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Same-sex marriage in New England

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The New England region of the United States is shaded in red, above.
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Even before the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal across all the states of the United States, same-sex marriage was legal in all of the New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as in the neighboring states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The New England region has been noted for being the nucleus of the same-sex marriage movement in the United States,[1] with the region having among the most widespread and earliest legal support of any region. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage,[2] to be followed by three more states between October 2008 and June 2009. This followed Vermont being the first-in-the-nation with civil unions in 2000.[3] Before the 2012 election, California (2008), Iowa (2009), New York (2011) and the District of Columbia (2010) had been the only U.S. jurisdictions outside New England to have performed same-sex marriages, though same-sex marriages in California had been halted following the passage of Proposition 8.

The legalization of same-sex marriage was part of a campaign which began in November 2008, called Six by Twelve, and was organized by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) to legalize same-sex marriage in all six New England states by 2012.[4][5]

The region holds a number of firsts on same-sex marriage: Vermont was the first state to enact it through legislative means and not because of a judicial ruling,[6][7] and Maine was the first state to have a governor sign a same-sex marriage bill that was not the result of a court decision.[8] Maine's first gay marriage law was repealed through a people's veto, but three years later, on November 6, 2012, the question was put to voters a second time, and Maine became one of three first US states to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box, along with Washington and Maryland.

With Rhode Island legalizing same sex marriage, all New England states have same-sex marriage. There have been numerous[1][9][10][11][12] reasons given for why New England has found such strong legal recognition for same-sex marriages in comparison to the rest of the United States.


New England is the first region of the country where all states within it have granted marriage rights to same-sex couples.[12] The rapid makeover of its legal landscape made New England a notable standout within the United States.[12] In other parts of the country, while support for same-sex marriage had been gaining steadily, it was still a minority view.[12] Only two states and one district outside the region, Iowa, neighboring New York and the District of Columbia, had allowed same-sex marriage before the 2012 election; voters in California struck down a law supporting such marriages during the fall of 2008.[12]

Although the same-sex marriage movement started here nine years ago, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it, its growing foothold in the region was not certain.[12] Though politically liberal, New England has not experienced a social revolution similar to California's.[12]

Possible Reasons

There were several reasons given for the strong legal recognition in New England, in contrast to the rest of the United States. For instance, New England has strong libertarian associations,[1][9] and other social movements, such as abolition of slavery and women's suffrage, started in New England.[1] In addition, voters in most New England states cannot initiate constitutional amendments, which has been a common strategy in preventing same-sex marriage elsewhere.[1][9]

By polling

There are a number of demographics which worked to same-sex marriage proponents' favor:

  1. New England is regarded as the least religious region of the country, and religiosity has been tied in polls to opposition to same-sex marriage.[1][10]
  2. There are a large number of Democrats in New England, and Democrats are more likely than Republicans and independents to support same-sex marriage.[12]
  3. New England has higher education attainment levels than the rest of the country,[12][13] and polling has shown that support for gay marriage rises with education levels.[12][14][15][16]

By culture

There have been a number of opinions made on possible cultural factors that could have contributed to the strong legal support in New England:

  1. New Englanders outside Massachusetts share media markets and do not believe they have seen negative consequences from the state's legalization of same-sex marriage there.[11][17] As well New Englanders have seen same-sex unions for a decade, since Vermont was the first in the nation with civil unions in 2000.[12]
  2. Same-sex couples have found more acceptance in New England for over a century, for instance "Boston marriages" between women in the 19th century.[1]
  3. There is a view of religion as private and personal, and a separation of one's own beliefs from politics, that does not necessarily exist in other regions of the country[12]
  4. Catholics, who dominate the region's religious landscape, were at one point a persecuted minority, and may see their own past reflected in the modern LGBT community.[12]
  5. The presence of GLAD in the region, which is based in Boston.[12]

"Six by Twelve" campaign

The 6x12 campaign, led by GLAD and working with other statewide groups, began on November 18, 2008, the fifth anniversary of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts,[18] with the goal of bringing same-sex marriage to all of New England by 2012.

The campaign began a week after same-sex marriage was brought to Connecticut, and the campaign is striving for New England to be a "marriage equality zone."[19] To achieve this, groups have been raising money, training volunteers and lobbying voters and lawmakers as part of this campaign, led by GLAD, which is a legal advocacy group and the group which persuaded the Supreme Courts in Massachusetts and Connecticut to allow same-sex marriage in 2003 and 2008.[20] The campaign has been working primarily through state legislatures, and looking towards the future the campaign sees this as a road map for the rest of the country in 2012.[21]

Some same-sex marriage opponents initially doubted that there was enough support for legislatures to pass laws for same-sex marriage; doubters also saw how same-sex marriage previously only advanced through the judiciary.[21][22] But within seven months into the campaign, same-sex marriage laws were passed in four more states, although Maine's law was repealed by a people's veto on November 3, 2009 funded heavily by organizations from outside the state. However, in the 2012 election, same-sex marriage in Maine was approved by popular vote, meaning five of the six states had legalized same-sex marriage. The full sweep was brought by Rhode Island's legislature passing same-sex marriage the following May.

By state


Same-sex marriage in the U.S. state of Massachusetts began on May 17, 2004, as a result of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that it was unconstitutional under the Massachusetts constitution to allow only opposite-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts became the sixth jurisdiction in the world (after the Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec) to legalize same-sex marriage. It was the first U.S. state to make same-sex marriages legal.[2]


On November 12, 2008, Connecticut joined Massachusetts as the second state in the U.S. to allow same-sex couples to marry.[23]


In April 2009, Vermont legalized same sex marriage, and became the first state to do it through the legislature and not judicial review. The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its "first-in-the-nation" civil unions law in 2000,[3] which was the first place in the United States to extend full legal recognition to same-sex couples. (Several states and cities already had "domestic partnership" registries prior to this point.)


A bill to allow same-sex marriage in Maine was signed into law on May 6, 2009. Maine was the fifth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage,[24] and the second to legislate it.[25] The governor also became the first in the nation to sign a same-sex marriage bill that was not the result of a court decision. (Vermont's was enacted by the legislature over the governor's veto.)[8] Enough signatures were collected to prevent the statute from going into effect until it was put to a popular vote as a question on the November 3, 2009 statewide ballot.[26][27] Maine voters repealed the same-sex marriage law by a narrow margin. Three years later, on November 6, 2012, the voters in Maine approved same-sex marriage, becoming the first state to do so by popular vote.

New Hampshire

Civil unions began on January 1, 2008; legislation for full marriage rights began in March 2009. A bill legalizing same-sex marriage was signed on June 3, 2009. Same-sex marriages began on January 1, 2010.

Rhode Island

Same-sex marriage was recognised in Rhode Island but not performed until legalized in 2013. Bills were introduced to the Rhode Island General Assembly every year since 1997, and after the Republican governor (who promised to veto it if passed) left office, things gained traction.[28] Nevertheless, the odds against same-sex marriage in Rhode Island were considered rather higher than in the rest of New England, primarily on account of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.[29] The state has taken a more conservative stance on several social issues in the past, including abortion.[30] After 16 years, bills passed final votes and were signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee on May 2, 2013, with same-sex marriage set to begin on August 1.[31]

See also

United States



  1. ^ a b c d e f g A Push Is On for Same-Sex Marriage Rights Across New England, New York Times, April 4, 2009
  2. ^ a b Vermont legalizes gay marriage[permanent dead link], Burlington Free Press, April 7, 2009
  3. ^ 'Gay marriage' bill passes N.H. Senate, Baptist Press, April 24, 2009
  4. ^ 6x12: Half-way There and Going Strong!, GLAD, April 14, 2009
  5. ^ "Vt. legalizes same-sex marriage". The Burlington Free Press. 2009-04-07. Retrieved 2009-04-07.[dead link]
  6. ^ Goodnough, Abby (2009-04-07). "Vermont Legislature Makes Same-Sex Marriage Legal". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Russel, Jenna (2009-05-06). "Gay marriage law signed in Maine, advances in N.H". Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  8. ^ a b c Gay Marriage Advances in Maine, The New York Times, Abby Goodnough and Katie Zezima, May 5, 2009
  9. ^ a b Lin, Joanna (2009-03-16). "New England surpasses West Coast as least religious region in America, study finds". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-15.
  10. ^ a b New England leads on same-sex marriage, NECN, May 7, 2009
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n N.E.'s identity bolsters gay marriage tolerance, The Boston Globe, Jenna Russell, May 11, 2009
  12. ^ Polls show Pa. resisting tide favoring gay marriage, Philadelphia Daily News, Will Bunch, May 19, 2009
  13. ^ Value War, Paul Ryan Brewer, Rowman & Littlefield
  14. ^ The politics of same-sex marriage, Craig A. Rimmerman, Clyde Wilcox, University of Chicago Press
  15. ^ Same-sex Marriage, Field Research Corporation , 2003
  16. ^ Massachusetts lets out-of-state gay couples marry, USA Today, July 31, 2008
  17. ^ Five Years After Goodridge, GLAD Announces “6x12”, GLAD, November 18, 2008
  18. ^ Same-sex marriage bills gain in N.E., The Boston Globe, David Abel, March 24, 2009
  19. ^ Iowa a Midwestern maverick on same-sex marriage, San Francisco Chronicle, April 5, 2009
  20. ^ a b Gay marriage backers target New England, Washington Times, January 4, 2009
  21. ^ Same-sex 'marriage' enthusiasts target New England Archived 2009-01-22 at the Wayback Machine, One News Now, January 16, 2009
  22. ^ "Same-sex marriages to begin Nov. 12 in Connecticut". (via Associated Press). November 4, 2008. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
  23. ^ 'Remarkable' gay marriage win for Iowa, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, May 10, 2009
  24. ^ Maine OKs marriage, Jen Colletta, Philadelphia Gay News
  25. ^ Maine becomes 5th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage Archived 2011-08-07 at the Wayback Machine, PSL Web, May 16, 2009
  26. ^ Gay marriage law official on Maine ballot
  27. ^ Rhode Island marriage advocates look to 2011, Edge, May 7, 2009
  28. ^ "Man and man in Maine". The Economist. 16 May 2009. pp. 37–40.
  29. ^ Moskowitz, Eric (2009-06-15). "In R.I., some wary as tide of gay marriage rises at border". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
  30. ^ "Rhode Island Becomes 10th State With Gay Marriage". ABC News. 2013-05-02.