1991 to 2015: Milestones in the path
legalization of gay marriage
(a.k.a. same-sex marriage) in the U.S.
We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage"
which is often called "gay marriage."
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
"Marriage equality" means that laws permit both opposite-sex
and same-sex couples to marry.
1 A list of the major milestones in North America in the path to gay marriage, from 1991 to 2915:
- 1991: HI: It is perhaps logical that the first move towards same-sex marriages in the
U.S. occurred in Hawaii. "Aikane," which are close male societal and sexual relationships, were an accepted part
of ancient Hawaiian culture. They were terminated after the arrival of Christian missionaries who were horrified at this and many other Hawaiian practices. Another factor that facilitated discussions of marriage equality was that Hawaii has probably lowest percentage of conservative Christian affiliation in the
United States. Only about 30% of the Hawaiian population considers itself Judeo-Christian.
This compares with about 75% in the rest of the U.S. Most adults are NOTAs (NOT Affiliated with any faith group).
Three same-sex couples launched a lawsuit "Baehr v. Lewin" seeking marriage licenses from the state. They were unsuccessful. However, over two decades later, during 2013-NOV, the Hawaiian legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
- 2003: ON: Ontario in Canada became the first political jurisdiction in North America to legalize same-sex marriage. It resulted from a decision by a Provincial Court.
- 2004: MA: Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to follow Ontario's lead. The Massachusetts Supreme Court had previously ordered the Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage.
- 2005-JUL-20: Marriage equality extended across all of Canada due a single bill passed into law by the central government.
- CA: The California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Over the next six months, about 36,000 lesbians, gays and bisexuals married their same sex partners. Marriage equality ended on election day in November of that year when the voters passed Proposition 8. This is commonly called H-8 and pronounced "Hate." Prop. 8 modified the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. However, the marriages of same-sex couples between May and November continued to be recognized in California.
- CT: Connecticut became the third state to legalize SSM.
- 2009: Iowa, Maine, and Vermont attained marriage equality.
- 2010: New Hampshire and the District of Columbia followed suit.
- 2011: New York State legalized SSM.
- 2012: Maryland and Washington State attained marriage equality.
- Delaware, Rhode Island, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, and New Mexico legalized SSM.
- The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two major rulings on 2013-JUN-23: Hollingsworth v. Perry legalized SSM in California. The other was a major game changer: In Wilson v. United States, the high court declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. This gave some legally married same-sex couples access to 1,138 federal marriage programs, benefits, and protections. But more importantly, the ruling for the majority of Justices on the court gave same-sex couples and their lawyers a set of powerful arguments based on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to use in state and federal courts cases to spread same-sex marriage across the land. The flood gates open and many states attain marriage equality over the next 18 months.
- 2014-AUG: A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals heard four same-sex marriage cases -- one each from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Unlike previous decisions by the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeal, the 6th Circuit panel voted 2 to 1 that the same-sex marriage bans in these states are constitutional! Although some looked upon this decision as a defeat for same-sex marriage, it produced a "circuit split" in which four Circuit Courts approved marriage equality and one did not.
- 2015-JAN: By this time, same-sex marriage had become available in the District of Columbia, in 36 states, and in some Missouri counties. About 70% of Americans lived in locations where same-sex couples could marry. Motivated by the circuit split, The U.S. Supreme Court decided to step in and harmonize the situation.
The high court granted certiorari --accepted appeals -- from all four cases involved in the 6th Circuit's decision. The court consolidated all four cases and scheduled hearings for APR-28. Their ruling was expected in late June. Most commentators predicted that the court's decision will either make marriage equality the law across the U.S. or will find that same-sex couples have no constitutional right to marry.
- 2015-MAR: Over 60 briefs had been received by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality from federal, state, and local governments, professional organizations, religious groups, individuals, etc. A brief opposing SSM was filed on behalf of Kentucky.
The High Court's ruling concludes:
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love,
fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered."
Once some procedural matters are dealt with, same-sex couples :
- throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas will be able to marry for the first time where they live.
- throughout all of Missouri will be able to marry more easily. Previously, marriage licenses had been available to them only in St. Louis and two counties.
- in the territories of American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.
The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that about a million same-sex couples currently live together in the U.S. Of these, about 380,000 are already married and another approximately 70,000 couples will be married over the next three years.
Every day, tens of thousands of children and teens in the U.S. are discovering that they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Now, they will realize -- along with ten times as many children who are discovering that they are heterosexual -- that everyone in their country can hope to find that special person to love, to make a commitment with, to marry, and perhaps raise a family.
This makes the United States approximately the 22nd country of the world to legalize gay marriage.
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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-FEB-17
Latest update: 2015-JUN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson