50-State Rundown on Gay Marriage Laws

 

Gay and lesbian couples may currently marry in one state Massachusetts. Forty states have adopted laws that define marriage as solely a heterosexual union. Seventeen states have enshrined this definition in their constitutions.

In 2005, another 19 state legislatures are considering constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. These laws are modeled after the federal

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed by Congress in 1996 and bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore gay marriages performed elsewhere. Four states (Maryland, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming) have laws or court rulings prohibiting same-sex marriage that predate the federal DOMA.

The six states that do not have laws explicitly barring same-sex marriage are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island.

State legislative activity seeking to ban same-sex marriage takes three basic forms:

  • State constitutional amendments -- The toughest involves enshrining a ban on marriage of same-sex couples in the state constitution and have been adopted by 17 states. Legislatures in another 19 states (Arizona, Alabama, California, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington) have introduced constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage in 2005. On Feb. 2, Kansas became the first state in 2005 to schedule a statewide vote on a constitutional gay marriage ban -- on April 5. Virginia lawmakers approved a similar measure Feb. 8, but both chambers of the legislature must pass the measure again in 2006 before sending it to voters for approval. All state constitutional amendments must be approved in a statewide vote.
  • Marriage statutes -- Two states - New Mexico and Wyoming are considering legislation to enact a state law modeled after DOMA.
  • Non-binding resolutions -- Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky are considering non-binding resolutions urging Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

 Following is a 50-state roundup of current law and proposals to change state marriage laws.

  • ALABAMA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (SB1, 2, and 23).
  • ALASKA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • ARIZONA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (HCR 2027). A similar measure was defeated in 2004. Resolution urging Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage introduced (HMC 2005).
  • ARKANSAS
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • CALIFORNIA
    Current law: State law, passed by public referendum, bans same-sex marriage (In defiance of that law, San Francisco issued more than 3,200 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. The state high court has nullified those marriages). The state extends certain state-level marriage benefits to those on a domestic partners' registry starting Jan. 1, 2005.
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (CA ACA 3). Legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage introduced.
    Court action:Trial court has heard arguments in a case filed by Lambda Legal seeking same-sex marriage rights.
  • COLORADO
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: None
  • CONNECTICUT
    Current law: State adoption statute refers to marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (HCR 29). Bill introduced to allow same-sex couples to marry.
    Court action: Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the legal group that won marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts, filed a lawsuit in state court Aug. 25, 2004 on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking the right to marry.
  • DELAWARE
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (SB 15). Similar measure failed in 2004.
  • FLORIDA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: None
  • GEORGIA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • HAWAII
    Current law: Constitutional amendment giving the legislature the right to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples. DOMA passed by the legislature and adopted as state law by public referendum. But Hawaii law provides limited state benefits to same-sex partners.
    Legislation: None
  • IDAHO
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced but failed to gain the necessary two-thirds support in the state Senate (SJR 101).
  • ILLINOIS
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (HJRCA 1).
  • INDIANA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (HJR 9, 11 and 2).
    Court action: The Indiana Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of three same-sex couples challenging Indiana's same-sex marriage ban. The case was dismissed by a trial court judge in 2003 and is currently pending in the state Court of Appeals.
  • IOWA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (SJR 2).
  • KANSAS
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was approved by the legislature Feb. 2 and will be put to a statewide vote April 5 (SCR 1601). Resolution urging Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage introduced (HC 12)
  • KENTUCKY
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: Resolution urging Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage introduced (BR 274, HC12).
  • LOUISIANA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • MAINE
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: None
  • MARYLAND
    Current law: The first state law defining marriage as a union between a man and woman was adopted by Maryland in 1973.
    Legislation: State statute to ban same-sex marriage introduced (HB 693).
    Court action: The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit July 7, 2004 challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban on behalf of nine same-sex couples and a man whose partner recently died.
  • MASSACHUSETTS
    Current law: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ordered legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry by May 17, 2004.
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages but establishing civil unions gained preliminary approval March 29, 2004 during the state Constitutional Convention. The measure must be approved in identical form during the next legislative session in 2005 before going to a statewide vote in 2006. A citizen initiated petition drive is under way to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, but 2008 is the soonest it could come to a statewide vote.
    Court action: Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed a lawsuit July 2004 challenging a 1913 law that prohibits out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts. On August 17, a trial court upheld the 1913 law but GLAD has appealed the ruling.
  • MICHIGAN
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • MINNESOTA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (ACR 212).
  • MISSISSIPPI
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • MISSOURI
    Current law
    : DOMA adopted as state law and written into constitution Aug. 3
    Legislation: None
  • MONTANA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • NEBRASKA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution
    Legislation: None
    Court action: The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in 2003 in federal court in Nebraska challenging the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
  • NEVADA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution
    Legislation: None
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE
    Current law: State law bans same-sex marriage and pre-dates DOMA laws.
    Legislation: None
  • NEW JERSEY
    Current law: State law provides for a domestic partners' registry with marriage-like benefits for same-sex couples.
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (ACR 212).
    Court action: Lambda Legal filed a case on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking the right to marry. The case lost at the trial court level and was argued before a state appeals court in December 2004. A ruling is pending.
  • NEW MEXICO
    Current law: No public policy
    Legislation: Legislation to enact a state law modeled after DOMA introduced (SB 597).
  • NEW YORK
    Current law: No public policy
    Legislation: State law proposed that would prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions performed elsewhere (A 2998). Bill that would recognize same-sex marriage has been proposed in the state Senate (SB 3816) and in the Assembly (AB 7392).
    Court action: New York City Supreme Court judge ruled Feb. 4, 2005 that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in a case argued by Lambda Legal. The case now will be appealed. A similar lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union July 1, 2004 on behalf of 13 same-sex couples has not been ruled on yet.
  • NORTH CAROLINA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (NC H 55)
  • NORTH DAKOTA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • OHIO
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • OKLAHOMA
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban civil unions introduced.
  • OREGON
    Current Law: DOMA written into state constitution (Multnomah County officials in Portland issued marriage licenses to 3,000 same-sex couples before being ordered to stop by a circuit court judge April 20. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule in 2005 on the validity of those marriages).
    Legislation: None
    Court action: The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking recognition of nearly 3,000 marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples by Multnomah County officials. A trial court judge ruled in April 2004 that the marriages were valid and banning same-sex marriage violates the state's constitution. The state Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in July but has stayed the decision until the state Supreme Court considers the matter. The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in November, 2004 and a decision is pending.
  • PENNSYLVANIA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: None
  • RHODE ISLAND
    Current law: No public policy
    Legislation: None
  • SOUTH CAROLINA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (SC 183 and H 3140) and legislation to strengthen state Defense of Marriage Act (S 0045, S 0090, S 0104, H 3180 H 3032).
  • SOUTH DAKOTA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (HJR 1001).
  • TENNESSEE
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages gained preliminary approval by both houses of the legislature (HJR 990). The measure has been reintroduced and must be approved in identical form in the 2005 legislative session before going to a statewide vote in 2006.
  • TEXAS
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (HJR 6, 19).
  • UTAH
    Current law: DOMA written into state constitution and state law
    Legislation: None
  • VERMONT
    Current law: State law defines marriage as union between man and woman, but civil unions created in 2000 to provide same-sex couples access to state-level marriage benefits.
    Legislation: None
  • VIRGINIA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage approved Feb. 8. The measure must be voted on by the legislature again in 2006 before going to a statewide vote.
  • WASHINGTON
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage introduced (SJR 8209)
    Court action: Washington's Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments March 8, 2004 whether to uphold two lower court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage. Two Superior Court judges ruled in 2004 that banning same-sex couples from marrying violates the state's constitution. Both judges delayed implementing their ruling until the high court decides the issue.
  • WEST VIRGINIA
    Current law: DOMA adopted as state law
    Legislation: None
  • WISCONSIN
    Current law:No DOMA, but state supreme court ruling and Attorney's General opinion held that only heterosexual marriages are legal.
    Legislation: State constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions was approved by the Legislature in 2004. The legislation must be approved again in the 2005 session before going before voters in a statewide referendum.
  • WYOMING
    Current law: State law bans same-sex marriage and pre-dates DOMA laws.
    Legislation: Legislation to enact a state law modeled after DOMA introduced. 
 
X

Related Stories

PCS.PRODUCTION.1.20140221.1210 (PEWSUWVMWAPP01)