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Same-sex marriage in the United States

Same-sex marriage
Performed nationwide in:
Performed in some regions in:
Canada (BC, MB, NS, ON, QC, YT)
United States (Massachusetts)
Articles on other countries and regions:
Canada: AB, NB, NU, SK
South Africa
See also
Civil union
Domestic partnership
Domestic Registry

The push by some civil rights activists to create legal recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States has been taking shape since the 1970s, although it did not reach the forefront of public debate until the early years of the twenty-first century. As of 2004, same-sex marriage is legally recognized only in the state of Massachusetts. (See also Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.)


Recent Legal Action

In 2000, the state of Vermont began issuing same-sex civil union licenses. This union was intended to provide most of the state's legal benefits of marriage.

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling demanding that the legislature pass a law authorizing same-sex marriages. The first licenses were issued in Cambridge on May 17, 2004.

For several weeks in early 2004 several local government officials, most notably in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The San Francisco licenses were later nullified by the California Supreme Court, which ruled they had been issued without legal authority. [1] The Oregon licenses have not yet been ruled on.

On August 4th, 2004 Missouri became the fifth state to amend its state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. It was followed, on September 18th, by Louisiana; however, on October 5, Louisiana District Judge William Morvant ruled that the amendment was invalid due to structural flaws inherent in its wording. Objections to the wording had been raised before the vote, but were ruled premature at the time.

Citizens of eleven additional states (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, North Dakota, and Ohio) will be voting on similar constitutional amendments this year.

Also on August 4th, 2004, Washington State Judge William L. Downing ruled that the state law prohibiting same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, finding for the plaintiffs in the March 8 lawsuit Andersen v. King County . The judge ruled that restricting the institution of marriage to opposite sex couples "is not rationally related to any legitimate or compelling state interest." As of October 3rd, 2004, the ruling is stayed pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Text of ruling in .pdf format

Thirty-eight states already ban same-sex marriage by statute, but proponents see constitutional amendments as a way to strengthen the intent of those statutes.

Percentage of American households headed by same-sex couples in 2000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Percentage of American households headed by same-sex couples in 2000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Impact on 2004 Presidential Elections

The issue of same-sex marriage is unlikely to become an important issue in the 2004 elections, as it is opposed by the candidates of both major parties. The candidates differ primary in how they would see traditional marriage protected, with George W. Bush announcing his support for an US Constitutional amendment, while the Kerry-Edwards platform would prefer to leave the issue for each state to address individually.

Popular opinion

Various groups have battled over the legal issue since the late 20th century. A nationwide poll by Pew Research in July 2003 found opposition to same-sex marriage at 53 percent of respondents, while 38 percent said that they backed them, [2] while an October 2003 poll by the same group found opposition had risen to 59 percent and support fallen to 32 percent. Opposition continues to be centered among the conservative religious community.

On the other hand, a Massachusetts poll conducted in October 2003 found that 64 percent of voters in the state would agree, and only 34 percent would disagree with a court ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts if the court ruled that couples of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry [3]. It also found that 59 percent of Massachusetts voters said same-sex couples should have the right to enter into civil marriage, while 35 percent disagreed.

Crowds of same-sex couples gather at San Francisco City Hall during Valentine's Day weekend 2004 to apply for marriage licenses.
Crowds of same-sex couples gather at San Francisco City Hall during Valentine's Day weekend 2004 to apply for marriage licenses.

On February 10, 2004, a majority of Americans in one poll (2 to 1 margin) responded that they did not want laws in their states that would legalize same-sex marriages. However in the same poll 49% of respondents stated that they were opposed to the idea of a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage (42% were in favor). The poll was taken after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling. [4]

There are also many groups actively fighting for and against legal recognition of same-sex marriage, proponents including traditional LGBT groups such as HRC, Lambda Legal and NGLTF, as well as groups that have been created around this single issue, such as Marriage Equality and Freedom to Marry.

Constitutional issues

In the United States, proponents of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples observe that there are over 1,049 federal laws in which marital status is a factor, as well as state and private benefits (family memberships, discounts, etc) denied same-sex couples by excluding them from participating in marriage. A legal denial of federal rights or benefits, they say, directly contradicts the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution which provides for equal protection and substantive due process under the law: rights conferred to one person cannot be denied to another.

In the 2003 case before the Supreme Court of the United States titled Lawrence v. Texas, the court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Many proponents of same-sex marriage believe that this ruling, especially when combined with the 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia that eliminated anti-miscegenation laws, paves the way for a subsequent decision invalidating state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. This raises the possibility of a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Also in 2003, lesbian comedian Rosie O'Donnell's court case with ex-colleagues raised another new issue when O'Donnell's life partner, Kelli, was forced to testify against O'Donnell. Under United States law, spouses cannot be forced to testify against each other; but because same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, they are denied this courtroom right, part of a long list of benefits of marriage in the United States. They married on February 26th, 2004 in San Francisco.

Civil unions

Outside of Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is now legal, Vermont is the only U.S. state to offer same-sex couples all of the state-level rights and benefits of heterosexual couples. Vermont does not use the word "marriage", however, but calls such unions civil unions. Civil unions do not, however, provide the federal-level rights, benefits and protections that come with a civil marriage license, nor will they necessarily be recognised in States that have no civil union law.

California and New Jersey's domestic partnership laws provide similar benefits, but both stop short of full civil unions, much less marriage.

There are also bills in both chambers of the New York State legislature that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. These bills were introduced in early 2003 and are currently still in committee.

Federal law

In 1996, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed. This bill defines marriage as a "legal union between one man and one woman," refuses federal recognition to same-sex marriages, and allows U.S. states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other U.S. states (currently only the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) or other countries. Since then, various states have passed a law or to assert that they do not recognize same-sex unions, nor will they recognize such unions legally recognized in other states. These laws are sometimes referred to as "Mini-DOMAs."

Some opponents of same-sex marriage, wanting to ensure that the constitutionality of such laws cannot be challenged in the courts under the Full Faith and Credit clause, Equal protection clause or Due process clause of the United States Constitution, have proposed a Federal Marriage Amendment to the constitution that would prevent the federal government or any state from providing a marriage or the legal incidents thereof to a same-sex couple, whether through the legislature or the courts.

Polls in the last few years have indicated roughly a 50-50 split on the issue, with some polls leaning toward a slight majority favoring an amendment. Since polls usually have a plus or minus 4% error margin, it's hard to call this a mandate.

A December 2003 national CBS/New York Times poll indicated 55 percent national support for this amendment [5]. However, the validity of this study and the accuracy of the reporting of its results by the New York Times has been questioned [6].

The amendment was debated in the United States Senate, but on July 14, 2004, a procedural motion to end debate failed by a wider-than-expected margin of 48 votes to 50. [7] This effectively prevented the amendment from facing a full Senate vote.

International issues

The 2003-2004 interim legalization of same-sex marriages in five Canadian provinces and one territory, and likely pending legalization of same sex-marriages across all of Canada (see same-sex marriage in Canada) has raised questions about U.S. law, due to Canada's proximity to the U.S. and the fact that Canada has no citizenship or residency requirement to receive a marriage certificate (unlike the Netherlands and Belgium). Canada and the U.S. have a history of respecting marriages contracted in either country.

Immediately after the June 2003 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, a number of American couples headed or planned to head to the province in order to get married. A coalition of American national gay rights groups issued a statement asking couples to contact them before attempting legal challenges, so that they might be coordinated as part of the same-sex marriage movement in the United States.


1971 Minnesota

The Minnesota Supreme Court rules against the contention of plantiffs Jack Baker and Mike McConnell that absence of a specific prohibition on same-sex marriage signified a legislative intent to recognize them. The court found that "The institution of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis". [8]

1975 Arizona

Two men from Phoenix, Arizona are granted a marriage license by a county clerk on January 7. The Arizona Supreme Court , citing the Bible, voided the marriage. The state legislature passed a bill specifically banning same-sex marriage. [9]

1975 Colorado

Clela Rorex , county clerk of Boulder County, Colorado, allowed six same-sex couples to wed, after receiving an advisory opinion from the district attorney's office indicating that the state's laws did not explicitly prohibit it. [10]

1987 Washington, DC

The American Civil Liberties Union commits to eliminating legal barriers against same-sex marriage. 2,000 gay and lesbian couples are "married" in a mass mock wedding outside the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington. [11]

1993-1998 Hawaii

1993: The Hawaii State Supreme Court rules that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying may violate Hawaii's Constitutional ban on sex discrimination and can only be upheld if prohibition is justified by a compelling reason.

1998: Before the Supreme Court decides whether such a compelling reason exists, Hawaii's voters amend their Constitution to allow state legislature to restrict marriage to men and women only. [12]

1998 Alaska

February 27: The Alaska Superior Court judge Peter Michalski rules in favor of plaintiffs Jay Brause and Gene Dugan, saying that choosing a marital partner is a fundamental right that cannot be denied by the state without a compelling reason.

November 3: The state's voters amend their constitution to require that all marriages be between a man and a woman.

1999-2000 Vermont

1999: Vermont Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples are entitled, under the state's constitution, to all of the protections and benefits provided through marriage.

2000: The legislature passes a law creating civil unions for same-sex couples, giving them all rights and benefits of marriage under Vermont law.

2003-2004 Massachusetts

November 18, 2003: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules 4 to 3 in Goodridge et al. v. Department of Public Health that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and gives the state legislature 180 days to change the law. The court found that Massachusetts may not "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry" because of a clause in the state's constitution that forbids "the creation of second-class citizens."

February 4, 2004: The court reiterates that only equal treatment in both rights and terminology is required. This means that either marriage must be allowed for gay couples (as opposed to civil unions) or all couples must have civil unions, with no state recognition of marriages.

February 11, 2004: A constitutional convention is convened to attempt to overturn the Supreme Court's decision. An amendment, if passed, would have to be approved by two successive sessions of the legislature and face a popular vote, and thus could not not go into effect before 2006. However, no amendment is passed before the convention ends.

May 17, 2004: The Supreme Court's ruling went into effect, 180 days after it was issued. The city of Cambridge began processing applications at one minute past midnight, cheered on by a crowd of five thousand gathered outside City Hall. The first license was issued to Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd. Massachusetts has a three-day waiting period after a marriage application has been issued, but couples can seek a judicial waiver of that requirement. (Boston Globe article) At least one marriage — that of Tanya McCloskey and Marcia Kadish, of the Boston suburb of Malden — was finalized by 9:15 a.m. on May 17. (Boston Globe article) See also: Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts

2004 New Jersey

January 12: Governor James E. McGreevey signs New Jersey's domestic partnership law. It goes into effect July 10, 180 days after it was signed. The legislature passed the law in part to curtail a lawsuit seeking full marriage rights for gay people.

March 8: The Deputy Mayor of Asbury Park, New Jersey marries a same-sex couple who had a license issued by the town clerk. New Jersey has a 72-hour waiting period between issuing a license and performing a ceremony, and the original license was issued without fanfare on March 5.

March 9: Numerous same-sex couples converge on the clerk's office once it opens, determined to get their own licenses before a threatened injunction by State Attorney General Peter C. Harvey could halt the process. [13] By the end of the day, no such injunction had been issued, although the attorney general had sent letters to Asbury Park officials warning them that they could face prosecution if they continued.

March 10: In response, the city council votes unanimously to freeze all 16 pending license applications, and sue the state to have those licenses — along with the one marriage which was actually performed — declared valid.

2004 California

Example of marriage license issued in San Francisco.
Example of marriage license issued in San Francisco.

From February 12 to March 11, under the direction of Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, California, city officials issued marriage licenses to approximately 4,000 same-sex couples, in apparent defiance of state law. This was highly controversial, with both the legality of issuing the licenses and the efficacy of the purported marriages being contested. During the month that licenses were issued, couples travelled from all over the United States and from other countries to be married. On August 12, citing the mayor's lack of authority to bypass state law, the state supreme court ruled that the marriages were void.


Marriage licenses were issued to 4,037 same-sex couples before the California Supreme Court issued its stay. During the same period, 103 opposite-sex marriage licenses were issued from the city hall.

Of those same-sex marriage licenses issued, 82 couples either decided not to go through with a marriage or failed to register their marriage with the county before the state supreme court stay was issued, meaning 3,995 completed same-sex marriages were registered in the county.

By reviewing first names of applicants, San Francisco officials estimated that 57 percent of the same-sex married couples were women. Demographic information gleaned from the registered licenses also shows the newlywed same-sex couples were older and better educated than the average American household. More than 74 percent were over age 35 while 69 percent had at least one college degree.

According to figures released March 18 by San Francisco County Assessor Mabel Teng , although 91.4 percent of the licenses were granted to couples living in California, other couples came from every state in the United States except for Maine, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Of the other states, the top five states represented included 32 couples each from Washington and Oregon, 24 from Nevada, 20 from New York and 16 from Florida. International same-sex couples, 17 in all, came from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom.


City officials claimed that although the marriages are prohibited by state law, they were legal under the Equal protection clause which invalidates the state law. The mayor said he permitted the marriages because he believes the state law was unconstitutional. However, legislators and groups opposed to same-sex marriages quickly reacted, filing suit and asking the courts to order the city to stop performing the ceremonies. Additionally, the California state agency that records marriages states that altered forms, including any marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples, would not be registered. The legal validity of the marriages was tested in the courts and marriages were eventually voided by the state supreme court.

The line of same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses stretches for blocks around San Francisco's City Hall in February 2004.
The line of same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses stretches for blocks around San Francisco's City Hall in February 2004.

During the brief time same-sex marriages were being performed, David J. Knight, the son of State Senator William "Pete" Knight , who authored California Proposition 22 (2000), which prevented California from recognizing gay marriages from other states, married Joseph J. Lazzaro, his partner of 10 years, on March 9. [14]

Officials in Berkeley and Oakland, in nearby Alameda County, expressed interest in joining San Francisco, but have been unable to do so because marriage licenses are handled at a county, rather than at a city, level. San Francisco was able to issue its own licenses because San Francisco is both a city and a county. It is the only such city in California.

Timeline of Events

February 12: recently-elected Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials begin issuing marriage licenses in San Francisco, California. Lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were the first same sex couple to be married. The event was intended to undercut a legal challenge planned by a conservative group, Campaign for California Families .

March 9: The San Jose City Council, by a vote of 8-1, agrees to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions for city employees.

March 11: The San Francisco-based California Supreme Court issues a stay ordering the County of San Francisco to stop performing same-sex marriages pending court review on the legality of the matter. Mayor Newsom agrees to abide by the order.

The ruling also did not alter a scheduled March 29 San Francisco Superior Court hearing before Judge Ronald Quidachay in which the Campaign for California Families (CCF) and the Alliance Defense Fund are claiming that San Francisco's granting of same-sex marriage licenses was illegal. Quidachay later delayed the hearing pending state supreme court action.

May 25: The state supreme court holds hearings on the legality of the marriages. The city of San Francisco had wanted its case heard first by lower courts, before juries, rather than by the state supreme court. However, the court suggested that San Francisco could file its own suit against the state, and the city launched such a suit that afternoon.

August 12: The state supreme court releases its decision, exactly 6 months after the first same-sex marriages were performed in San Francisco. The court rules unanimously that the City and County of San Francisco exceeded its authority and violated state law by issuing the marriage licenses. In a 5-2 decision, the court also declares all same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco to be void.

2004 New Mexico

February 20: Victoria Dunlap , county clerk of Sandoval County, New Mexico, announces that she would begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses because New Mexico marriage law does not mention gender.[15] The first same-sex marriages in Sandoval County are performed later the same day. By the end of the day, however, New Mexico state attorney general Patricia Madrid issued an opinion stating that the licenses were "invalid under state law," and the Sandoval County clerk's office stops issuing them. In the interim, 26 such licenses had been issued.

2004 New York

February 26: Jason West, mayor of the village of New Paltz, announces that the village would start performing same-sex civil weddings. Although the village would not attempt to issue licenses for such weddings, couples in New York State have six months from the wedding to seek such a license, and weddings are not invalid solely for not having a license. [16]

February 27: John Shields, the mayor of Nyack, New York, announces that his city would recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. [17]

March 2: West is charged with 19 misdemeanor counts of "solemnizing marriages without a license" by Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams. West announces that he intends to continue performing same-sex ceremonies.

March 3: Shields announces that he will begin officiating at same-sex marriages, and that he and his fiancÚ would join other gay and lesbian New Yorkers in seeking marriage licenses from municipal clerks' offices. [18]

March 3: The Office of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issues an "informal opinion" that clerks should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as the state legislature had not intended same-sex marriages to be covered by the domestic relations law. [19] The same opinion states that same-sex marriages performed elsewhere were recognizable in New York state under a recent judicial decision recognizing the validity of a Vermont civil union as granting the benefits of marriage, Langan v. St. Vincent's Hospital , 196 Misc. 2d 440 (N.Y. Misc., 2003).

March 5: New York state judge Vincent Bradley issues a temporary restraining order barring West from performing any such ceremonies for a month. West indicates that he will abide by the judicial order while evaluating his legal options.

March 15: Two Unitarian Universalist ministers who had been performing same-sex weddings in Mayor West's stead are charged with 13 counts of solemnizing a marriage without a license by District Attorney Williams.

March 20: Six Unitarian Universalist ministers — including one of the two ministers charged earlier — defy the District Attorney by performing 25 more same-sex marriage ceremonies in New Paltz.

March 22: Following an opinion requested in January from their attorney, the Rochester city council announces that Rochester will recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Rochester is across Lake Ontario from Toronto, where same-sex marriages have been legal since 2003.

June 6: An Ulster County Supreme Court judge makes the temporary restraining order against Mayor West permanent.

June 10: A New Paltz Town Court Justice dismisses the charges against Mayor West, ruling that the district attorney had failed to show that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing the marriages, or that the law under which West was charged was constitutional. The district attorney said that he would appeal the ruling, and also indicated that he intended to continue forward with charges against the Unitarian Universalist ministers.

July 13: Another New Paltz Town Court Justice dismisses all of the charges against the Unitarian Universalist ministers, for essentially the same reasons.

Mayor Carolyn K. Peterson of Ithaca, New York, in conjunction with her city clerk, has planned to provoke a court hearing by sending marriage applications from five local gay couples to the New York State Department of Health, while offering the backing of Ithaca's legal resources if their applications are denied.

2004 Oklahoma

May 13: A lesbian couple from Tulsa obtained a marriage application in the Cherokee tribal headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation issues marriage applications, rather than licenses. Couples obtaining a license have it signed by the individual performing the ceremony before returning to tribal court to have the application certified.

Cherokee Principal Chief Chad 'Corntassel' Smith has stated that he believes that same-sex marriages are not allowed under Cherokee law. On the other hand, it is unclear whether a Cherokee marriage becomes official when the application is granted, or only when the tribal court certifies it. For the time being, a tribal judge has issued a moratorium on all same-sex marriage applications.

Although Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, Oklahoma does recognize all Cherokee marriages. It is unclear how Oklahoma would react if the Cherokee tribal courts decide that this marriage is valid.

2004 Oregon

Over four hundred same-sex marriage licenses were distributed in Multnomah County.
Over four hundred same-sex marriage licenses were distributed in Multnomah County.

Marriage is defined in Oregon law as a "civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age," but does not state that one of each is required.

March 3: The Multnomah County government begins issuing licenses for same-sex marriages, pursuant to a legal opinion issued by its attorney deeming such marriages lawful. [20] [21] [22]

On the first day, Multnomah county issued 422 marriage licenses, compared to 68 on an average day. Local businesses reported an uptick in sales of flowers and other marriage-related services directly related to the beginning of same-sex marriages. Neighboring Washington and Clackamas counties initially announced that they are studying Multnomah County's legal opinion, but do not plan to immediately follow suit.

By the date of first legal hearing, on March 9, approximately 1,700 marriage licenses had been issued by the county; the 2000 US Census reported 3,242 same-sex couples living in the county. A later study by the Oregonian revealed that first weeks 2,026 individuals from Multnomah County had received licenses, about one third of the 2000 Census figure, about 900 other individuals came from other locations in Oregon, about 490 from the state of Washington, and 30 from other states.

March 9: At the first legal hearing, County Circuit Judge Dale Koch refuses to issue an injunction stopping the ceremonies.

March 10: The State Legislature's attorney Greg Chaimov issues an opinion stating that counties in Oregon cannot prohibit same-sex couples from receiving marriage licenses. [23]

March 12: Hardy Myers , Oregon attorney general, issued his [24] office's opinion, after reviewing it with the governor. He concludes:

  • current Oregon laws prohibit county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples;
  • under current law, the legal status of being "married" carries with it legal rights, benefits, and obligations;
  • the Oregon Supreme Court likely would conclude that withholding from same-sex couples the legal rights, benefits, and obligations that — under current law — are automatically granted to married couples of the opposite sex likely violates Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution; but
  • because of the uncertainties about the Article I, Section 20 analysis that the Oregon Supreme Court would bring to bear on the question, it would be unwise to change current state practices until, and unless, a decision by the Supreme Court makes clear what, if any changes are required.

The attorney general stated that his office did not have the authority to order Multnomah County to cease issuing licenses for same-sex marriages.

March 15: After considering their options, Multnomah County announces that they will continue to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

March 16: After holding public hearings, Benton County commissioners vote 2-1 to start issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, beginning Wednesday, March 24.

March 22: After receiving two letters from the attorney general and a phone call threatening to arrest the county clerk, the Benton county commissioners reverse their decision and vote to issue no marriage licenses of any kind until a decision is reached by the Multnomah County Court. [25]

Both sides agree to letting three couples with venue sue the state of Oregon in Multnomah County Court to settle this issue.

April 16: Attorneys for the ACLU and Basic Rights Oregon present arguments in favor of the couples, while attorneys for the Oregon Department of Justice and Defense of Marriage Coalition argued against the County's actions before Justice Frank Bearden.

April 20: Judge Bearden orders the county to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses, while simultaneously ordering the state of Oregon to recognize the 3,022 such licenses already issued. The Oregon state registrar had been holding the completed licenses, rather than entering them into the state's records system, pending a court decision as to their validity. Judge Bearden also finds that the Oregon state constitution would likely allow some form of marriage rights to same-sex couples, and directed the legislature to act on the issue within 90 days of the start of its next legislative session. Should they fail to successfully address the issue within that time, Multnomah County would be free to resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses. It is understood that both parties would appeal the decision, although they have not yet decided whether to attempt to move directly to the state Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals .

May 21: The Defense of Marriage Coalition gets legal approval for the language of their proposed initiative to prohibit same-sex marriage. They begin to circulate petitions in churches, neighborhoods, and otherwise beyond public areas to obtain the 100,840 valid signatures needed by July 2 so it can submitted to a vote in the November general election.

July 9: The state Court of Appeals lifts a temporary ban blocking the registration of the marriage licenses already issued by Multnomah County, pending the case concerning their validity being heard by the state Supreme Court. Within hours, the state began processing the licences, and expects to have the work done within a week.

2004 Rhode Island

May 17: Attorney General Patrick Lynch issues an advisory opinion that Rhode Island would recognize any legal marriage performed in another state, as long as the marriage is not contrary to the "strong public policy" of Rhode Island. He said that the legislature and courts should decide which types of marriages fall within that category, while adding that same-sex marriages are not included among the types of marriages currently proscribed. While his opinion does not have the force of law, it appears to indicate that Rhode Island would, in fact, recognize valid same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts or elsewhere.

2004 Washington

March 8: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels issues an executive order recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions for all city employees. He also proposes an ordinance to the City Council to require all city contractors to do the same for their employees. [26]

March 8: Six same-sex couples file suit against King County, seeking to require it to issue marriage licenses for them. At the time, Washington state law gives counties exclusive authority to issue marriage licenses, but also strictly defines marriage as "a civil contract between a male and a female" [27]. Their suit is invited by King County Executive Ron Sims, who is named as a defendant.

March 11: The American Family Association files suit in King County Superior Court seeking to block Mayor Nickels's executive order.

April 1: The ACLU files suit in Thurston County Superior Court on behalf of eleven other same-sex couples from around the state.

August 4: King County Superior Court Judge William L. Downing rules that the state law prohibiting same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, finding for the plaintiffs in the March 8 lawsuit. The judge rules that restricting the institution of marriage to opposite sex couples "is not rationally related to any legitimate or compelling state interest." The ruling is stayed pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Text of his ruling, .pdf format


Politicians in several states have proposed new bans against the practice of same-sex marriage. Some states already had laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman, though many are now mulling the possibility of adding new amendments to the state constitutions in an effort to prevent the laws from being ruled unconstitutional. Many states require constitutional amendments to be voted on in state referenda, meaning that a delay of several months to a year or more will take place before these proposals will have any effect.

On March 5, 2004, the Wisconsin State Assembly approved, by a vote of 68-27, a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages or civil unions, and to counter efforts elsewhere to legalize such partnerships. The same day, the Kansas House passed, by 88 votes to 36, a similar proposed amendment. [28] [29] A week later, on March 12, the Wisconsin State Senate also voted 20-13 to pass that state's amendment, which must still be passed again in next year's legislature, and be voted on in a state-wide referendum. [30] The Kansas Legislature has yet to agree on the precise language of any amendment, which has been delayed until the next legislative session.

On August 3, 2004 voters of the state of Missouri voted to pass a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, with the final returns being 70.7% in favor of the amendment and 29.3% opposed.

See also

External links


Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45