsequently declared unconstitutional in 2008 under Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health. On April 22, 2009, a bipartisan majority in the Connecticut state legislature passed the Marriage Codification Bill which reinforced the state supreme court ruling enacting full legal benefits for all married couples regardless of sexual orientation and further stated that all existing civil unions would be transformed into marriages on October 1, 2010.
On January 31, 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill legalizing civil unions. By entering into a civil union, same-sex couples will be afforded the same State of Illinois rights and protections already entitled to married couples.
In April of 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality in response to the case of Varnum v. Brien, and same-sex marriages have been performed in the state since April 27, 2009.
On May 6, 2009, the Maine state legislature voted to enact marriage equality; however, the passage of a statewide ballot referendum in November 2009 overturned the law that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry. Maine’s domestic partnership law remains in effect.
As of May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize gay marriage, after a state supreme court ruling in November 2003 on Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in favor of marriage equality.
On June 3, 2009, Governor John Lynch signed legislation that enacted marriage equality and recognized out-of-state civil unions as marriages, effective January 1, 2010.
Effective September 1, 2009, Vermont became the first state legislatively enact a marriage equality law in the United States. Vermont was the first state to create civil unions in 2000.
On April 7, 2009, the Council of the District of Columbia voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Since Congress has refused to intervene, no legislation has been enacted to repeal the ban on same-sex marriages in the nation's capital. However, the District's campaign for marriage equality has gained broad based support amongst leaders in religious and faith based communities.
View this interactive map for more information on the status of marriage equality in your state.
Visit our website, What Marriage Means, for more information about marriage equality.