For more than a decade, the battle over same-sex marriage and other rights for gay couples has been hard fought in U.S. courts and legislatures and at the ballot box. Use this timeline to view milestones in the fight and how state laws have changed since 2000. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide.
Updated: June 26, 2015
California starts registering domestic partners. While groundbreaking, the law affords same-sex couples only two benefits: hospital visitation rights and health insurance coverage for the dependents of government employees covered by CalPERS, the state retirement system.
More than 61% of Californians approve a ballot measure declaring that marriage should remain reserved for couples of the opposite sex. Just 14 words long, Proposition 22 was one of the shortest initiatives ever placed on a California ballot. Yet it ignited an emotional $16-million campaign that set church against church, neighbor against neighbor and relative against relative.
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signs landmark legislation granting the full benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in the Vermont. Under the law, same-sex couples will be able to enter into a civil union intended to be the parallel of marriage.
Vermont’s civil union law extends more than 300 benefits associated with marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Scores of couples from around the state and elsewhere descend on town halls to apply for a license giving them the same benefits heterosexual couples have — but not the word “marriage.”
Nebraska voters amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The measure is in part an effort to make sure that the state will not have to recognize same-sex marriages approved by other states.
Nearly 70% of Nevada voters approve amending the constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and to ban recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages. State law already bans same-sex marriage. In Nevada, constitutional amendments must be passed twice before taking effect.
Seven same-sex couples file suit to be allowed to marry in Massachusetts. Their lawsuit is filed less than two weeks after four gay couples exchanged wedding vows in the Netherlands, the first nation to allow such unions.
California Gov. Gray Davis signs a bill that substantially expands the rights granted domestic partners. The bill adds about a dozen legal benefits, including the right to make medical decisions for a partner in the hospital, use sick leave to care for an ill or incapacitated partner and relocate with a partner without losing unemployment benefits.
After nearly a decade of congressionally imposed barriers, officials in the nation’s capital celebrate efforts to provide benefits for the domestic partners of municipal employees. At hospitals in the city the certification will clear the way for partners to visit their loved ones over the objections of blood relatives.
Nevada voters approve a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages. Voters approved the initiative in 2000, but it needed to pass again in 2002 in order to amend the state’s constitution.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry signs a law preventing his state from legally recognizing same-sex unions that are formed in other states. The new law denies same-sex couples who were joined in a marriage or civil union in another state the right to claim any legal protection or benefit granted to married people in Texas.
California Gov. Gray Davis signs a bill that gives state-registered domestic partners many of the legal rights and obligations of married couples in matters involving children, money and property. While stopping short of recognizing gay marriage, the law gives a partner the right to financial support and child custody after a partnership is dissolved and gives a survivor the right to collect his or her partner’s government benefits.
In the broadest ruling to date, Massachusetts’ highest court, in a 4-3 decision, says that the state’s constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to wed. The ruling reformulates the conventional definition of civil marriage and gives the Legislature 180 days to come up with a plan to allow individuals of the same sex to wed.
New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey signs the Domestic Partnership Act, which grants unprecedented legal, healthcare and financial rights to same-sex partners in the state. The bill, however, stops short of authorizing gay marriages.
President Bush reiterates his commitment to defend “the sanctity of marriage” and criticizes judges who have moved toward legalizing gay marriage. He suggests that a constitutional amendment might be required to stave off gay marriage but stops just short of supporting the idea.
Massachusetts’ highest court, at the request of state legislators, clarifies its stand on gay unions. The court rules that same-sex couples are entitled to marry beginning as early as May. The ruling makes Massachusetts the first state to grant the full rights of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft approves a far-reaching gay marriage ban, calling its adoption urgent since same-sex weddings could take place as early as the spring in Massachusetts. The bill also prohibits state employees from getting marital benefits for their unmarried partners, homosexual or heterosexual.
In a rare constitutional convention, the Massachusetts Legislature defeats a constitutional amendment, 104 to 94, that would have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The amendment would have allowed for civil unions between same-sex couples. Legislators also narrowly reject a second amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage altogether. The proposals were designed to negate a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that allows gays and lesbians to marry beginning in May.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom instructs city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the first action of its kind in the nation. Dozens of couples are married as city offices stay open late to accommodate long lines.
The Massachusetts Legislature votes down more amendments to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. No constitutional amendments pass and the Legislature adjourns until March 11.
The Sandoval County clerk announces she will grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, doling out 26. But New Mexico Atty. Gen. Patricia Madrid revokes them by issuing a late-afternoon opinion that the licenses are “invalid under state law.”
President Bush thrusts gay marriage into the presidential campaign by calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He expresses alarm at the gay marriages conducted in San Francisco and the potential for same-sex weddings soon in Massachusetts.
Twenty-one gay couples exchange wedding vows on the steps of the city building in New Paltz, a village 75 miles north of New York City. As a result, the state Health Department asks the attorney general to seek an injunction to halt the weddings. Mayor Jason West issues couples only a marriage certificate and not a marriage license.
Ulster County district attorney charges New Paltz Mayor Jason West with 19 criminal counts for performing weddings for gay couples, a misdemeanor. West vows to continue.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council pass resolutions opposing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
Multnomah County Chairwoman Diane Linn orders clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a county attorney determines that restricting marriage to the union of a man and a woman is discrimination. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he favors civil unions but questions the legality of the decision to issue marriage licenses in the county.
New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer issues an opinion stating that New York law defines matrimony as a union between a man and woman. Gay marriages and civil unions from outside the state will be recognized.
Exuberant gay and lesbian couples brave rain and wind to exchange wedding vows in Portland, Ore.
A New York state judge bars New Paltz Mayor Jason West from performing more same-sex marriages for a month, saying he is ignoring his oath of office.
Seattle’s mayor, Greg Nickels, signs an executive order giving same-sex spouses of city employees all the benefits of heterosexual spouses, including health insurance, and recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere.
The California Supreme Court unanimously orders San Francisco to stop marrying gay couples and announces that it will rule on the legality of the city’s actions within the next few months. In four weeks, nearly 4,000 gay couples received licenses.
The Massachusetts Legislature approves a constitutional amendment, 105 to 92, to ban gay marriage and establish civil unions for same-sex couples. Before it can become law, however, it must again be approved by both chambers in 2005 and then voted on by the public as early as 2006. Gov. Mitt Romney seeks to stop the court-mandated May 17 start date for same-sex marriages.
Multnomah Circuit Judge Frank Bearden halts gay marriages, but in a historic ruling he orders the state to legally recognize the unions that already have taken place. More than 3,000 marriage licenses had been issued to gay couples.
Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, joining Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and three Canadian provinces as the only places in the world where gays and lesbians can marry.
Missouri voters overwhelmingly approve a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. About 70% of voters agree to add this sentence to the Missouri Constitution: “To be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”
The California Supreme Court rules unanimously that San Francisco’s mayor overstepped his authority by issuing same-sex marriage licenses this spring. By a 5-2 vote, the court also declares the roughly 4,000 marriages of gay and lesbian couples that had been sanctioned by the city “void from their inception and a legal nullity.”
Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approve a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil unions.
A judge throws out an amendment to the Louisiana Constitution banning gay marriage because the state Legislature had made the ban too broad. The amendment had sought to outlaw gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships.
About 75% of Kentucky voters approve an amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. State law already bans gay marriage, but the constitutional amendment prevents Kentucky judges from taking action similar to that in Massachusetts.
Nearly two-thirds of Montana voters pass a constitutional amendment stating marriage is between a man and a woman. State law had already defined marriage as a heterosexual union.
Nearly two-thirds of Utah voters approve a constitutional amendment specifically defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The amendment also states that no other domestic union can be recognized as a marriage or treated equally.
About three-quarters of Arkansas voters approve an amendment banning same-sex marriage. Amendment 3 defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and prohibits other arrangements from having the legal status of marriage.
About 62% of Ohio voters approve Issue 1, which bans same-sex marriages and civil unions. As a result, five publicly supported Ohio colleges will no longer offer benefits to unmarried couples — gay or straight.
More than 85% of Mississippi voters approve an amendment to ban same-sex marriage. It also prohibits Mississippi from recognizing same-sex marriages approved in other states.
In Michigan, an amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman wins about 60% approval. State law already bans gay marriage, but as in other states, supporters wanted the language placed in the constitution.
Voters in Oregon pass a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
About 75% of Oklahoma voters approve State Question 711, which bans same-sex marriage and prohibits giving the benefits of marriage to unmarried people.
In North Dakota, an amendment limiting marriage rights to heterosexual couples wins 73% approval.
In Georgia, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage carries 77% of the vote. The week before, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that it could not stop the vote.
A San Francisco judge hears arguments on same-sex marriage. At the heart of the consolidated lawsuits — brought by the city of San Francisco and a dozen gay and lesbian couples — is the contention that current law defining marriage as “between a man and a woman” violates the state Constitution by denying homosexuals the “fundamental right” to marry the person of their choosing.
The Montana Supreme Court declares that the state constitution’s guarantee of equal protection extends to gays, and that the state university system must offer same-sex couples the same health benefits available to heterosexual ones.
The Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously reinstates an anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in September.
The Oregon Supreme Court voids nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued by Multnomah County to gay and lesbian couples in March and April 2004. The court noted that Oregonians had passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual institution in November 2004.
Connecticut becomes the second state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples and the first to do so without being required to by the courts.
A federal judge strikes down Nebraska’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, passed in 2000, arguing that the measure interferes not only with the rights of gay couples but also with those of foster parents, adopted children and people in a host of other living arrangements.
The California Supreme Court declines to hear a challenge to the state’s sweeping domestic partners benefits law. Critics of the law thought such benefits would be prohibited by Proposition 22, which declares that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
The California Supreme Court rules that children born to gay couples have two legally recognized parents. It’s the first such ruling in the nation.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes a same-sex marriage bill after it passed the Senate and Assembly. Schwarzenegger says the bill would wrongly reverse Proposition 22, which declares that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
The Alaska Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional to bar benefits for the same-sex partners of public employees.
The Washington Supreme Court rules that a lesbian who had helped raise a child with the child’s biological mother can seek rights as a parent. The ruling creates a new class of parent irrespective of sex.
More than three-quarters of Texas voters approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The amendment also bars recognition of gay marriages performed elsewhere.
A Maryland Circuit Court judge sides with nine gay couples, ruling that the state’s law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman violates the state constitution.
The Supreme Judicial Court rules that city and town clerks may not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples from out of state. The court upholds a 1913 law that bars couples from out of state from marrying in Massachusetts if their unions would not be recognized in their home states.
By an overwhelming 81%, Alabama voters approve a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
The New York Court of Appeals rules 4 to 2 against more than 40 same-sex couples challenging the state’s decades-old statute limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
Washington’s Supreme Court rules 5 to 4 that there is no constitutional right for people of the same sex to marry. The decision upholds the Legislature’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act.
The state Supreme Court reinstates Georgia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, ruling unanimously that the ban did not violate the state’s single-subject rule for ballot measures. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had argued that ballot language appeared to ban gay marriages as well as gay civil unions.
Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman of New Haven Superior Court in Connecticut says that same-sex couples are afforded the benefits and protections of marriage through the civil unions law, which took effect in October.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates Nebraska’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The ban, which was struck down by a federal judge in May 2005, had been approved by 70% of Nebraska voters in 2000.
New Jersey’s Supreme Court rules that the state constitution guarantees gay couples all the rights and benefits of marriage, except one: the word “marriage.” The 4-3 decision gives the Legislature six months to act.
Arizona voters are the first to defeat a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage among 20 states that have voted on such bans. Christine Nelson of the National Conference of State Legislatures calls the vote an “extraordinary” development.
Idaho amends constitution to ban gay marriage
Sixty-three percent of Idaho voters elect to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.
Wisconsin voters limit marriage to a union between one man and one woman by constitutional amendment. Gay rights advocates note that more than 40% voted no.
Eighty-one percent of Tennessee voters elect to ban gay marriage.
Seventy-eight percent of South Carolina voters elect to ban gay marriage.
Colorado voters ban same-sex marriage and defeat a separate ballot initiative to permit domestic partnerships.
Virginia voters limit marriage to a union between one man and one woman by constitutional amendment. Amendment also forbids giving marriage-like status to unmarried couples.
South Dakota voters pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
New Jersey becomes the third state to allow civil unions. In October the state’s Supreme Court had ruled that gay couples are constitutionally guaranteed the benefits of marriage — but left it to legislators whether to call these unions “marriage.”
New Jersey Gov. Jon J. Corzine signs a civil union law making his state the third in the nation to allow such unions. In October the state’s Supreme Court had ruled that gay couples are constitutionally guaranteed the benefits of marriage — but left it to legislators whether to call these unions “marriage.”
A Michigan appeals court rules that public universities, state agencies and local governments in Michigan cannot offer health insurance to the partners of gay and lesbian employees.
New Jersey becomes third state to offer civil unions
New Jersey begins civil unions, offering the legal benefits but not the title of marriage. Civil unions were granted automatically to the hundreds of same-sex New Jersey couples who had been joined in civil unions or married in other states or nations.
Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire signs into law a measure to create domestic partnerships, giving gay and lesbian couples some of the same rights that come with marriage.
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch approves legislation creating gay civil unions, allowing such couples to apply for the same rights as married people beginning in January 2008.
A measure to legalize marriage for gay couples easily passes the California Assembly after a respectful debate. As he did in 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to veto the measure.
In a victory for supporters of gay marriage, Massachusetts lawmakers block a measure to let voters decide whether a constitutional amendment should ban same-sex marriage. Conservative groups had tried for four years to override a historic 2003 court decision that legalized gay marriage in the state.
A county judge in Iowa strikes down the state’s decade-old gay marriage ban as unconstitutional and orders local officials to process marriage licenses for six gay couples. Less than two hours after it was publicized, two Des Moines men apply for a license, the first time the county accepted a same-sex marriage application.
A day after a judge in Polk County ruled that Iowa’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, the same judge enacts a stay on his own ruling. The lifting of the ban stood long enough for one gay couple to get married.
Maryland’s highest court upholds a 34-year-old state law banning same-sex marriage, rejecting an attempt by gays and lesbians to win the right to marry. In reversing a lower court’s decision, the Court of Appeals rules 4 to 3 that limiting marriage to a man and a woman does not discriminate against gay couples.
San Diego mayor reverses opposition to gay marriage
An emotional Mayor Jerry Sanders abruptly reverses his public opposition to same-sex marriage. Sanders, tears welling and voice breaking, says he realizes that he can not tell his daughter Lisa, who is gay, that her relationship with a partner is not as important as that of a straight couple.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes a bill approved by state lawmakers that would legalize gay marriage. He says the courts need to rule on the legality of Proposition 22, the gay marriage ban passed by voters.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, rules that a lesbian couple who had married in Massachusetts could not be divorced in Rhode Island because the state defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. The state’s attorney general had issued a legal opinion in 2007 that Massachusetts’ same-sex marriages would be recognized, but conceded that his opinion did not have the force of law.
Dozens of gay and lesbian couples enter into civil unions in Concord, N.H., in the early moments of New Year’s Day as a new state law legalizes the partnerships after midnight. Participants bundle up against below-freezing temperatures.
The California Supreme Court considers four lawsuits brought by same-sex couples after San Francisco issued marriage licenses in 2004. Three of the court’s seven justices indicate they will uphold state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Ruling is expected within 90 days.
California Supreme Court strikes down state ban on same-sex marriage in a 4-3 ruling
The California Supreme Court rules that the state constitution protects a fundamental “right to marry” that extends equally to same-sex couples. The three dissenting justices argue that it is up to the electorate or the Legislature to decide whether gays should marry.
New York Gov. David Paterson tells state agencies to recognize gay marriages performed where the unions are legal, including California and Massachusetts. New York does not allow gay couples to marry in the state.
California secretary of state rules an initiative barring gay marriage qualifies for Nov. 4 ballot
More than 1 million signatures are submitted for a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union “between a man and a woman” and undo the California Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriages.
County registrars and clerks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda, Sonoma and Yolo counties keep offices open to allow at least two dozen same-sex couples the distinction of being among the first to wed. Seven Southern California Roman Catholic bishops, including L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony, reaffirm their opposition to same-sex marriage.
The California Supreme Court rejects arguments that Proposition 8 — which if passed by voters would amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage — is an illegal constitutional revision. Justices also reject the argument that voters had been misled when they signed petitions to put it on the ballot.
The Connecticut Supreme Court gives gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, ruling that civil unions relegate them to a “separate” and “inferior status” that falls short of equality. Connecticut now joins Massachusetts and California in authorizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples. In all three cases, the issue was decided in a 4-3 ruling by the state high court.
California voters pass Proposition 8 — which amends the state Constitution to ban gay marriage — with about 52% of the vote. A 2000 ballot initiative banning gay marriage, Proposition 22, had passed with 61% of the vote but was later struck down by the state’s high court.
The California Supreme Court votes 6 to 1 to review legal challenges to Proposition 8, but declines to permit gay weddings to resume pending a final decision.
A commission in New Jersey concludes that state legislators should allow gay couples to marry, setting up what could be a spirited debate over whether the state should be the first to allow gay marriage by passing a law, rather than by court mandate.
Wyoming legislators defeat an attempt to define marriage in the state constitution as a union between a man and a woman. The “Defense of Marriage” resolution fails 35 to 25. State law only recognizes heterosexual marriage but requires the state to recognize marriages performed elsewhere.
The California Senate approves a resolution calling Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on gay marriage, an improper revision of the California Constitution because it was not approved by the Legislature.
Saying they suffered injustices under the Defense of Marriage Act, a dozen legally married same-sex spouses file suit against the federal government, alleging that the 1996 law deprives them of a range of benefits accorded other couples. Legal analysts predict the suit, filed in Boston, will take years before it makes its way through the federal court system.
The California Supreme Court strongly indicates it will rule that Proposition 8 validly abolished the right for gays to marry but will allow same-sex couples who wed before the November election to remain legally married.
The state House votes to make New Hampshire the third state to allow gay couples to marry, in addition to Massachusetts and Connecticut. The bill, passed 186 to 179, now goes to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. Gov. John Lynch opposes gay marriage but has not said specifically that he would veto it.
The Iowa Supreme Court, citing California’s historic marriage decision, overturns a ban on same-sex marriage in a ruling that emphasizes the need for courts to protect minorities even when public sentiment is against them.
The Vermont Legislature votes to permit same-sex couples to marry. The state is the first in the union to legalize gay marriage through a vote of lawmakers rather than a court action.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signs the Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act, which extends inheritance, hospital visitation and other rights to gay couples. The law is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2009. In 2006, voters in the state passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
New York Gov. David Paterson plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, reviving a bill that died in 2007. Paterson says “there is clearly a problem” when gays and lesbians in civil unions are denied civil protections such as healthcare and pension rights because they’re not married.
Washington, D.C., to recognize gay marriage
The city council in the nation’s capital votes 12 to 1 to recognize same-sex marriages from states that approve them, a first step to allowing gay marriages there. Congress has final say over the city’s laws and has 30 days to review the bill.
Maine becomes the fifth state to legalize gay marriage, which is scheduled to take effect in mid-September. Within hours of the governor’s signing of the bill, opponents to gay marriage begin working to gather signatures for a so-called People’s Veto.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signs legislation giving registered same-sex domestic partners all the rights and benefits that the state now offers married couples. The law is scheduled to take effect July 26. Opponents, however, are trying to overturn the law at the ballot box in November. If they can gather 120,577 signatures by July 25 the new law will be suspended until the November vote.
The California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage but rules that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law. The decision virtually ensures another fight at the ballot box over marriage rights for gays. Gay rights activists say they may ask voters to repeal the marriage ban as early as next year, and opponents have pledged to fight any such effort. Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote.
Gay marriage battle resumes as Prop. 8 is challenged in court
Opening a new front in California’s gay marriage battle, prominent attorneys working for a project of the American Foundation for Equal Rights announce they will file suit in federal court. The suit calls for an injunction against Proposition 8 and the immediate reinstatement of marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Gov. John Lynch signs a bill legalizing gay marriage in his state, the same day the measure passed the New Hampshire’s legislative houses. Lynch had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be required to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. The law is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2010. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa already allow gay marriage.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, says that same-sex couples who have married in Massachusetts since the state began performing gay marriages in 2004 are being unfairly denied federal benefits given to heterosexual couples.
Implementation of Washington’s 2009 domestic partnership bill on hold
Implementation of the domestic partnership bill, which was scheduled to take effect July 26, is put on hold. Sponsors of Referendum 71, which would block the law from going into effect, have filed their petition signatures with the state’s Election Division. If there are enough valid signatures (120,577), the question of whether or not to repeal the law will go on the November ballot. If there are not enough signatures the law becomes effective immediately.
Opponents of same-sex marriage launch a campaign to renew a ban on gay marriage in Iowa. The National Organization for Marriage, which was active in getting Proposition 8 approved by voters in California, sent out an appeal for donations to run advertisements on behalf of political candidates who oppose same-sex marriage. It said the first ad would support Republican Stephen Burgmeier, who supports putting the issue of same-sex marriage to a vote in the Hawkeye State. He is up for election in less than two weeks.
A federal judge declines to dismiss a constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, ruling the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage raised legal and factual issues that required a trial.
Voters in Washington approve Referendum 71 by 52%. It asked voters to reconfirm the legislature’s recent expansion of domestic partnership rights. Dubbed the “everything but marriage” law, it expanded previous domestic partnership laws to include issues like adoption, child support, pensions and other public-employee benefits.
Maine’s gay marriage law is rejected
Voters reject the state’s gay marriage law. The law, originally scheduled to take effect in mid-September, was never enacted. It was put on hold after opponents launched a petition drive to place a measure to repeal gay marriage on the November ballot.
Darlene Garner and Candy Holmes walk down the aisle and become among the first gay couples to legally marry in the District of Columbia.
Hawaii’s House of Representatives approves a measure allowing same-sex civil unions. The House voted 31 to 20 in favor of the legislation, which would grant same-sex couples the same rights and benefits provided to married couples. The Senate passed the measure in January. Gov. Linda Lingle has not said if she will sign the bill into law.
Five months after the landmark federal trial over banning same-sex marriage began, U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker presided over closing arguments, prodding attorneys for five hours about subjects sexual, fundamental, legal and historical.
A federal judge in San Francisco rules that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, striking down Proposition 8, the voter approved ballot measure that banned same-sex unions. U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violates the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice. His ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
9th Circuit judges decide to hear arguments in December but put marriages on hold for now
A federal appeals court puts same-sex marriage in California on hold at least until December. The panel’s decision gave no explanation for staying Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s order directing the state to once again allow same-sex couples to marry. The panel said the court would hear the Proposition 8 challenge on an expedited basis and hold arguments the week of Dec. 6. Another panel of three judges is expected to rule on the appeal.
9th Circuit judges explore narrow routes to reinstate gay marriage
Federal appeals court judges seem headed toward a decision that could reinstate same-sex marriages in California while avoiding a ruling of national sweep that would invite U.S. Supreme Court action. The judges explore at least two routes that could achieve that goal.
A panel of federal appeals court judges asks for guidance on the seemingly technical, but perhaps decisive, issue of who has the legal right to defend the ballot initiative on appeal, what is known in court as “standing.”
The new regulations apply to all hospitals receiving funds from the federal government under the Medicaid and Medicare programs for the needy and elderly. Under the regulations, hospitals may not place any restrictions on visitation based on sexual orientation.
Illinois is the sixth state to recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.
The Obama administration announces it will no longer oppose legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act. The administration says the act discriminates against gays and therefore can no longer be accepted as reasonable.
A historic effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland ends for the year after the House of Delegates ended debate without taking a vote.
Senate Democrats introduce legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a law the Obama administration says it will not defend in court. The measure prevents gay couples from receiving federal rights extended to heterosexual couples.
Gay marriage won’t be allowed to resume until state and federal appeals courts decide the fate of Proposition 8, the voter initiative that limited marriage to heterosexual couples, three federal judges rule.
The New York State Legislature gave final approval to a bill permitting same-sex marriage. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill just before midnight, making New York the sixth state, and the most populous by far, to permit same-sex marriage.
The Rhode Island Senate votes, 21 to 16, to pass a bill legalizing civil unions. The legislation had previously been approved by the House in a 62-to-11 vote. Gov. Lincoln D.Chafee had stated that he would sign the measure.
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee signs bill allowing gay couples to enter civil unions. He calls the bill a step toward full marriage rights, even as he expresses reservations about the measure. He says the bill fails to give gay couples the full rights given to heterosexual couples and that he has concerns about the exemptions given to religious groups.
New York’s law allowing same-sex marriage goes into effect. New York is the sixth and most populous state to permit same-sex marriage.
The California Supreme Court appears ready to rule that the backers of Proposition 8 and other ballot measures have the right to defend them in court, a stance that would give opponents of same-sex marriage the chance to champion the initiative all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The California Supreme Court decides that the sponsors of Proposition 8 and other ballot measures are entitled to defend them in court when the state refuses to do so, a ruling likely to spur federal courts to decide the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.
A federal appeals court strikes down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signs legislation giving same-sex couples the same right to a marriage license as anyone else. The law is set to go into effect June 7, but opponents plan to challenge the bill.
In a 42-to-33 vote, members of New Jersey’s Assembly pass a bill approving gay marriage. The Senate had already approved the measure, which Gov. Chris Christie is expected to veto.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White declares the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and orders the federal government to ignore the statute and provide health benefits to the wife of a lesbian federal court employee.
The Maryland Senate passes a gay marriage bill by a 25-to-22 vote. The measure moves to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who sponsored the bill and is likely to sign it.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signs the gay marriage bill. The law is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2013, if it survives a challenge by opponents, who are already gathering signatures for a referendum.
Voters in North Carolina pass an amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman.
Voters in North Carolina approve Amendment One, a fiercely debated and highly restrictive amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman. The amendment not only outlaws same-sex marriage — already illegal in the state — but bans civil unions and domestic partnerships for gay or straight couples.
The U.S. appeals court in Boston rules that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The court says DOMA unfairly denies equal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals votes not to review a three-judge panel’s decision to overturn the voter-approved 2008 state constitutional amendment. The legal battle is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the final chapter in four years of litigation over the constitutionality of Proposition 8’s ban on gay marriage.
Referendum 74 gives voters a chance to approve or reject Washington’s newly passed law that allows gay marriage. The measure, which was supposed to take effect June 7, was put on hold when opponents submitted more than 230,000 signatures calling for a referendum.
Opponents of same-sex marriage ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court decision that struck down Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman.
The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York strikes down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and becomes the first to say that gays and lesbians are a minority group deserving of special protection from discrimination under the Constitution.
Minnesota voters reject a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, with 52% of voters rejecting the amendment and 48% supporting it.
Voters in Maine back same-sex marriage at the ballot box. Same-sex couples should be able to obtain marriage licenses by early January.
Washington joins Maine and Maryland in passing a same-sex marriage measure on the ballot. Same-sex couples couple can apply for marriage licenses in early December.
The Supreme Court sets the stage for a historic decision on gay rights, announcing it would hear appeals of rulings striking down California’s Proposition 8 and the federal law denying benefits for legally married same-sex couples.
The U.S. Supreme Court announces it will rule for the first time on same-sex marriage by deciding the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
The Obama administration endorses a constitutional right to marry for gays and lesbians, urging the Supreme Court to strike down California’s voter-passed law barring same-sex marriage as well as laws in at least the seven other states that already provide civil unions. “Tradition, no matter how long established, cannot by itself justify a discriminatory law,” the administration said in a brief filed with the high court. “Prejudice may not be the basis for differential treatment under the law.”
The U.S Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
The Rhode Island Senate passes a bill that could clear the way for same-sex weddings to begin this summer. The bill passed 26 to 12 after about 90 minutes of debate and is due to take effect Aug. 1, assuming nothing blocks what is seen as a routine vote in the House and the signature of Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
The Delaware Senate approves a bill legalizing gay marriage, sending it to Gov. Jack Markell, who signs the measure into law. The law takes effect July 1.
In a 75-59 vote, the Minnesota House passes a bill that will allow same-sex weddings to begin this summer.
Four days after the Minnesota House approved legislation to make same-sex marriage legal, the Senate OKs the measure in a 37-30 vote.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signs a bill making gay marriage legal in Minnesota. When the law takes effect Aug. 1, Minnesota will become the 12th state to allow same-sex marriage.
With the state poised to become the 13th to approve same-sex marriage, supporters in the Illinois House fail to muster enough support to call the bill for a vote.
The U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California as the justices, in a procedural ruling, turn away the defenders of Proposition 8.
The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as all other married couples.
The court also opens the door for same-sex marriages to resume in California by turning away the defenders of the state’s Proposition 8.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for gay marriages to resume in California. The court lifts its stay on an injunction which had ordered state officials to stop enforcing Proposition 8. With the court’s action, counties can now begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The California Department of Public Health tells all county clerks and recorders to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples “effective immediately.”
Cathy ten Broeke and Margaret Miles are the first couple legally wed in Minnesota. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak marries the couple on the marble steps of the City Hall Rotunda.
Following an order by New Mexico District Judge Alan M. Malott, the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The order, which affects the state’s largest city, Albuquerque, comes after both Santa Fe County and Dona Ana County began issuing marriage licenses last week.
New Mexico state laws do not explicitly allow or forbid same-sex marriage, although they had been interpreted as restricting the practice.
Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey become among the first gay couples to wed in New Jersey, the 14th state to permit same-sex marriage.
Both chambers of the Illinois Legislature approve a measure that legalizes gay marriage. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the bill into law.
Under the measure, gay couples could begin getting married in Illinois in June.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The law goes into effect Dec. 2.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. When the law takes effect June 1, Illinois will become the 16th state to allow gay marriage.
New Mexico’s highest court unanimously rules it is unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to same-sex couples, making it the 17th state to legalize gay weddings.
The U.S. Supreme Court puts same-sex marriages on hold in Utah until a federal appeals court can rule on whether the state law banning the practice violates the Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Terence Kern rules that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Kern suspends his decision while it is appealed to higher courts.
A federal judge strikes down part of Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn orders Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states and opens the door wide for activists to strike down Kentucky’s ban entirely.
A federal judge in Virginia invalidates the state’s ban on same-sex marriage but stays her ruling pending appeal. U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Norfolk strikes down the state’s ban as unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio overturns the state’s ban on same-sex marriage but stays his ruling pending appeals. Garcia writes that the prohibition is unconstitutional and stigmatizes gay couples.
A federal judge strikes down Michigan’s gay marriage ban, and four counties open their offices the next day to issue licenses. But late on March 22, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati orders a temporary halt to the marriage ceremonies by issuing an emergency stay. A few days later, the appeals court makes the stay permanent, pending a review of the case.
A county judge in Arkansas strikes down his state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, saying in his ruling that it did not advance “any conceivable legitimate state interest.”
Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban is declared unconstitutional. “Marriage is a fundamental right of all citizens, which neither tradition nor the majority may deny,” a federal judge wrote in her opinion. Two days later, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals puts a temporary hold on the ruling, preventing same-sex marriages from beginning.
The Arkansas Supreme Court halts the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples by granting a request to stay a lower court ruling that had invalidated laws against gay marriage. Hundreds of gays and lesbians had married since a ruling a week earlier that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.
A federal judge in Oregon throws out the state’s same-sex marriage ban, saying it is unconstitutional and discriminatory, placing gays and lesbians “at a disadvantage … without any rationally related government purpose.” Shortly after the ruling, proponents of same-sex marriage said that marriage licenses were issued in Multnomah County, home to Portland.
U.S. District Judge John Jones III, sitting in Harrisburg, Pa., rules that the state’s 1996 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The action means that all nine Northeast states have legalized same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage in Oregon wins another skirmish as the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to stop gay men and lesbians from marrying as requested by the National Organization for Marriage.
A judge throws out Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage, prompting a wave of confusion and celebration statewide.
A federal judge strikes down Indiana’s ban on gay marriage, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause.
U.S. District Judge Richard Young’s ruling does not have a stay on it, and couples begin marrying immediately.
The Indiana attorney general’s office says it will ask for a stay while it appeals the ruling.
The Denver-based U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules that states, in this case Utah, can’t bar gay marriage — the first such ruling from a federal appeals court.
In a split decision, two judges on the panel strongly back a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, while the other concurred in part but mainly dissented. The ruling, which upheld a lower-court decision, was stayed to allow time for Utah to appeal the case.
Utah officials say they will fight all the way to the Supreme Court to uphold the state’s ban on gay marriage.
A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage. The panel’s decision is immediately put on hold.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore rules that Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The ruling is immediately stayed pending an appeal.
The U.S. Supreme Court turns down all the pending state appeals in the gay-marriage cases, leaving intact rulings in five more states that said gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.
This action means that same-sex marriage is legal now in Utah, Oklahoma, Virgina, Indiana and Wisconsin.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down gay marriage bans in the West, specifically rejecting bans in Idaho and Nevada. The court’s ruling also applies to Alaska, Arizona and Montana. Licenses are not being issued in Arizona and Montana.
A federal District Court judge rules that North Carolina’s ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional, and officials begin issuing marriage licenses.
A federal judge issues a ruling allowing gay marriages in Alaska after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the week before that same-sex marriage bans violate the rights of gay couples.
U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick strikes down Arizona’s gay marriage ban and declines to issue a stay of his ruling. The state’s attorney general directs clerks to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex M. Burlison overturns Missouri’s ban on gay marriage, but only St. Louis begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor orders a stay that temporarily blocks Kansas from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
A federal judge strikes down Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris rules that the ban violates the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment. The court’s ruling is effective immediately.
In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court denies a last-minute request for a stay of rulings allowing same-sex marriages. The denial clears the way for officials in South Carolina to begin issuing marriage licenses.
U.S. District Judge Kristin Baker strikes down Arkansas’ gay marriage ban. She puts her ruling on hold.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves strikes down Mississippi’s gay marriage ban. He immediately puts his ruling on hold. Reeves wrote, “The 14th Amendment operates to remove the blinders of inequality from our eyes. Though we cherish our traditional values, they must give way to constitutional wisdom.”
The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block gay marriages in Florida. Marriages are set to begin Jan. 5, the day a stay, which had been ordered by a lower court judge who overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban, expires.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage.
Read the full U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Sources: Times research
Credits: Megan Garvey, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Rong-Gong Lin II, Brady MacDonald, Mark McGonigle, Maloy Moore, Anthony Pesce, Ken Schwencke, James Wagner, TimelineSetter