Gay Marriage Laws Across the U.S. – Where Do We Stand?

By David A. Tracy

Washington this week becomes the 7th state to authorize marriages between persons of the same gender.  The law does not take effect right away.  Opponents of the law have until June 6th to gather enough petition signatures to force a statewide vote on the law in November.  Assuming the petition drive falls short, or the law survives a vote of the people, this is the list of U.S. states allowing same-sex marriage licenses (and the year they were first authorized).

Connecticut (2008)
District of Columbia (2010)
Iowa (2009)
Massachusetts (2004)
New York (2011)
New Hampshire (2010)
Vermont (2009)
Washington (2012)

The following states allow “civil unions” for same-sex couples, with all the rights of opposite-sex married couples.

Delaware
Hawaii
Illinois
New Jersey
Rhode Island

The following states allow “domestic partnerships” for same-sex couples, but don’t grant all the rights enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples.

Nearly all:
California
Oregon
Nevada
Washington

Some:
Hawaii
Maine
Wisconsin
District of Columbia

The following states have statutes passed by their legislatures that define marriage as between a man and a woman

Delaware
Hawaii
Illinois
Indiana
Minnesota
North Carolina
Pennsylvania
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

The following states have constitutional amendments that define marriage as between a man and a woman:

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Michigan
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia

In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning same-sex marriages.  Oklahoma Constitution, Article 2, Sec. 35, states:

“A. Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

B. A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.”

Since 1996, the federal government has denied benefits to same-sex couples under the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. Same-sex couples married under their state’s law cannot file joint federal income tax returns and take deductions available in traditional marriages. There are no spousal Social Security benefits. They can’t take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave law that protects one’s job and health insurance during emergency absences.

UPDATE:  On February 22, 2012, a federal district judge in California ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.  The court held that DOMA violated the equal protection rights of a lesbian married in California who could not get health insurance benefits for her spouse through her employer.  Read the opinion here.

Sources:

Gregoire signs gay marriage into law, Seattle Times, Feb. 13, 2012 http://bit.ly/wOUi3B

Gay marriage in the US: seven ways states differ on the issue, Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 9, 2012 http://bit.ly/zE9FGo

Status of Marriage Equality Worldwide, Lambda Legal  http://bit.ly/AecGPU

Oklahoma Constitution, Article 2, Sec. 35 http://bit.ly/xBp28r

Federal Defense of Marriage Act
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ199/content-detail.html

Senate panel OKs repeal of Defense of Marriage Act, USA Today, Nov. 10, 2011  http://usat.ly/upt5bV

Same-Sex Marriage, Suffolk University Law School  http://bit.ly/gVJ6BR

2 thoughts on “Gay Marriage Laws Across the U.S. – Where Do We Stand?

  1. Update – March 2, 2012 – Maryland becomes the 8th U.S. jurisdiction to authorize same-sex marriages. The law doesn’t take effect until 2013, and opponents have started the process to collect signatures for an attempt to repeal the measure in November. O’Malley signs same-sex marriage bill, Baltimore Sun, March 1, 2012 http://bit.ly/Aoe74Y

  2. This is very informative. Thank you for posting. I hold self-contradicting views! lol I am 100% for civil union with full benefits because 1. marriage is defined as 1 man 1 woman, but 2. what goes on in my bedroom or yours is no one’s damn business! My views are perhaps rare – I am a non-typical Bible believer. It makes no sense to not allow civil unions identical legal benefits, though, when it comes to taxes, and insurance, and other legal rights we don’t often think about.

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