Love Wins: A timeline of marriage equality in the U.S.

The road to Friday’s landmark 5-4 Supreme Court decision opening marriage nationwide to same-gender couples has been paved with triumphant victory, heartbreaking setback and, overall, a persistent, relentless march toward full equality.

Take a look back at where we’ve been in our path to national marriage equality below, and stay tuned for qnotes‘ July 3 print edition for our expanded, special coverage on the historic legal victory.

1970s

May 18, 1970 — Couple Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are denied a civil marriage license by officials in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

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June 4, 1971 — The Gay Activists Alliance stage a protest at New York City’s Marriage License Bureau, demanding equal marriage rights.

Oct. 15, 1971 — The Minnesota Supreme Court rules against Baker and his partner McConnell in Baker v. Nelson, ruling that a ban on same-gender marriage does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

February 1972 — Representatives of gay organizations meet for the National Conference of Gay Organizations, adopting a national gay rights platform. One plank calls for the repeal of restrictions on the sex or number of persons entering into marriage.

Oct. 10, 1972 — The U.S. Supreme Court dismisses Baker v. Nelson “for want of a substantial federal question.”

January 1973 — The Yale Law Journal published an unsigned article, “The Legality of Homosexual Marriage,” which argues that a “credible case can be made that the denial of marriage licenses to all homosexual couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

1973 — Maryland becomes the first state to pass a statute specifically banning recognition of same-gender marriage. The Kentucky Court of Appeals upholds the denial of a marriage license to two women.

May 20, 1974 — The Washington Court of Appeals upholds its state ban on same-gender marriage.

1975 — Virginia bans same-gender marriage.
March-April 1975 — A Boulder County, Colo., clerk issues marriage licenses to six same-gender couples. The state’s attorney general eventually puts a stop the licenses.

1977 — Wyoming, Florida and California ban same-gender marriage.

1980s

Feb. 25, 1982 — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals limits the meaning of “spouse” and “marriage” for immigration purposes to the “ordinary meaning” which “contemplates a relationship between a man and a woman.”

May 11, 1984 — The Superior Court of Pennsylvania rules that same-gender couples cannot contract a common-law marriage.

1987 — New Hampshire bans same-gender marriage.

1989 — Andrew Sullivan publishes his essay, “Here Comes the Groom: A (Conservative) Case for Gay Marriage,” in the New Republic.

1990s

May 5, 1993 — The Supreme Court of Hawaii orders a trial court to determine if the state’s anti-gay marriage statute is unconstitutional, setting in motion a deluge of anti-gay marriage legislation federally and across the states.

Jan. 19, 1995 — The District of Columbia Court of Appeals upholds the denial of a marriage license to two men.

1996 — South Carolina passes a state-level Defense of Marriage Act.

June 20, 1996 — North Carolina passes a state-level Defense of Marriage Act.

Sept. 21, 1996 — President Bill Clinton signs into law the federal Defense of Marriage Act, banning federal recognition of same-gender marriage and allowing states to refuse to recognize legal same-gender marriages performed in other states.

Dec. 3, 1996 — A Hawaii trial court finds there is no compelling interest to uphold the state’s anti-gay marriage statute.

Nov. 2, 1998 — Alaska becomes the first to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage.

Dec. 9, 1999 — The Hawaii Supreme Court upholds its state marriage ban.

Dec. 20, 1999 — The Vermont Supreme Court holds that bans on same-gender marriage violates the state’s constitution and orders the legislature to establish marriage or some other equivalent status for same-gender couples.

2000s

July 1, 2000 — Vermont establishes civil unions, giving same-gender couples the same rights, benefits and responsibilities similarly given to oppose-gender married couples.

May 15, 2002 — A federal constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage is first introduced in Congress.

Nov. 18, 2003 — The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court orders the commonwealth to extend the right to marry to same-gender couples, with licenses to be issued beginning May 17, 2004.

Feb. 25, 2004 — President George W. Bush calls for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage.

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February-March, 2004 — San Francisco issues marriage licenses to same-gender couples.

March 3, 2004 — Multnomah County in Oregon begins issuing marriage licenses. AN Oregon state judge later orders the county to stop, but rules the 3,000 so far issued legal and orders the state to create an equivalent marriage status for same-gender couples.

November 2004 — Anti-gay constitutional amendments are passed in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah.

2005 — An anti-gay constitutional amendment is passed in Texas.

Sept. 29, 2005 — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes legislation that would have opened marriage to same-gender couples.

2006 — Anti-gay constitutional amendments are passed in Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. Voters in Arizona reject a similar ban.

Oct. 12, 2007 — Schwarzenegger again vetoes marriage equality legislation.

2008 — New York begins to recognize out-of-state same-gender marriages. Connecticut opens marriage to same-gender couples. California’s Supreme Court overturns the state’s ban on same-gender marriage. Arizona, California and Florida adopt anti-gay constitutional amendments.

2009 — Iowa opens marriage to same-gender couples. Vermont becomes the first state to legalize same-gender marriage by statute. Maine, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia enact marriage equality.

2010s

2010 — A federal district court judge rules that California’s constitutional ban on same-gender marriage is unconstitutional. A federal district court judge rules the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

2011 — New York enacts marriage equality.

2012 — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the lower-court ruling overturning California’s ban on same-gender marriage. Washington, New Jersey and Maryland enact marriage equality. North Carolina becomes the last state to pass an anti-gay constitutional amendment.

2013 — Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii and Illinois enact marriage equality. Courts in New Mexico and Utah overturn anti-gay marriage bans.
June 26, 2013 — The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the overturning of California’s anti-gay marriage ban and overturns a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

2014 — Marriage bans are struck down by district courts in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down Virginia’s marriage ban. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Oct. 6, 2014 — The U.S. Supreme Court declines to take action on the Fourth Circuit case in Virginia, effectively legalizing marriage in North Carolina, West Virginia and South Carolina.

Oct. 10, 2014 — North Carolina’s anti-gay marriage amendment is overturned. Marriages begin in North Carolina.

Nov. 12, 2014 — South Carolina’s anti-gay marriage amendment is overturned. Marriages begin on Nov. 20.

April 28, 2015 — The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments from the Sixth Circuit, including the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges.

June 26, 2015 — The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges and related cases that marriages by same-gender couples are protected by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

— Compiled by Matt Comer from newspaper archives and the Wikipedia article, “Timeline of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States.”

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.