Same-sex unions in the United States

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Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships
  1. Can be registered also in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage

Commencement dates:
  1. To be determined
  2. June 1, 2014 for statewide
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Same-sex unions in the United States are legally recognized in some states and municipalities in various forms. These are same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and reciprocal beneficiary relationships. Legally recognized same-sex unions can be formed in nineteen states and the District of Columbia.[1][2]

Hawaii was the first state to legally recognize same-sex unions, doing so in 1997 in the form of reciprocal beneficiary partnerships.

Federal law[edit]

The legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the United States are complicated by the nation's federal system of government. Traditionally, the federal government does not attempt to establish its own definition of marriage. Instead, any marriage recognized by a state was recognized by the federal government, even if that marriage was not recognized by one or more other states (as was the case with interracial marriage before 1967 due to anti-miscegenation laws). According to the federal General Accounting Office (GAO), 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.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, prompted by fears of an adverse result in Hawaii's lawsuit Baehr v. Miike, defined a marriage explicitly as a union of one man and one woman for the purposes of all federal laws (See 1 U.S.C. § 7), which was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor on June 26, 2013. Other legal cases based on the same point of law had been 'on hold' until the Supreme Court ruled on Windsor. As a result, shortly after Windsor was decided, a number of federal areas ranging from veteran benefits to immigration were clarified as applying equally to same-sex couples.

Windsor only affects federal law. Individual states were unaffected by the case, and remain free as before to define marriage as they see fit, subject to any legal challenge or constitutional restrictions.

Some aspects of marriage law are still decided by a combination of state and federal law, such as federal marriage benefits (determined by the state where the marriage was issued or the state of current residence), leaving somewhat open the question of how federal benefits would apply in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.[citation needed]


State laws regarding same-sex partnerships in the United States*
  Same-sex marriage allowed1
  Domestic partnerships or civil unions granting privileges similar to marriage for same-sex domestic partners2
  Limited/enumerated privileges granted by state
  Same-sex marriage performed elsewhere recognized
  No prohibition or recognition of same-sex marriage or unions in territory law
  Judicial ruling against a same-sex marriage ban stayed pending appeal3
  Statute bans same-sex marriage
  Constitution and statute ban same-sex marriage
  Constitution and statute ban same-sex marriage and some or all other same-sex unions

*Same-sex marriage is recognized by the federal government for residents of all states based on location of ceremony.
1 The bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois goes into effect on June 1, 2014, but same-sex marriages have already begun in Cook County and select other counties following a court ruling. Eight Native American tribal jurisdictions also allow same-sex marriage.
2 Not recognized by federal government. Some states that allow same-sex marriage also allow other same-sex unions.
3 Same-sex marriages were briefly performed in Utah and Michigan prior to their respective judicial rulings being stayed. The stayed rulings in Kentucky and Ohio would overturn the states' bans on recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriage has been legalized in nineteen states and one district—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) also permits states to refuse to recognize unions "treated as a marriage" under the laws of another state, which many states have done.


On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that domestic partnerships, although granting nearly the same rights as marriage, were not sufficient under the California constitution.[3] As a result, the court struck down Proposition 22 and the parts of the Marriage Act defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The court denied bids to reverse the decision and to stay the decision until after the November 4, 2008, election and clarified that the ruling took effect on June 16, 2008. The California legislature had previously passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, but it was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stating that, depending on how the court ruled in In re Marriage Cases, the law was either unconstitutional or irrelevant.[4] On November 4, 2008, the ruling was annulled when voters passed Proposition 8. In the Strauss v. Horton case, the court upheld Proposition 8, but allowed existing same-sex marriages to stand (under the Grandfather clause principle). As a result, all out-of-state same-sex marriages are given the benefits of marriage under California law, although only those performed before November 5, 2008 are granted the designation "marriage".[5] United States district court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8 on August 4, 2010 in the case Perry v. Schwarzenegger.[6] Judge Walker issued an injunction against enforcing Proposition 8 and a stay to determine suspension of his ruling pending appeal.[7][8] Walker lifted the stay on August 12, 2010, thus allowing same-sex marriages to be performed as of August 18, 2010[9] On August 16, 2010, the Ninth Circuit granted the motion to stay, ordered expedited briefing on the merits of the appeal, and directed the parties to brief the issue of why the appeal should not be dismissed for lack of standing.[10][11] On August 17, 2010, the same Ninth Circuit panel ordered expedited briefing on the Imperial County appeal.[12] The court also ordered both appeals calendared for oral argument during the week of December 6, 2010, in San Francisco. It was upheld by the Ninth Circuit on February 7, 2012. The case, then known as Perry v. Brown, was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on July 31, 2012.[13] The Supreme Court granted review of the case, renamed Hollingsworth v. Perry, on December 7, 2012 and issued a final decision on June 26, 2013.[14] The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and the case was remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal on June 28, 2013 and released their stay on the matter, with same-sex marriages resuming almost immediately in California.[15]


On October 10, 2008 Connecticut became the third state in the U.S. to recognize same-sex marriage; the court ruling took effect November 12, 2008.


In March 2012, Governor Markell said he thought that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Delaware was "inevitable" and would be passed "probably within the next few years".[16] In April 2013, the Delaware House of Representatives passed a same-sex marriage bill. On May 7, 2013, the Senate passed the bill, after which Governor Markell immediately signed it. The legislation took effect on July 1, 2013.

District of Columbia[edit]

Same-sex marriage in the District was legalized on March 3, 2010.


In 2011, the Hawaii state legislature passed a bill recognizing civil unions. Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the bill on February 24, 2011. The law took effect on January 1, 2012. In January 2013, a bill was introduced in the Hawaii State Legislature that would legalize same-sex marriage. Despite the support of Governor Abercrombie and the Hawaii Congressional delegation, the Legislature adjourned without voting on the legislation.[17] Following the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, lawmakers considered a special session for the bill. In September, Governor Abercrombie called the Hawaii State Legislature into special session on October 28 to consider the same-sex marriage bill.[18] On October 30, the Hawaii senate passed the bill by a vote of 20-4. On November 8, the Hawaii house passed an amended version of the bill by a vote of 30-19, sending it back to the senate.[19] The senate passed the bill 19-4 on November 12. Governor Abercrombie signed it on November 13.


Openly gay representative Greg Harris introduced a bill to legalize civil unions for both same- and opposite-sex couples.[20] On March 21, 2007, the House Human Services Committee recommended the bill to be voted on by the full House by a 5–4 margin. On November 30, 2010, the House voted to approve the bill, and on December 1, 2010, the Senate did as well. The bill was signed by Governor Pat Quinn on January 31, 2011, and the law took effect on June 1, 2011. In February 2013, the Illinois Senate approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill failed to come up for a vote in the Illinois house before the end of the spring session. On November 5, 2013, the Illinois House passed by 61-54 an amended version of the bill, having it take effect on June 1, 2014 instead of January 1, 2014. The Illinois Senate concurred an hour later by a vote of 32-21.[21] Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill on November 20, 2013.


In a unanimous decision released April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the statute prohibiting same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of the state constitution.[22] The court ruling took effect April 29, 2009.


A same-sex marriage bill passed the Maine legislature and was signed by the governor on May 6, 2009. The law was subsequently repealed by voters on November 3, 2009.[23] However, a separate voter initiative allowing same-sex marriage in Maine passed on November 6, 2012.


The Civil Marriage Protection Act was signed by Governor Martin O'Malley on March 1, 2012, providing that same-sex couples can obtain a civil marriage license and that religious institutions will be protected from performing any marriage in violation of their doctrine.[24] Opponents of the law obtained enough signatures in a referendum petition to place the law on the ballot for approval or rejection by the voters. On November 6, 2012, voters upheld the law by approving ballot Question 6, becoming one of the first U.S. states, alongside Maine and Washington, to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote.[25] The law became effective on January 1, 2013.

Same-sex marriage states
State Legalization date Effective date Method
1 Massachusetts November 18, 2003 May 17, 2004 Court
2 California May 15, 2008 June 16, 2008 Court
2 California August 4, 2010 June 28, 2013 Court
3 Connecticut October 10, 2008 November 12, 2008 Court
4 Iowa April 3, 2009 April 27, 2009 Court
5 Vermont April 7, 2009 September 1, 2009 Legislature
6 New Hampshire June 3, 2009 January 1, 2010 Legislature
7 New York June 24, 2011 July 24, 2011 Legislature
8 Washington November 6, 2012 December 6, 2012 Legislature & voters
9 Maine November 6, 2012 December 29, 2012 Voters
10 Maryland November 6, 2012 January 1, 2013 Legislature & voters
11 Rhode Island May 2, 2013 August 1, 2013 Legislature
12 Delaware May 7, 2013 July 1, 2013 Legislature
13 Minnesota May 14, 2013 August 1, 2013 Legislature
14 New Jersey September 27, 2013 October 21, 2013 Court
15 Hawaii November 13, 2013 December 2, 2013 Legislature
16 Illinois November 20, 2013 June 1, 2014 Legislature
17 New Mexico December 19, 2013 December 19, 2013 Court
18 Utah December 20, 2013 Stayed Court
19 Michigan March 21, 2014 Stayed Court


The first state to legalize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts. In 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples seeking marriage in a 4–3 decision. It required the legislature grant same-sex couples the rights afforded to married couples. In a separate opinion, the court rejected attempts to opt for civil unions instead, insisting that same-sex marriage was the only appropriate remedy. The ruling took effect on May 17, 2004. The 1913 law was repealed on July 31, 2008 (which bypassed the standard 90-day waiting period and made the law effective immediately). It had prevented out-of-state same-sex couples from getting married in Massachusetts if the marriage was unrecognized or illegal in their home state (originally it had prevented out-of-state interracial couples from getting married in Massachusetts for the same reason).[26][27] An attempt to reintroduce the 1913 law failed in August 2008.[28]


On May 9, 2013, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage on a vote of 75 to 59. On May 13, 2013, the Minnesota Senate passed the bill on a vote of 37-30. Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law on May 14. It went into effect August 1, 2013.

New Hampshire[edit]

A same-sex marriage bill was signed into law by Governor Lynch on June 3, 2009. It became effective on January 1, 2010.

New Jersey[edit]

After a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the state provided civil unions. The ruling, similar to the ruling in Vermont, required the state grant all the benefits given to opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples. Prior to the ruling, same-sex couples enjoyed a broad range of benefits under the state's domestic partnership law. The Civil Union Act took effect on February 19, 2007. On February 16, 2012, the New Jersey Legislature passed a measure providing for same-sex marriage, but Governor Chris Christie returned the bill with an amendatory veto, the amendment being that the bill would be presented to the voters as a referendum.[29] After the United States v. Windsor decision, the legislature considered overriding Chris Christie's veto and a lawsuit challenging the current civil union law was filed.[30] On September 27, 2013, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson, in Garden State Equality v. Dow, ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry by October 21. Governor Christie appealed the ruling and requested a stay, but on October 18 the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the stay.[31] On October 21, the governor dropped the appeal.

New Mexico[edit]

The county clerk of Doña Anna County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, on his own initiative, on August 21, 2013. Soon after, other counties began issuing marriage licenses under court order. Eight counties now offer same-sex marriage. On August 29, 2013, all 33 of New Mexico's county clerks asked the New Mexico Supreme Court for a ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage in the state. The New Mexico Supreme Court heard the case on October 23. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Same-Sex Marriage to be legal on December 19.[32]

New York[edit]

After a 2006 New York Court of Appeals decision in which the Court upheld the constitutionality of New York State's opposite-sex definition of marriage, New York gay rights groups vowed to push for same-sex marriage in the legislature. During his 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Eliot Spitzer said that he would push to legalize same-sex marriage if elected,[33] and Spitzer proposed a same-sex marriage bill to the state legislature as governor on April 27, 2007. This legislation passed the New York State Assembly on June 19, 2007, but died in the Republican-controlled New York State Senate and was returned to the Assembly.[34] Same-sex marriage in New York was legalized on June 24, 2011.

Rhode Island[edit]

In June 2011, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill that would establish civil unions beginning on July 1.[35] On July 2, 2011, the bill was signed by Governor Lincoln Chafee.[2]

On May 14, 2012, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed an executive order recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages.[36]

In 2013, the General Assembly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and Governor Chafee signed it on May 2, 2013. It went into force on August 1, 2013.[37]


A same-sex marriage bill passed the Vermont legislature on April 2, 2009, but Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the bill on April 6.[38] However, on April 7, both houses of the legislature voted to override the governor's veto, making Vermont the first state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage through legislative means.[39] The law has been effective since September 1, 2009.


On February 13, 2012, Governor Chris Gregoire signed a same-sex marriage bill that had previously been passed by both houses of the state legislature. The law was meant to take effect 90 days after signing, but opponents were able to interrupt its implementation by collecting enough signatures to put it on the next ballot as Referendum 74. Voters approved the referendum on the November 6, 2012, by a 54-46% margin. The law took effect on December 6, and the first marriages were celebrated on December 9, 2012.

Native American Tribal Jurisdictions[edit]

There are currently eight Native American Tribal Jurisdictions that perform same-sex marriage. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, The Coquille Tribe, The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, The Santa Ysabel Tribe, The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and The Suquamish tribe all perform same-sex marriage.

Civil unions[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships by state, county, and local level in the United States
  Same-sex marriage
  Unions granting rights similar to marriage1,2
  Legislation granting limited/enumerated rights
  State grants benefits to state employees
  Same-sex marriages performed elsewhere recognized
  No specific recognition of same-sex marriages or unions in state law3,4

1Oregon recognizes out of state same-sex marriages.
2Colorado recognizes out of state same-sex marriages for the purposes of joint taxation only.
3Ohio recognizes out of state same-sex marriages for death certificate purposes only.
4Missouri recognizes out of state same-sex marriages for the purposes of state taxation only.

Civil unions are a means of establishing kinship in a manner similar to that of marriage. The formalities for entering a civil union and the benefits and responsibilities of the parties tend to be similar or identical to those relating to marriage. Various names are used for similar relationships in other countries, but civil union was first applied in Vermont.

Some in the gay community do not see civil unions as a replacement for marriage. "Marriage in the United States is a civil union; but a civil union, as it has come to be called, is not marriage," said Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry.[40] "It is a proposed hypothetical legal mechanism, since it doesn’t exist in most places, to give some of the protections but also withhold something precious from gay people. There’s no good reason to do that." However, some opponents of same-sex marriage view the matter differently. Randy Thomasson, Executive Director of the Campaign for California Families, calls civil unions "homosexual marriage by another name" and contends that civil unions provide same-sex couples "all the rights of marriage available under state law".[41]

After the invalidating of Section 3 of DOMA by the Supreme Court, Civil Unions continue to only provide state-law benefits and not federal benefits.

The states Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Delaware which have legalized same-sex marriage, previously offered civil unions to same-sex couples.

Civil Unions are allowed in Hawaii and Illinois. Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to establish civil unions for same-sex and opposite-sex couples on March 21, 2013. The law took effect on May 1, 2013.

States with Civil unions (table)[edit]

Note: This table shows only states that currently have same-sex relationship laws other than full marriage. Some states that now have same-sex marriage originally had civil unions or domestic partnerships (or still do), but those states are not shown here.

States with unions granting rights similar to marriage
State State population
(US Census estimate 2013[42])
Legislation date Effective date Legislation name
1.  Oregon 3,930,065 May 9, 2007 February 4, 2008 Oregon Family Fairness Act (domestic partnerships)
2.  Nevada 2,790,136 May 31, 2009 October 1, 2009 Domestic Partnership Responsibilities Act
3.  Wisconsin 5,742,713 June 29, 2009 August 3, 2009 2009 Wisconsin Act 28 (limited domestic partnerships)
4.  Colorado 5,268,367 March 21, 2013 May 1, 2013 Colorado Civil Union Act
Total 17,731,281
(5.6% of the U.S. population)

Domestic partnerships[edit]

Domestic partnerships are any of a variety of relationships recognized by employers or state or local government. The benefits of domestic relationships range from very limited rights to all the rights afforded to married people by the state, except where federal law makes providing benefits impossible. While most domestic partnership schemes grant those partners limited, enumerated rights, the Oregon, Washington, and Nevada schemes provide substantially the same rights as marriage and are therefore, essentially, civil unions.

Government domestic partnership registries[edit]

For a full list of cities and counties see the following page: Cities and counties in the United States offering a domestic partnership registry
  Cities, boroughs, towns, townships, unincorporated areas, and villages that offers domestic partner benefits
  Counties, consolidated city-counties, boroughs, parishes, and independent cities that offers domestic partner benefits
  State-wide domestic partnership benefits for state employees only
  State-wide partner benefits through same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnership, designated beneficiary agreements, or reciprocal beneficiary relationships, including state-wide domestic partnership benefits for state employees1
  County or city does not offer domestic partner benefits

1Civil unions legal in six Arizona cities

Some U.S. cities, including New York, San Francisco, and Toledo, offer domestic partnership registries. These registries afford registered partner specified rights otherwise reserved to married couples. The rights afforded include access to city services and rights created by city ordinances. Some private employers within such cities use the domestic partnership registries for the purpose of determining employee eligibility for domestic partner benefits.[43]

Six U.S. states and the District of Columbia have some form of domestic partnership. One of these, Hawaii, calls its scheme a "reciprocal beneficiary" registry. Domestic partnership benefits vary widely, ranging from enumerated lists of benefits similar to municipal domestic partnerships to benefits equal to marriage.

When state governments legalize same-sex unions in some form, municipalities and counties in these states may sometimes choose to sunset their own domestic partnership registries (as Cook County, Illinois did in May 2011), while others which enacted such local registries prior to the state's own registry may retain their registries for various reasons. Such registries continue to be separate from state-level registries and unions, and usually must be filed after the dissolution of a state-level union. Those states include California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, and the District of Columbia

States offering domestic partnerships[edit]

Example of California domestic partnership certificate.


Since October 1, 2009, same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples over 18 have been able to enter into domestic partnerships.[44]


In 2004, voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Despite this defeat, gay rights groups have continued to push for civil unions in the state legislature. In trying to garner support for a civil unions bill, it was changed to a domestic partnership registry, although it still gave virtually all of the state level benefits that a marriage or civil union does.[45] In April 2007, the Oregon House passed the domestic partnership bill.

The bill was signed by the Governor on May 9, and made Oregon the ninth state in the United States to give some level of recognition to same-sex couples. Although the law was to take effect on January 1, 2008, it was delayed by court action and took effect on February 4, 2008.


The Wisconsin legislature passed its 2009–2010 Budget on June 26, 2009. Governor Jim Doyle included language in the bill to allow for domestic partnership registrations for all unmarried persons. Wisconsin is the first state to offer such domestic partnership benefits despite having a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and comparable alternatives, like civil unions. A legal analysis found on May 15, 2009, that adding such language to the budget despite the bans was likely legal,[46] and the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal to a lower court ruling affirming the law.[47] The law became effective on August 3, 2009.

Other states[edit]

Even in states where official recognition of their relationships is lacking; LGBT partners can conclude cohabitation agreements. Many states recognize through their judicial systems cohabitation agreements and common law partner agreements concluded between two partners in a relationship.These are de facto domestic partnerships that protect both parties and allow for shared property and court recognition of their relationships.[48][48]

Employment benefits[edit]

Some public- and private-sector U.S. employers provide health insurance or other spousal benefits to same-sex partners of employees, although the employee receiving benefits for his or her partner may have to pay income tax on the value of the benefit.

Partner benefits are more common among large employers, colleges and universities than at small businesses. The qualifications for and benefits of domestic partnership status vary from employer to employer; some recognize only same-sex or different-sex couples, while others recognize both.[43]

According to data from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the majority of Fortune 500 companies provided benefits to same-sex partners of employees as of June 2006.[49][50] Overall, 41 percent of HR professionals indicate that their organizations offered some form of domestic partner benefits (opposite-sex partners, same-sex partners or both).[51]

Because the U.S. federal government does not recognize same- or opposite-sex partners, tax benefits provided to opposite-sex spouses are generally not available to same-sex partners and spouses or opposite-sex partners.[52] While there are certain exceptions, generally under the Internal Revenue Code Section 152, the imputed value of the benefit will be considered taxable income. The proposed Tax Equity for Domestic Partner and Health Plan Beneficiaries Act would remove the disparity in tax treatment between such partners and married people, who are not taxed on benefits.

Limited recognition of same-sex unions[edit]

Some judicial decisions or executive orders have given same-sex couples limited recognition of their unions in certain states.


In November 2013, Governor Jay Nixon issued an executive order allowing for married same-sex couples to file joint tax returns with the state. They will not, however, be able to use state-level exemptions, deductions, or credits.[53]


In October 2013, Oregon began recognizing out of state same-sex marriages.


Although the state is not recognizing the same-sex couples who married in the state between December 20, 2013 and January 6, 2014, couples who are eligible to file joint federal tax returns will be allowed to file joint state returns.[54]

Same-sex unions under litigation[edit]

After the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of DOMA, several federal district court lawsuits against state bans were filed.

Case District Court Decision Date Circuit Court Appellate Court Date
Bishop v. Oklahoma In favor January 14, 2014 810th April 17, 2014
Bostic v. Rainey In favor February 13, 2014 14th May 13, 2014
Bourke v. Beshear In favor February 27, 2014 36th Pending
DeBoer v. Snyder In favor March 21, 2014 56th Pending
De Leon v. Perry In favor February 26, 2014 25th Pending
Kitchen v. Herbert In favor December 20, 2013 710th April 10, 2014
Obergefell v. Wymyslo In favor December 23, 2013 46th Pending
Sevcik v. Sandoval Against November 29, 2012 69th Pending


Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon married in Ontario, Canada, in 2004. On July 26, 2013, they filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky challenging Kentucky's refusal to recognize their marriage on behalf of themselves and Deleon's two adopted children. In a decision issued February 12, 2014, Judge Heyburn found that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions because withholding recognition violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. On February 27, 2014, Heyburn ordered Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.[55] He set an effective date of March 21, but on March 19 he stayed his ruling pending appeal to the 6th circuit.[56]


In 2004, voters passed a same-sex marriage ban. On January 23, 2012, a lesbian couple filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state's ban on adoption by same-sex couples so they can jointly adopt their children. It was amended to include the state's same-sex marriage ban. A hearing was held on March 7, 2013, but Judge Bernard A. Friedman announced he would delay a ruling pending the outcome of Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor at the Supreme Court. A trial was held from February 25 to March 7, 2014. On March 21, he ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and did not stay his ruling. Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency stay and appeal to the 6th Circuit.[57] Four counties began issuing marriage licenses on March 22 before a stay was granted. The stay is in effect until March 26 while the 6th Circuit decides whether to grant a longer extension.[58]


On April 10, 2012, Lambda Legal filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada on behalf of eight same-sex couples. Judge Robert C. Jones scheduled oral argument for November 26 on all issues in the case, but on September 19 he canceled the oral argument and announced he would rule on the basis of the briefs alone. On November 29, Jones ruled against the plaintiffs. An appeal was filed on December 3, 2012 with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court placed the case on hold pending the Supreme Court rulings in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor. On October 18, 2013, Lambda Legal filed its opening brief. On January 21, 2014, the state of Nevada submitted its reply brief. That same day, the Ninth Circuit's decision in SmithKline Beecham Corporation v. Abbott Laboratories established that laws that make a distinction based on sexual orientation are subject to "heightened scrutiny". On February 10, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto withdrew the state's brief defending Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage. The court agreed to expedite the case on February 12.[59]


On December 23, 2013, federal judge Timothy Black for the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio declared Ohio's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but limited the ruling to death certificates.[60] On January 16, 2014, the decision was appealed to the Sixth Circuit.[61]


On January 14, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Terence C. Kern ruled that Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. He stayed enforcement of his judgement pending appeal. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 17.


In November 2013, a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts and an unmarried gay couple challenged the state's same-sex marriage ban. Federal District Judge Orlando Garcia heard oral arguments on February 12, 2014. On February 26, he ruled against Texas' ban on same-sex marriage. He stayed enforcement of his ruling pending appeal to the Fifth Circuit. Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state would appeal the decision.


Three same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah on March 25, 2013. The court heard arguments on December 4. On December 20, District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down the same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional and Salt Lake County began issuing marriage licenses immediately.[62] The state appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit and requested an emergency stay pending appeal. The stay was denied by the court on December 22. The state also requested a stay from Judge Shelby, but it was denied on the 23rd, along with a second request for a stay from the Tenth Circuit. A third request was denied the following day. A final request for a stay was filed with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees the Tenth Circuit, on December 31. On January 6, 2014, the stay was granted by the Supreme Court pending a decision by the Tenth Circuit.[63] Oral arguments are scheduled for April 10, 2014.


On July 18, 2013, two gay men filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen heard oral arguments on February 4, 2014. On February 13, she ruled that Virginia's statutory and constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She stayed enforcement of her ruling pending appeal as the state had requested. Oral arguments are scheduled for May 13.

Same-sex union referenda under consideration[edit]

Referenda to repeal same-sex union bans are being considered in the following states:


Two ballot proposals have been approved for signature collections. One ballot proposal by Arkansans for Equality would repeal Amendment 83, but not legalize same-sex marriage; it would leave the statute ban in place.[64] The other ballot proposal by Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.[65]


In 2013, the state legislature began work on legislation that repeals the constitutional ban and substituting a gender neutral definition of marriage.[66][67] The Senate approved the legislation on April 22 on a 12–9 vote.[68] and the Assembly passed the resolution on May 23 by a 27–14 vote.[69] It requires approval by the 2015 legislature and by voters in the 2016 election to take effect.[70]


Basic Rights Oregon plans to put a repeal of the state's constitutional ban on the 2014 ballot. On July 26, 2013, the petition campaign to get the required signatures was launched. In February of 2014, they gathered sufficient signatures but did not submit them. A legal challenge to the state's ban is scheduled in federal district court for April 23.[71] The deadline for filing the signatures is July 3.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The issue nationwide is at a tipping point Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Belenky, Alexander (July 2, 2011). "Rhode Island Same Sex Civil Unions Bill Signed By Governor Lincoln Chafee". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Text of the decision in In re Marriage Cases". Supreme Court of California. May 15, 2008. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved June 5, 2008. 
  4. ^ "In re Marriage Cases, footnote 17, pages 29–30". Supreme Court of California. May 15, 2008. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved June 5, 2008. 
  5. ^ – For a review see: Thomas Kupka, Names and Designations in Law, in: The Journal Jurisprudence 6 (2010) 121–130.
  6. ^ "Ruling by United States District Court". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ Egelko, Bob; Bulwa, Demian (August 4, 2010). "Judge strikes down ban on same-sex marriage". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  8. ^ Keys, Matthew (August 4, 2010). "Federal Judge: Same Sex Marriage Ban Under Proposition 8 Violates Constitution". Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ McKinley, Jesse (August 12, 2010). "Judge Sets End to Ban on Gay Marriage in California". New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  10. ^ Joel Rosenblatt and Edvard Pettersson (August 16, 2010). "California Gay Marriage Remains Banned During Appeal". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved August 16, 2010. 
  11. ^ Ninth Circuit: "Order," August 16, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2010
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