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Same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Solemnizing marriages in
various states during early 2004

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There is a well known phrase: "As California goes, so goes the nation." New trends, therapeutic techniques, religions, diets, etc. often start in California, and then spread to other states. This certainly happened in early 2004 with same-sex marriages.

A number of states do not have laws that specifically prohibit same-sex marriages. However, they typically do have laws requiring marriage licenses to refer to "bride" and "groom." Also, there are other family laws that refer to "husband" and "wife."

bullet San Francisco, CA: On 2004-FEB-10, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, CA, directed the county clerk to start issuing "gender neutral" marriage licenses to gay, bisexual, and lesbian couples. Over the next few weeks, thousands of same-sex couples went to city hall, obtained licenses, and were married in civil ceremonies. Each day, the number of same-sex couples getting married vastly outnumbered the opposite-sex couples. Newsom's rationale was that the constitution of California forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. So, he reasoned that the state cannot allow a woman to marry almost any man, while preventing her from marrying the woman that she loves and has made a commitment to. More details.
bullet Sandoval County, NM: Following the lead of city officials in San Francisco, CA, On FEB-20, clerk, Virginia Dunlap, began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in Sandoval County. Her reasoning was similar to that of the mayor of San Francisco. According to the Associated Press: "Dunlap said she made the decision after County Attorney David Mathews determined New Mexico law is unclear on the issue. He said state law defines marriage as a contract between parties but does not mention gender." She said: "It's going to be across the country and so we wanted to be ahead of the curve." Twenty-six licenses were issued to same-sex couples before the Attorney General issued the opinion that the licenses were invalid. More details.
bullet New Paltz, NY: The next opportunity for same-sex couples came in New Paltz, NY, a town located about 75 miles north of New York City. Mayor Jason West, 26, a Green Party member, started solemnizing same-sex marriages on FEB-27, without benefit of licenses. He performed 25 SSM weddings that day. Four days later, he was charged with 19 counts of breaking the state's domestic relations law. 1,2,3 On 2004-JUN-10, New Paltz Town Justice Jonathan Katz dismissed the criminal charges Jason West. Justice Katz ruled that the state failed to show it has a legitimate interest in banning same-sex weddings, and failed to prove that the law under which West was charged was constitutional. 5,6

Two ministers of churches affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey, were charged for marrying thirteen same-sex couples on MAR-6. On MAR-13, Rev. Marian Visel joined Greenleaf and Sangrey, and married 25 additional couples. They became the first clergy prosecuted in the U.S. for marrying gay couples.

On 2004-JUL-13, New Paltz Town Justice Judith Reichler dismissed the charges against Greenleaf and Sangrey. 5

More information on the recognition of same-sex relationships in New York state.

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bullet Multnomah County, OR: On MAR-2, Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn directed the county to begin issuing same-sex wedding licenses after consulting with the county attorney. Three of the other four commissioners affirmed her decision on MAR-3. One said: "We will not allow discrimination to continue when the Constitution of the state of Oregon grants privileges equally to all citizens." A county commissioner started issuing same-sex marriage licenses on MAR-3. About 50 people lined up to take advantage of this sudden opportunity to marry. Oregon state law defines marriage as a "civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age." Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) said at a news conference that he supports civil unions for gay people, but believes same-sex marriages are not legal in Oregon. He said: "I think when you read it [marriage act] and consider the times when it was written they were thinking of a man and a woman getting married." Mary Li was the first person to obtain a SSM license in Oregon. She said: "I can't describe how great it feels." She and her partner, Rebecca Kennedy, were also the first to be married in the state, by a county judge. Christine Tanner also obtained a license. She said: "There are only so many big events in people's lives - birth, marriage and death. It's a big deal. For us, this is symbolic." She and her partner have been together for 19 years. In 1998, she won a lawsuit in the Oregon Court of Appeals that required all state and local governments to offer spousal benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees. 3

Kevin Mannix, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, said: "I'm very upset that this travesty is taking place in Oregon. It definitely is an insult to the voters and to the people."

On 2005-APR-14, the Oregon Supreme Court voided all of the same-sex marriages performed in the state during the previous month. The ruling stated that: "County officials were entitled to have their doubts about the constitutionality of limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. But, marriage and the laws governing it are matters of statewide, not local, concern....It follows that the marriage licenses that the county issued to same-sex couples were issued without authority and, as such, were void ab initio. The trial court erred in not so holding." 7

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  1. "N.Y. village mayor charged for marrying gays. Vows he's innocent, plans weddings this week. 'Clear to me he's breaking the law:' Governor," Associated Press, The Toronto Star, 2004-MAR-3, Page A12.
  2. Sumathi Reddy & Andrew Metz, "Mayor faces charges for marrying gays,", 2004-MAR-2, at:
  3. Rukmini Callimachi, "Gay Couples start tying knot in Oregon," Associated Press, 2004-MAR-3, at:
  4. "Clergy Charged For Marrying Gays," CBS News, 2004-MAR-15, at:
  5. "Charges Tossed Vs. Gay-Marriage Ministers," Associated Press, 2004-JUL-13, at:
  6. "Wedstock," Heart of the City, at:
  7. "Oregon Supreme Court nullifies 3,000 gay marriages," AFP, 2005-APR-14, at:

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Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > SSM > SSM sub menu > here

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Copyright 2004 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-MAR-3
Latest update: 2007-APR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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