State-by-State History of Banning and Legalizing Gay Marriage, 1994-2015
States Have Legal Same-Sex Marriage
On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that the US Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 US states. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy stated in the majority opinion: "The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States."
Timeline of Same-Sex Marriage Bans and Legalizations by Effective Date of Laws
The information below reflects the status of gay marriage nationwide on June 25, 2015, the day prior to the Supreme Court's decision.
States with Legal Same-Sex Marriage Prior to the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court Ruling
by State Legislature
Delaware (July 1, 2013), Hawaii (Dec. 2, 2013), Illinois (June 1, 2014), Minnesota (Aug. 1, 2013), New Hampshire (Jan. 1, 2010), New York (July 24, 2011), Rhode Island (Aug. 1, 2013), Vermont (Sep. 1, 2009)
by Popular Vote
Maine (Dec. 29, 2012), Maryland (Jan. 1, 2013), Washington (Dec. 9, 2012)
Washington, DC legalized gay marriage on Mar. 3, 2010, the date marriage licenses became available to same-sex couples.
*On Mar. 3, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered the state's 68 probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite an earlier federal court ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban, and the US Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriages to proceed in the state. The state Supreme Court gave probate judges five days to respond if they do not feel they have to follow the order.
States with Same-Sex Marriage Bans Prior to the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court Ruling
by Constitutional Amendment and State Law
Arkansas (2004, 1997), Georgia (2004, 1996), Kentucky (2004, 1998), Louisiana (2004, 1999), Michigan (2004, 1996), Mississippi (2004, 1997), Missouri (2004, 1996), North Dakota (2004, 1997), Ohio (2004, 2004), South Dakota (2006, 1996), Tennessee (2006, 1996), Texas (2005, 1997)
by Constitutional Amendment only
states where gay marriage bans had been overturned, but where appeals were in progress prior to the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court ruling
ARKANSAS – On May 9, 2014, Arkansas' gay marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza. Arkansas had previously banned gay marriage by both state law and voter-approved constitutional amendment. Some Arkansas counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on May 10, 2014, while other counties refused to issue licenses. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel requested that the State Supreme Court put a stay on Judge Piazza's ruling, but the request was denied on May 14, 2014. The Supreme Court effectively halted gay marriages from taking place, however, by noting that while Judge Piazza's ruling had struck down both the constitutional amendment and the state law, it had not affected an additional state law prohibiting county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. 456 licenses had been issued in total. On May 15, 2014, Judge Piazza expanded his ruling to strike down the additional law and any other measures that made gay marriage illegal, but on May 16, 2014 the State Supreme Court suspended that ruling, halting all gay marriages within the state. On Nov. 25, 2014, US District Judge Kristine Baker ruled the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but stayed her own ruling, pending expected appeals.
KENTUCKY – On July 1, 2014, US District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage violates the equal protection clause in the US Constitution. Judge Heyburn stated that the ban serves "no conceivable legitimate purpose," but stayed his own decision, pending the state's appeal. On Nov. 6, 2014, a three-judge panel of the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Heyburn's ruling 2-1, thus upholding the state's gay marriage ban. An appeal was then filed with the US Supreme Court. On Apr. 16, 2015, Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but put his ruling on hold, pending the Supreme Court's decision.
MICHIGAN – On Mar. 21, 2014, a federal judge ruled Michigan's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. US District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote that "Today's decision... affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail." Around 300 same-sex couples received marriage licenses before the US 6th Court of Appeals issued a stay on the decision on Mar. 22, 2014, making same-sex marriage illegal again in Michigan, pending the appeal process. On Mar. 28, 2014, US Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the marriages performed prior to the stay being issued would be recognized by the federal government: "These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages." On Nov. 6, 2014, a three-judge panel of the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Friedman's ruling 2-1, thus upholding the state's gay marriage ban. An appeal to either the full bench of the court or directly to the US Supreme Court is expected.
MISSISSIPPI – On Nov. 25, 2014, US District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but stayed his own ruling, pending expected appeals.
MISSOURI – On Nov. 5, 2014, St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison ruled that the state's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. The ruling only applies to St. Louis, where same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses shortly after the decision. On Nov. 7, 2014, US District Judge Ortrie D. Smith also ruled that the state's ban is unconstitutional, but stayed his own ruling. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced that he will appeal the ruling to the Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals.
NEBRASKA – On Mar. 2, 2015, US District Judge Joseph Bataillon declared Nebraska's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, describing it as an "unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens." Same-sex marriages are set to go ahead on Mar. 9, 2015 unless the state's appeal to the Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals is successful.
SOUTH DAKOTA – On Jan. 12, 2015, US District Judge Karen Schreier ruled South Dakota's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, stating that "Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry... South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification." The ruling was put on hold pending the state's appeal to the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
TEXAS – On Feb. 26, 2014, a federal judge ruled Texas' gay marriage ban unconstitutional. Judge Orlando Garcia wrote "Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuges in our U.S. Constitution." He then stayed his own decision pending an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving same-sex marriage illegal in Texas. On Feb. 17, 2015, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman also ruled the ban unconstitutional, but did not order county clerks to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. On Feb. 19, 2015, two Austin women were married after state District Judge David Wahlberg ordered an exception be made to Texas' gay marriage ban because one of the women had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Andrew M. Francis, Hugo M. Mialon, and Handoe Peng, "In Sickness and in Health: Same Sex Marriage Laws and Sexually Transmitted Infections, Appendix: Legal References and Notes," Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No 11-97, www.emory.edu (accessed Aug. 10, 2012)
Human Rights Campaign, "Marriage Center," www.hrc.org (accessed Aug. 10, 2012)
Lawrence Hurley, "Supreme Court Allows Gay Marriage to Proceed in South Carolina," reuters.com, Nov. 20, 2014
Brendan Kirby, "Federal Appeals Court Denies Alabama's Bid to Extend Delay on Same-Sex Marriages," al.com, Feb. 3, 2015