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Same-sex unions have been on the political radar in the United States since the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that denying licenses to same-sex partners violated the Hawaii constitution unless there is a "compelling state interest." Since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, other states have redefined their own marriage laws, both for and against same-sex marriage.
This article tracks the status of those laws. It is intended only as a resource for the bottom line current legal status of same-sex unions right now regardless of pending litigation. See same-sex marriage legislation in the United States for the outcome of specific legislation and same-sex marriage law in the United States by state for detailed descriptions.
Marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman in at least 42 states. Currently, 31 states have added amendments banning same-sex unions to their constitutions. There are currently eight states that recognize or will soon recognize same-sex marriages, and a total of six (plus the District of Columbia) that recognize some form of same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Below is the status of the law in each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
|Alaska||Yes||Yes||Banned||No||None||No||None||Petitions are made to start a ban ballot on civil unions too, but have all failed over the years.|
Ban upheld by California Supreme Court.
Ban overturned by the District Court for Northern California, ruling affirmed by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
|Yes; Conditional||No||None||No||Yes||Main article:|
Same-sex marriage in California
Originally in 1999 under a passed law granting only hospital visitation rights, the scope of domestic partnerships was gradually expanded over the years that now has virtually nearly all the legal rights, duties and responsibilities of marriage in California - just as Nevada, Oregon and Washington state have done just next door. Now a domestic partnership in California is the same as another states civil union scheme (e.g. Hawaii, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island).
|Colorado||Yes||Yes||Banned||No||Proposed||Yes||few rights in a designated beneficiary agreement||On November 2006 ballot, Colorado banned marriage but rejected a referendum to allow a "civil union"-like domestic partnership, sustained by a constitutional amendment. See also this table. In both 2011 and 2012, the Civil Union Bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 23-12. The three state House Committees approved the bill in 2012 (with one Republican in favor), then legislative time ran out by the time the bill reached the House floor, because the Republican party have a one-seat majority in the House and you can not debate and pass a bill in one day, according to House rules.|
decision, then by legislation.
|Yes||Converted into civil marriage on 1 October 2010||Converted into civil marriage on 1 October 2010||None||None||Main article:|
Same-sex marriage in Connecticut
Connecticut allows full civil marriage licences to same-sex couples since November 2008 and all civil unions converted into civil marriage on 1 October 2010.
|Delaware||No||Yes||Not legal||Yes, only as civil unions, same-sex marriage banned under statute since 1997.||Yes||Yes||No||None||In 2011, the Delaware state legislature passed and the Governor signed the Civil Union Act 2011 into law. The law commenced at 10am on 1.1.2012.|
|District of Columbia||No||No||Legal||Yes||No||None||No||Legal*||Main article: Same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia|
Domestic partnerships were enacted in 1992; implemented from 2002 and then expanded over time to 2009. Same-sex marriages were legalized on December 18, 2009 and same-sex marriages began on March 9, 2010.
|Yes, only as civil unions, same-sex marriage banned under statute since 1998.||Yes||Yes||Legal since 1997.||Legal*||Since 1997, there have been minimal benefits available to all adults (including relatives); official terminology is reciprocal beneficiary relationship*.|
In 2011, the Hawaii State Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law the Civil Union Act 2011 No 1. The law became effective from midnight 1.1.2012.
|Illinois||No||Yes||Not legal||Yes, as civil unions only||Yes.||Yes||No||None||Petitions are made to start a ban ballot have been unsuccessful in all Legislative sessions. The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Bill passed the 2010 Illinois Legislature in just 2 days, was signed into law on January 28, 2011 by the Governor and became effective on June 1, 2011. See Civil union in the United States#Illinois.|
|Indiana||No||Yes||Not legal||Not legal||No||None||No||None||Legislative initiative to start a ban ballot voted on and passed in the 2011 Legislative session and must pass again in the same format in the next legislative session.|
Same-sex marriage in Iowa
In August 2007, Polk County judge ruled Iowa's statutory ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but ruling was quickly stayed and appealed. On appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the Polk County ruling in the case of Varnum v. Brien.
Legislative initiative to begin constitutional ban ballot process was unsuccessful in 2009. Republicans will continue to try to push for these ballot bans in the next Legislative sessions, while the Democrats will continue to oppose ballot bans in the next legislative sessions.
|Maine||No||Banned by statute since 1997 and was rejected by "the people's veto" in 2009.||No (rejected by "the people's veto" in 2009)||No/Yes, only as domestic partnerships.||No||None||Yes, limited rights (both opposite sex and same sex since 2004)||Legal*||Main article:|
Domestic partnership in Maine
The Maine Domestic Partnership Act came into effect on July 30, 2004.
|Maryland||No||Yes||Not yet in effect*||Not legal, but recognised since 2010.||No||None||Yes, limited rights (unregistered DPs are for both opposite sex and same sex since 2008)||Legal*||Main article:|
Same-sex marriage in Maryland
"The first state law defining marriage as a union between a man and woman was adopted by Maryland in 1973." Since 2010, same-sex marriage has been recognised in Maryland and for years bills have been introduced to the Maryland Legislature that allows same sex marriage. In 2012, the Maryland House by a vote of 72-67 passed the Civil Marriage Protection Bill 2012, then a week later the same bill passed the Maryland Senate by a vote of 25-21. The bill got signed into law on March 1, 2012 by Martin O’Malley. Subject to a referendum in November, if approved the law becomes effective from 1.1.2013.
Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts
|Minnesota||No||Yes||Not legal||Not legal||No||None||No||None||Legislative initiative and petitions are made to start a ban ballot. Following the 2011 Minnesota Legislature vote, on November sixth, 2012, Minnesotans will be voting on a constitutional amendment. The question will read: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?" If a majority of the voters vote "no" on this proposed amendment, Minnesota will be the first state to reject an amendment of this kind and uphold the State Constitution in its unaltered state.|
|Nevada||Yes||No||Banned||No||No||Yes||Yes||Domestic partnership legislation in Nevada is similar to CA, OR and WA models.|
|New Hampshire||No||No||Legal||Yes||Converted into civil marriage on 1 January 2011.||Converted into civil marriage on 1 January 2011.||No||None||Since 1.1.2010, New Hampshire allows full civil marriage licences to same-sex couples and all civil unions automatically converted into civil marriage a year later.|
|New Jersey||No||No*||Proposed||As civil|
Same-sex marriage in New Jersey
The state of New Jersey has neither allowed nor recognized marriages between couples of the same-sex. However, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in Lewis v. Harris, required the New Jersey Legislature to change state law by April 24, 2007 to afford same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. A bill now allows civil unions that will supersede domestic partnerships. These are no more applied but may remain for the present ones. In 2012, A1 and S1 (also called the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act) has been introduced. In February S1 passed the NJ Senate with a vote of 24-16. Four days later the bill called A1 passed the NJ House with a vote of 42-33. A day later both A1 and S1 bills got vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Christie
|New Mexico||No||No||None||None||No||None||No||None||Does not contain any public policy explicitly banning same-sex marriage nor defining marriage as between a man and a woman (effectively making the state neutral).|
|New York||Yes||Yes||Legal||Yes.||No||None||No||None||Main article:|
Same-sex marriage in New York The Marriage Equality Act 2011 passed the 2011 New York State Legislature (after a 33-29 vote in the NY state Senate) on 24/6/2011 and then two hours later the bill got signed into law by the Governor and became effective 30 days later.
Same-sex marriage in Oregon
Domestic partnership legislation in Oregon is very similar to the CA, NV and WA models.
|Pennsylvania||No||Yes||Not legal||Not legal||No||None||No||None||Legislative initiative to start a ban ballot voted on and passed in the 2011 Legislative session and must pass again in the same format in the next legislative session.|
|Rhode Island||No||No||Proposed||Yes, as civil unions.||Yes||Yes||No||None||Does not contain any public policy explicitly banning same-sex marriage nor defining marriage as between a man and a woman (effectively making the state neutral). The state does not perform marriage licenses, but since 2012 does recognise same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions  and extend limited rights to same-sex couples. The Civil Union Bill passed the Rhode Island Legislature on 28 June 2011 and was signed into law on July 2, 2011 by the Governor and was made retrospective from 1 July 2011.|
|Vermont||No||No||Legal||Yes||No||Between 2000 to 2009 only|
|No||None||Vermont practically invented the term "civil union" in 1999 after the state court case of Baker v. Vermont. In 2000, the Vermont Legislature passed the Civil Union Bill and got signed into law by then Governor Howard Dean. In 2009, Vermont then allowed civil marriage licences to same-sex couples, after the Civil Marriage Equality And Religious Freedoms Bill passed the Vermont Legislature, then the Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the bill and then the veto was overridden. Civil unions are still recognised between 2000 to 2009, but after 2009 can not be performed - also there is no "conversion into civil marriage" as both the states of Connecticut and New Hampshire have done next door.|
|Washington||No||Yes||Not in effect yet|
|Yes, as domestic partnerships.||No||None||Yes||Legal||Main article:|
Same-sex marriage in Washington
A law passed in 2007 to establish domestic partnerships similar to CA, OR and NV models and then in 2008 the domestic partnership law expanded. The 2009 reforms called the "all-but-marriage law" came into effect from December 3, 2009 was approved by 53 percent of voters under Washington Referendum 71 (2009). In July 2011, a law passed that will allow same-sex marriage and other same-sex unions (such as civil unions or domestic partnerships) from another state to be recognised as domestic partnerships under WA state law In February 2012, the Washington state legislature passed SB6239 that deals with the legislation to allow same sex marriage and enhance religious freedoms. The bill got to the last stage with a signature from a Democrat Governor Christine Gregoire Subject to a referendum in November, if approved the law becomes effective straight away.
|West Virginia||No||Yes||Not legal||Not legal||No||None||No||None||Petitions are made to start a ban ballot, however that is not possible due to the Democrats controlling both houses.|
|Wisconsin||Yes||Yes||Banned||Banned||Yes.||Legal||Domestic partnerships provide certain limited legal rights, just like the state of Maine.|
|Wyoming||No||Yes||Not legal||Not legal||No||None||No||None||State law pre-dates DOMA.|