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"Defense of marriage acts" (DOMA)

State DOMA laws in the U.S.

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DOMA legislation in various states:

Article IV, Section 1 of the US Constitution states that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the...judicial proceedings of every other state." Thus, if one state legalizes same-sex marriages (SSM), and a couple is married in that state, then the remaining 49 states and the District of Columbia may be required to recognize that marriage.

However, if a state passes a law expressly prohibiting SSMs before they become available somewhere, then some legal authorities believe that they would not be compelled to recognize marriages that were legally solemnized in other jurisdictions.

These beliefs have not been tested in the courts. There seems to be a growing consensus that such laws cannot withstand a legal constitutional challenge, since they violate equal access and equal protection clauses present in the Federal Constitution and most state Constitutions.

Timeline of DOMA developments:

bullet Starting in 1995, bills were written in various states that were often called "Defense of Marriage Acts" (DOMA). Their intent was to outlaw SSMs and to refuse to recognize such marriages recognized in other states. Many have been passed and signed into law. Updated lists are available online. 1,2,3
bullet From 1995 to 2000, during the first six years of DOMA legislation, the following states passed laws, modified their constitution, or adopted executive orders to ban same-sex marriage:
bullet 1995: One state: UT
bullet 1996: 15 additional states: AK, AZ, DE, GA, ID, IL, KS, MI, MO, NC, OK, PA, SC, SD, and TN. In two states (AL, MS) state governors adopted an executive order declaring same-sex marriages void.
bullet 1997: Nine additional states: AR, FL, HI, IN, ME, MN, MS, ND, VA. 
bullet 1998: Four additional states: AL, IA, KY, WA. Also:
bullet AK voters modified the state constitution to specifically discriminate against gays and lesbians.
bullet HI voters modified their state constitution to allow their legislature to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
bullet 1999: One additional state: LA
bullet 2000: California Proposition 22 to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples was passed by the voters on 2000-MAR-7.

On 1996-FEB-20 Ed Fallon delivered a moving speech in the Iowa House against the DOMA bill in his state.

bullet By 2004-FEB: A total of:
bullet 33 states had passed DOMA laws banning same-sex marriage: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
bullet 5 states had passed ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nebraska and Nevada. 2

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bullet During 2009-JUN: The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) stated that:
bullet 30 states had constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, and
bullet 41 states had DOMA legislation banning same-sex marriage.

However, the TVC's website graphic showing the status of same-sex marriage, DOMA legislation and DOMA amendments was last updatged during 2008-NOV. It was hopelessly out of date by mid-2009. 4

During the first half of 2009 when the Supreme Court in Iowa legalized SSM, and the legislatures in all but one of the New England states legalized SSM, the court or legislature simply repealed the state's DOMA act as part of the ruling or legislation legalizing SSM.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. A listing of activity on a state by state basis is available at: It does not seem to have been updated recently.
  2. A frequently updated activity list is at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund at: 
  3. Sonja Swiatkiewicz, "Connecticut Attempts to Protect Marriage," Focus on the Family, 2003-FEB-21, at:
  4. "SPECIAL REPORT: 50-State Survey Of Marriage Protection Amendments," Traditional Values Coalition, 2009-NOV, at:, Downloaded on 2009-JUN-17. As noted above, the graphic is badly out of date.

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Copyright 1995 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1995-SEP-11
Latest update: 2009-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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