|Part of the LGBT rights series|
The availability of legally recognized same-sex marriage in the United States expanded from one state (Massachusetts) in 2004 to all fifty states in 2015 through various court rulings, state legislation, and direct popular votes. States each have separate marriage laws, which must adhere to rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States that recognize marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as first established in the 1967 landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia.
Civil rights campaigning in support of marriage without distinction as to sex or sexual orientation began in the 1970s. In 1972, the now overturned Baker v. Nelson saw the Supreme Court of the United States decline to become involved. The issue became prominent from around 1993, when the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled in Baehr v. Lewin that it was unconstitutional under the Constitution of Hawaii for the state to abridge marriage on the basis of sex. That ruling led to federal and state actions to explicitly abridge marriage on the basis of sex in order to prevent the marriages of same-sex couples from being recognized by law, the most prominent of which was the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that it was unconstitutional under the Constitution of Massachusetts for the state to abridge marriage on the basis of sex. From 2004 through to 2015, as the tide of public opinion continued to move towards support of same-sex marriage, various state court rulings, state legislation, direct popular votes (referendums and initiatives), and federal court rulings established same-sex marriage in thirty-six of the fifty states.
The most prominent supporters of same-sex marriage are human rights and civil rights organizations, while the most prominent opponents are religious groups, though some religious organizations support marriage equality. The first two decades of the 21st century saw same-sex marriage receive support from prominent figures in the civil rights movement, including Coretta Scott King, John Lewis, Julian Bond, and Mildred Loving. In May 2012, the NAACP, the leading African-American civil rights organization, declared its support for same-sex marriage and stated that it is a civil right.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down DOMA for violating the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution in the landmark civil rights case of United States v. Windsor, leading to federal recognition of same-sex marriage, with federal benefits for married couples connected to either the state of residence or the state in which the marriage was solemnized. In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, is guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Gallup found that nationwide public support for same-sex marriage reached 50% in 2011, 60% in 2015, and 70% in 2021.
A study of nationwide data from January 1999 to December 2015 revealed that the establishment of same-sex marriage is associated with a significant reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among teens, with the effect being concentrated among teens of a minority sexual orientation, resulting in approximately 134,000 fewer teens attempting suicide each year in the United States.
Main article: History of same-sex marriage in the United States
The history of same-sex marriage in the United States dates from the early 1970s, when the first lawsuits seeking legal recognition of same-sex relationships brought the question of civil marriage rights and benefits for same-sex couples to public attention, though they proved unsuccessful. The subject became increasingly prominent in U.S. politics following the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision in Baehr v. Miike that suggested the possibility that the state's prohibition might be unconstitutional. That decision was met by actions at both the federal and state level to restrict marriage to male-female couples, notably the enactment at the federal level of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize same-sex marriage following the Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health six months earlier. Just as with the Hawaii decision, the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts provoked a reaction from opponents that resulted in further legal restrictions being written into state statutes and constitutions. The movement to obtain marriage rights for same-sex couples expanded steadily from that time until in late 2014 lawsuits had been brought in every state that still denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
By late 2014, same-sex marriage had become legal in states that contained more than 70% of the United States population. In some jurisdictions, legalization came through the action of state courts or the enactment of state legislation. More frequently it came as the result of the decisions of federal courts. On November 6, 2012, Maine, Maryland, and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote. Same-sex marriage had been legalized in the District of Columbia and 21 Native American tribal nations as well.
The June 2013 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor striking down the law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage gave significant impetus to the progress of lawsuits that challenged state bans on same-sex marriage in federal court. Since that decision, with only a few exceptions, U.S. District Courts and Courts of Appeals have found state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, as have several state courts. The exceptions have been a state court in Tennessee, U.S. district courts in Louisiana and Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from that circuit's decision.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the case Obergefell v. Hodges.
The legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the United States are determined by the nation's federal system of government, in which the status of a person, including marital status, is determined in large measure by the individual states. Prior to 1996, the federal government did not define marriage; any marriage recognized by a state was recognized, even if that marriage was not recognized by one or more states, as was the case until 1967 with interracial marriage, which some states banned by statute.
Prior to 2004, same-sex marriage was not performed or recognized in any U.S. jurisdiction, but subsequently began to be performed and recognized by law in different jurisdictions through legislation, court rulings, tribal council rulings, and popular referenda.
The Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges ended all inter-state legal complications surrounding same-sex marriage, as it orders states to both perform the marriages of same-sex couples and to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2004, 1,138 federal rights and protections are conferred to U.S. citizens upon marriage; areas affected include Social Security benefits, veterans' benefits, health insurance, Medicaid, hospital visitation, estate taxes, retirement savings, pensions, family leave, and immigration law.
Since July 9, 2015, married same-sex couples throughout the United States have had equal access to all the federal benefits that married opposite-sex couples have.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted in 1996. DOMA's Section 2 says that no state needs to recognize the legal validity of a same-sex relationship even if recognized as marriage by another state. It purports to relieve a state of its reciprocal obligation to honor the laws of other states as required by the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause. Even before DOMA, however, states sometimes refused to recognize a marriage from another jurisdiction if it was counter to its "strongly held public policies". Most lawsuits that sought to require a state to recognize a marriage established in another jurisdiction argue on the basis of equal protection and due process, not the Full Faith and Credit Clause.[a]
DOMA's Section 3 defined marriage for the purposes of federal law as a union of one man and one woman. It was challenged in the federal courts. On July 8, 2010, Judge Joseph Tauro of the District Court of Massachusetts held that the denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully married Massachusetts same-sex couples is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Beginning in 2010, eight federal courts found DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional in cases involving bankruptcy, public employee benefits, estate taxes, and immigration. On October 18, 2012, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals became the first court to hold sexual orientation to be a quasi-suspect classification and applied intermediate scrutiny to strike down Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional in Windsor v. United States. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor on June 26, 2013, that Section 3 violated the Fifth Amendment.[b]
As a result of the Windsor decision, married same-sex couples—regardless of domicile—have federal tax benefits (including the ability to file joint federal income tax returns), military benefits, federal employment benefits, and immigration benefits. In February 2014, the Justice Department expanded federal recognition of same-sex marriages to include bankruptcies, prison visits, survivor benefits and refusing to testify against a spouse. Likewise in June 2014, family medical leave benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act 1975 were extended to married same-sex couples. With respect to social security and veterans benefits, same-sex married couples are eligible for full benefits from the Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Prior to the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, the VA and SSA could provide only limited benefits to married same-sex couples living in states where same-sex marriage was not legal. Effective March 27, 2015, the definition of spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 includes employees in a same-sex marriage regardless of state of residence. Following the Obergefell decision, the Justice Department extended all federal marriage benefits to married same-sex couples nationwide.
The federal government recognizes the marriages of same-sex couples who married in certain states in which same-sex marriage was legal for brief periods between the time a court order allowed such couples to marry and that court order was stayed, including Michigan. It also recognized marriages performed in Utah from December 20, 2013, to January 6, 2014, even while the state didn't. Under similar circumstances, it never took a position on Indiana or Wisconsin's marriages performed in brief periods, though it did recognize them once the respective states announced they would do so. It had not taken a position with respect to similar marriages in Arkansas prior to the Obergefell decision legalizing and recognizing same-sex marriages in all fifty states.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have worked to prevent individual states from recognizing same-sex unions by attempting to amend the United States Constitution to restrict marriage to heterosexual unions. In 2006, the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have prohibited states from recognizing same-sex marriages, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote and was debated by the full Senate, but was ultimately defeated in both houses of Congress. On April 2, 2014, the Alabama House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to propose an amendment to ban same-sex marriage nationwide.
In the wake of the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which had overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey on the basis that abortion protection was not a "deeply rooted" right in the Constitution, several Democratic lawmakers feared that Obergefell v. Hodges would be overturned by the Court in the future, partially due to Justice Clarence Thomas naming the case as one that should be revisited in light of Dobbs. To try to prevent this, the House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act which would nullify DOMA and recognize both same-sex and interracial marriages as protected within the United States. The bill passed 267-157, which included 47 Republican representatives joining the Democrats.
Further information: Same-sex marriage law in the United States by state
Same-sex marriages are licensed in and recognized by all U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as all U.S. territories except American Samoa. On July 3, 2015, the Attorney General for American Samoa stated "we are reviewing the opinion [Obergefell v. Hodges] and its potential applicability to American Samoa, and will provide comment when it is completed." Currently, same-sex marriages are neither licensed nor recognized there. On January 6, 2016, Alabama's Chief Justice, Roy Moore, issued a ruling forbidding state officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling had no effect as all Alabama counties continued either issuing marriage licenses to all couples or not issuing licenses at all. In May 2016, Moore was charged with ethics violations by the state Judicial Inquiry Commission for the ruling, subsequently being suspended from the bench for the remainder of his term on September 30 of that year.
As of 2020, there are apparently no counties in the United States that do not (or would not) register the marriages of same-sex couple.
Main article: LGBT adoption in the United States
Post-Obergefell, six states have, on occasion, attempted to deny same-sex couples full adoption rights to varying degrees. In Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, and Wisconsin, same-sex couples have been met with rejection when trying to get both parents' names listed on the birth certificate. In V.L. v. E.L., Alabama's highest court attempted to void an adoption decree obtained by a same-sex couple in Georgia, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, restoring joint custody to the adoptive mother on March 7, 2016. Mississippi had once banned same-sex couples from adopting, but the law requiring this was ruled unconstitutional by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on March 31, 2016. With that ruling, adoption by same-sex couples became legal in all fifty states.
On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled by a 6–3 vote in the case of Pavan v. Smith that under their decision in Obergefell, same-sex couples must be treated equally to opposite-sex couples in the issuance of birth certificates. In December 2016, the Supreme Court of Arkansas upheld a state law only allowing opposite-sex couples to be automatically listed as parents on their children's birth certificates, while prohibiting same-sex couples from being allowed the same on an equal basis. The Supreme Court summarily reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court, finding that the disparity in treatment violated their decision in Obergefell.
Main article: Same-sex marriage in tribal nations in the United States
The Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the states and territories did not legalize same-sex marriage in Native American tribal nations. In the United States, Congress (not the federal courts) has legal authority over Native reservations. Thus, unless Congress passes a law regarding same-sex marriage on such reservations, federally recognized Native American tribes have the legal right to form their own marriage laws. As of the time of the Obergefell ruling, 25 tribal nations legally recognized same-sex marriage. Some tribes have passed legislation specifically addressing same-sex relationships and some specify that state law and jurisdiction govern tribal marriages. As of April 2022, same-sex marriage is legally recognized in at least 46 tribal nations.
Prior to Obergefell, same-sex marriage was legal to at least some degree in thirty-eight states, one territory (Guam) and the District of Columbia; of the states, Missouri, Kansas, and Alabama had restrictions. Until United States v. Windsor, it was only legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Beginning in July 2013, over forty federal and state courts cited Windsor to strike down state bans on the licensing or recognition of same-sex marriage. Missouri recognized same-sex marriages from out of state and same-sex marriages licensed by the City of St. Louis under two separate state court orders; two other jurisdictions issued such licenses as well. In Kansas, marriage licenses were available to same-sex couples in most counties, but the state did not recognize their validity. Some counties in Alabama issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples for three weeks until the state Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop doing so. That court's ruling did not address the recognition of same-sex marriages already licensed in Alabama, but referred to them as "purported 'marriage licenses'". In two additional states, same-sex marriages were previously legal between the time their bans were struck down and then stayed. Michigan recognized the validity of more than 300 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples and those marriages. Arkansas recognized the more than 500 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples there, and the Federal Government had not taken a position on Arkansas's marriage licenses.
|State or territory||Population||Date of Enactment/Ruling||Date Effective||Legalization method||Details|
|Alaska||736,732||October 12, 2014||October 17, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruling in Hamby v. Parnell.|
|Arizona||6,731,484||October 17, 2014||October 17, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ruling in Connolly v. Jeanes and in Majors v. Horne.|
|California||38,802,500||May 15, 2008||June 16, 2008||State court decision → overturned by constitutional ban||California Supreme Court ruling in In re Marriage Cases. Ceased via state constitutional amendment after Proposition 8 passed on November 5, 2008.|
|August 4, 2010||June 28, 2013||Federal court decision → legislative statute||U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, finding Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Stayed during appeal, affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as Perry v. Brown. Certiorari granted and appealed as Hollingsworth v. Perry to the U.S. Supreme Court; the high court dismissed Hollingsworth for lack of standing and vacated the Ninth Circuit decision below, resulting with the original decision in Perry left intact. Gender-neutral marriage bill passed by the California State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of California took effect on January 1, 2015.|
|Colorado||5,355,866||July 9, 2014||October 7, 2014||State court decision||Colorado district court ruling in Brinkman v. Long|
|July 23, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ruling in Burns v. Hickenlooper|
|Connecticut||3,596,677||October 10, 2008||November 12, 2008||State court decision → legislative statute||Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health; incorporated into state statutes in April 2009.|
|Delaware||935,614||May 7, 2013||July 1, 2013||Legislative statute||Passed by the Delaware General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor of Delaware.|
|District of Columbia||658,893||December 18, 2009||March 9, 2010||Legislative statute||Passed by the Council of the District of Columbia.|
|Florida||19,893,297||August 21, 2014||January 6, 2015||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruling in Brenner v. Scott.|
|Guam||165,124 (not included in population total)||June 5, 2015||June 9, 2015||Binding federal court precedent → actions of territorial officials → federal court decision → legislative statute||Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson deferred to the controlling precedent set by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Latta v. Otter, ordering that marriage licenses for same-sex couples be processed immediately beginning on April 15, 2015. District Court of Guam ruling in Aguero v. Calvo upholding the earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit. Marriage Equality Act, incorporating the decision, passed by the Guam Legislature went into effect on August 27, 2015.|
|Hawaii||1,419,561||November 13, 2013||December 2, 2013||Legislative statute||Hawaii Marriage Equality Act passed by the Hawaii State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Hawaii.|
|Idaho||1,634,464||October 7, 2014||October 15, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho ruling in Latta v. Otter, upheld by the Ninth Circuit.|
|Illinois||12,880,580||November 20, 2013||June 1, 2014||Legislative statute||Passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor of Illinois.|
|Indiana||6,596,855||September 4, 2014||October 6, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruling in Baskin v. Bogan. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling.|
|Iowa||3,107,126||April 3, 2009||April 27, 2009||State court decision||Iowa Supreme Court ruling in Varnum v. Brien. One same-sex couple obtained a marriage licensed and married before initial ruling was stayed.|
|Maine||1,330,089||November 6, 2012||December 29, 2012||Initiative statute||Proposed by initiative as referendum Question 1, approved.|
|Maryland||5,976,407||November 6, 2012||January 1, 2013||Legislative statute → referendum||Civil Marriage Protection Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly; petitioned to referendum Question 6, upheld.|
|Massachusetts||6,745,408||November 18, 2003||May 17, 2004||State court decision||Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.|
|Minnesota||5,457,173||May 14, 2013||August 1, 2013||Legislative statute||Passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Minnesota.|
|Montana||1,023,579||November 19, 2014||November 19, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruling in Rolando v. Fox.|
|Nevada||2,839,099||October 7, 2014||October 9, 2014||Federal court decision → legislative statute||Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Sevcik v. Sandoval. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada's ruling. Gender-neutral marriage bill passed by the Nevada Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Nevada went into effect on July 1, 2017.|
|New Hampshire||1,326,813||June 3, 2009||January 1, 2010||Legislative statute||Passed by the New Hampshire General Court and signed into law by the Governor of New Hampshire.|
|New Jersey||8,938,175||September 27, 2013||October 21, 2013||State court decision||New Jersey Superior Court ruling in Garden State Equality v. Dow.|
|New Mexico||2,085,572||December 19, 2013||December 19, 2013||State court decision → legislative statute||New Mexico Supreme Court ruling in Griego v. Oliver. Gender-neutral marriage bill passed by the New Mexico Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of New Mexico went into effect on July 1, 2019.|
|New York||19,746,227||June 24, 2011||July 24, 2011||Legislative statute||Marriage Equality Act passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of New York.|
|North Carolina||9,943,964||October 10, 2014||October 10, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina ruling in General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper.|
|Oklahoma||3,878,051||July 18, 2014||October 6, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruling in Bishop v. Oklahoma. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the ruling in Bishop v. Smith.|
|Oregon||3,970,239||May 19, 2014||May 19, 2014||Federal court decision → legislative statute||U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ruling in Geiger v. Kitzhaber. Gender-neutral marriage bill passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Oregon went into effect on January 1, 2016.|
|Pennsylvania||12,787,209||May 20, 2014||May 20, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruling in Whitewood v. Wolf.|
|Rhode Island||1,055,173||May 2, 2013||August 1, 2013||Legislative statute||Passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor of Rhode Island.|
|South Carolina||4,832,482||November 12, 2014||November 20, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina ruling in Condon v. Haley.|
|Utah||2,942,902||June 25, 2014||October 6, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of Utah ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert. Marriages licensed between December 20, 2013, and January 6, 2014. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert.|
|Vermont||626,562||April 7, 2009||September 1, 2009||Legislative statute||Passed by the Vermont General Assembly, overriding Governor Jim Douglas' veto.|
|Virginia||8,326,289||July 28, 2014||October 6, 2014||Federal court decision → Legislative statute||U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruling in Bostic v. Rainey. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. district court ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer. Bill repealing the ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor of Virginia will take effect on July 1, 2020.|
|Washington||7,061,530||November 6, 2012||December 6, 2012||Legislative statute → referendum||Passed by the Washington State Legislature; suspended by petition and referred to Referendum 74, approved.|
|West Virginia||1,850,326||October 9, 2014||October 9, 2014||Binding federal court precedent → actions of state officials → federal court decision||Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, recognizing the precedent established by the Fourth Circuit ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer, dropped their defense of the state's same-sex marriage ban. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in McGee v. Cole overturned West Virginia's statutory ban on same-sex marriage on November 7, 2014.|
|Wisconsin||5,757,564||September 4, 2014||October 6, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruling in Wolf v. Walker. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling.|
|Wyoming||584,153||October 17, 2014||October 21, 2014||Federal court decision||U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming ruling in Guzzo v. Mead.|
|Total||221,434,635 (69.4% of the U.S. population)|
Note: This table shows only states that licensed and recognized same-sex marriages or had legalized them, before Obergefell v. Hodges. It does not include states that recognized same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions but did not license them.
In the United States and Canada, professional organizations including the American Anthropological Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and the American Academy of Family Physicians have stated that the scientific evidence supports the following conclusions: homosexuality is a natural and normal human sexuality, sexual orientation is not a choice, gay people form stable and committed relationships that are essentially equivalent to the relationships of heterosexuals, same-sex parents are no less capable than opposite-sex parents to raise children, no civilization or viable social order depends on restricting marriage to heterosexuals, and the children of same-sex couples fare just as well or even better than the children of opposite-sex couples.
Prominent figures in the civil rights movement have expressed their support for same-sex marriage. In 2004, Coretta Scott King, a leader of the civil rights movement and the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., expressed her support for same-sex marriage and publicly denounced attempts to define marriage as the "union of a man and a woman" as a form of "gay bashing". In 2007, Mildred Loving, the joint plaintiff alongside her husband Richard Loving in the landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967, in which the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all state bans on inter-racial marriage, issued a statement on the 40th anniversary of the ruling in which she expressed her support for same-sex marriage and described it as a civil right akin to inter-racial marriage, stating that "I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry". In 2009, Julian Bond, a leader of the civil rights movement and a chairman of the NAACP, expressed his support for same-sex marriage and stated that "gay rights are civil rights". In 2015, John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement and a chairman of the SNCC, welcomed the outcome of the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges in which the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, stating that "races don't fall in love, genders don't fall in love—people fall in love".
The NAACP, the leading African-American civil rights organization, has pledged its support for gay rights and same-sex marriage, stating that they "support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution", and has declared that same-sex marriage is a civil right.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT rights organization in the United States, states that "many same-sex couples want the right to legally marry because they are in love — many, in fact, have spent the last 10, 20 or 50 years with that person — and they want to honor their relationship in the greatest way our society has to offer, by making a public commitment to stand together in good times and bad, through all the joys and challenges family life brings."
Journalist Gail Mathabane likens prohibitions on same-sex marriage to past prohibitions on interracial marriage in the United States. Author Fernando Espuelas argues that same-sex marriage should be allowed because it recognizes the civil right of a minority. Historian Nancy Cott rejects alternatives to same-sex marriage (such as civil unions), reasoning that "there really is no comparison, because there is nothing that is like marriage except marriage."
Supporters of same-sex marriage successfully utilized social media websites such as Facebook to help achieve their aims. Some have argued that the successful use of social media by LGBT rights organizations played a key role in the defeat of religion-based opposition.
One of the largest scale uses of social media to mobilize support for same-sex marriage preceded and coincided with the arrival at the U.S. Supreme Court of high-profile legal cases for Proposition 8 and DOMA in March 2013. The "red equal sign" project started by the Human Rights Campaign was an electronic campaign primarily based on Facebook that encouraged users to change their profile images to a red equal sign to express support for same-sex marriage. At the time of the court hearings, an estimated 2.5 million Facebook users changed their profile images to a red equal sign.
Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on claims such as the beliefs that homosexuality is unnatural and abnormal, that the recognition of same-sex unions will promote homosexuality in society, and that children are better off when raised by opposite-sex couples. While some researchers question the definitiveness of the evidence, others assert that science has shown that homosexuality is a natural and normal human sexuality, that sexual orientation cannot be chosen, and that the children of same-sex couples fare just as well or even better than the children of opposite-sex couples.
Some of the opponents of same-sex marriage are religious groups such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention, all of which desire for marriage to remain restricted to opposite-sex marriages. However, there are faith-based supporters of LGBT equality and LGBT people of faith within every faith group.
The funding of the amendment referendum campaigns has been an issue of great dispute. Both judges and the IRS have ruled that it is either questionable or illegal for campaign contributions to be shielded by anonymity.
President Barack Obama's views on same-sex marriage varied over the course of his political career and became more consistently supportive of same-sex marriage rights over time. In the 1990s, he had supported same-sex marriage while campaigning for the Illinois Senate. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he was opposed to same-sex marriage, but he also opposed the 2008 California referendum that aimed at reversing a court ruling establishing same-sex marriage there. In 2009, he opposed two opposing federal legislative proposals that would have banned or established same-sex marriage nationally, stating that each state had to decide the issue. In December 2010, he expressed support for civil unions with rights equivalent to marriage and for federal recognition of same-sex relationships. He opposed a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He also stated that his position on same-sex marriage was "evolving" and that he recognized that civil unions from the perspective of same-sex couples was "not enough". On May 9, 2012, President Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. He still said the legal question belonged to the states. In October 2014, Obama told an interviewer that his view had changed:
Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states. But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that's pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.— President Barack Obama, on the matter of same-sex marriage as a constitutional question
Shortly after winning the 2016 election, President Donald Trump said he's "fine" with same-sex marriage and believes it to be settled law: "It's law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean, it's done." This somewhat contrasted with a previous statement he made in June 2015, after Obergefell v. Hodges, in which he said he's personally for "traditional marriage" and that he believed same-sex marriage should be left to the states. In that same statement, however, Trump admitted that overturning Obergefell is not realistic. Several of his federal appointments have also, subsequently, announced they will uphold same-sex marriage and enforce the Supreme Court ruling, while still being personally against same-sex marriage, namely Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Former presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama, former vice presidents Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Walter Mondale, and Joe Biden have voiced their support for same-sex marriage, as have former first ladies Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Nancy Reagan. Former President George H. W. Bush and his wife former First Lady Barbara Bush have served as witnesses to a same-sex wedding, but neither has publicly stated whether this means they support same-sex marriage in general; George W. Bush reportedly offered to officiate the same wedding, but has similarly not made a public statement regarding his position on the issue (as president, he was opposed). Fifteen U.S. senators announced their support in the spring of 2013. By April 2013, a majority of the Senate had expressed support for same-sex marriage. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio became the first sitting Republican senator to endorse same-sex marriage in March 2013, followed by Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois in April, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in June, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine a year later.
Politicians who have notably opposed same-sex marriage have included Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin.
Prominent politicians who have shifted from opposing to supporting same-sex marriage include Republican Senator Rob Portman, and Republican Representative Bob Barr (the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act).
In an interview on The O'Reilly Factor in August 2010, when Glenn Beck was asked if he "believe(s) that gay marriage is a threat to [this] country in any way", he stated, "No I don't. ... I believe that Thomas Jefferson said: 'If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket what difference is it to me?'"
The establishment of same-sex marriage is associated with a significant reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among teenagers, with the effect being concentrated among teens of a minority sexual orientation. A study of nationwide data from across the United States from January 1999 to December 2015 revealed that the rate of attempted suicide among all students in grades 9–12 declined by 7% and the rate of attempted suicide among those of a minority sexual orientation in grades 9–12 declined by 14% in states which established same-sex marriage, resulting in approximately 134,000 fewer teens attempting suicide each year in the United States. The researchers took advantage of the gradual manner in which same-sex marriage was established in the United States (expanding from one state in 2004 to all fifty states in 2015) to compare the rate of attempted suicide among teens in each state over the time period studied. Once same-sex marriage was established in a particular state, the reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among teens in that state became permanent. No reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among teens occurred in a particular state until that state recognized same-sex marriage. The lead researcher of the study observed that "laws that have the greatest impact on gay adults may make gay kids feel more hopeful for the future".
Until the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor required the Federal Government to treat lawfully married same-sex couples on an equal basis with lawfully married opposite-sex couples, same-sex married couples faced severe disadvantages. The Federal Government did not recognize those marriages for any purpose. According to a 1997 General Accounting Office study, at least 1,049 U.S. federal laws and regulations include references to marital status. A 2004 study by the Congressional Budget Office found 1,138 statutory provisions "in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving 'benefits, rights, and privileges.'" Many of these laws govern property rights, benefits, and taxation. Same-sex couples whose marriages were not recognized by the Federal Government were ineligible for spousal and survivor Social Security benefits and were ineligible for the benefits of the spouse of a federal government employee. One study found that the difference in Social Security income for same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex married couples was per year.
Compared to similarly situated opposite-sex married couples, same-sex couples faced the following financial and legal disadvantages:
Some 7,400 companies were offering spousal benefits to same-sex couples as of 2008. In states that recognized same-sex marriages, same-sex couples could continue to receive those same benefits only if they married. Only 18% of private employers offered domestic partner health care benefits.
Same-sex couples face the same financial constraints of legal marriage as opposite-sex married couples, including the marriage penalty in taxation. While social service providers usually do not count one partner's assets toward the income means test for welfare and disability assistance for the other partner, a legally married couple's joint assets are normally used in calculating whether a married individual qualifies for assistance.
A 2019 study found an increase in employment among same-sex couples after the legalization of same-sex marriage. The author of the study provided additional evidence suggesting that this change in employment was driven by a decline in discrimination.
The 2004 Congressional Budget Office study, working from an assumption "that about 0.6 percent of adults would enter into same-sex marriages if they had the opportunity" (an assumption in which they admitted "significant uncertainty") estimated that legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States "would improve the budget's bottom line to a small extent: by less than $1 billion in each of the next 10 years". This result reflects an increase in net government revenues (increased income taxes due to marriage penalties more than offsetting decreased tax revenues arising from postponed estate taxes). Marriage recognition would increase the government expenses for Social Security and Federal Employee Health Benefits but that increase would be more than made up for by decreased expenses for Medicaid, Medicare, and Supplemental Security Income.
According to a study published in May 2020 by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy, the legalization of same-sex marriage boosted state and local economies by an estimated 3.8 billion dollars. The Williams Institute estimated that the 300,000 same-sex couples who married in the U.S. since 2015 generated about $3.2 billion for local and state economies. In addition, traveling wedding guests spent an additional $544 million, and about 45,000 jobs were supported by same-sex weddings. $244 million was generated in state and local taxes.
Based in part on research that has been conducted on the adverse effects of stigmatization of gays and lesbians, numerous prominent social science organizations have issued position statements supporting same-sex marriage and opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; these organizations include the American Psychoanalytic Association and the American Psychological Association.
Several psychological studies have shown that an increase in exposure to negative conversations, media messages, and negative reactions among peers about same-sex marriage creates a harmful environment for LGBT people that may affect their health and well-being, especially among its younger members.
One study surveyed more than 1,500 lesbian, gay and bisexual adults across the nation and found that respondents from the 25 states that have outlawed same-sex marriage had the highest reports of "minority stress"—the chronic social stress that results from minority-group stigmatization—as well as general psychological distress. According to the study, the negative campaigning that comes with a ban is directly responsible for the increased stress. Past research has shown that minority stress is linked to health risks such as risky sexual behavior and substance abuse.
Two other studies examined personal reports from LGBT adults and their families living in Memphis, Tennessee, immediately after a successful 2006 ballot campaign banned same-sex marriage. Most respondents reported feeling alienated from their communities. The studies also found that families experienced a kind of secondary minority stress, says Jennifer Arm, a counseling graduate student at the University of Memphis.
At the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial, expert witness Ilan Meyer testified that the mental health outcomes for gays and lesbians would improve if laws such as Proposition 8 did not exist because "when people are exposed to more stress...they are more likely to get sick..." and that particular situation is consistent with laws that say to gay people "you are not welcome here, your relationships are not valued." Such laws have "significant power", he said.
In 2009, a pair of economists at Emory University tied the passage of state bans on same-sex marriage in the US to an increase in the rates of HIV/AIDS infection. The study linked the passage of same-sex marriage ban in a state to an increase in the annual HIV rate within that state of roughly 4 cases per 100,000 population.
A study by the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health found that gay men in Massachusetts visited health clinics significantly less often following the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state.
The Fox sitcom Roc was the first sitcom to feature a same-sex marriage in 1991. Since then, several shows and series have featured same-sex marriages, including amongst others Married...with Children, Roseanne ("December Bride"), Glee, Friends ("The One with the Lesbian Wedding"), Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Modern Family, The Simpsons ("There's Something About Marrying"), The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Brothers & Sisters, Grey's Anatomy, Will & Grace, Conan, Steven Universe, Shameless, The Fosters, etc.
The 22nd season premier of the PBS animated-show Arthur featured the marriage of teacher Mr. Ratburn and his male partner. Alabama's public television channel refused to air the episode.
There is no complete data on the number of same-sex marriages conducted in the United States. Marriages and divorces are recorded by states, counties, and territories, plus New York City and the District of Columbia, but not by the Federal Government. States such as Oregon do not distinguish between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages in their official records. The legal records on marriage and divorce belong to the states. In August 2016, the Treasury Department estimated the number of same-sex marriages by linking the tax returns of same-sex couples who had filed jointly in 2014 with their Social Security records. (Although this method excluded couples who file singly, these are small in number; of all married couples who file taxes, 97.5% file jointly.) This research showed that in 2014 there were about 183,280 married same-sex couples in the country, or "roughly a third of 1 percent of all marriages" according to The New York Times. Numbers from 2015 showed a large increase to 250,450 marriages. According to the statistics, female couples were four times more likely to have children than male couples. Additionally, male couples earned a pretax average of $165,960 per year, while lesbian couples earned $118,415 and straight couples earned $115,210. The highest rates of female same-sex marriage were found in Oakland (2.1% of all marriages), Seattle, San Francisco, Springfield (MA) and Portland (OR), whereas gay male marriages were most frequent in San Francisco (3.2%), Washington D.C., New York City, Seattle and Fort Lauderdale.
The United States Census Bureau has collected data on unmarried same-sex households since 2005. Since 2013 following United States v. Windsor, the Bureau began recording married same-sex households in its Same-Sex Couples report. It recorded about 252,000 same-sex spouses in 2013; 335,000 in 2014; 425,000 in 2015; 487,000 in 2016; 555,000 in 2017; 593,000 in 2018. In 2018, the states of California, Texas and New York had the highest total number of same-sex households, whereas Wyoming, Vermont, South Dakota and Connecticut had the most married same-sex households in comparison to unmarried households (92.4% of Wyoming same-sex households were married, followed by Vermont at 79.3%, South Dakota at 77.8% and Connecticut at 70.7%). Nationally, 59.5% of cohabiting same-sex couples were married.
The Population Reference Bureau reported that by October 2015 approximately 486,000 same-sex marriages had taken place in the United States. It estimated that 45% of all same-sex couples in the country were married at that time.
According to Gallup, the percent of cohabiting same-sex couples who are married rose from 38% in 2015 to 49% in 2016 and to 61% in 2017.
United States federal and state case law regarding same-sex marriage:
Main article: Public opinion of same-sex marriage in the United States
Americans began to be polled occasionally on the topic in the 1980s and more regularly in the 1990s. From 1988 to 2009, support for same-sex marriage increased between 1% and 1.5% per year. In the 2010s, it increased more quickly.
Gallup found that nationwide public support reached 50% in May 2011, 60% in May 2015, and 70% in May 2021.
The Pew Research Center similarly found 40% in 2010, 50% in 2013 and 61% in 2019.
As of 2016, 83% of Americans aged 18–29 supported same-sex marriage.
As of 2021, there is majority support for same-sex marriage in 47 states, ranging from 50% in South Carolina to 85% in Massachusetts. There is plurality support in Alabama, with 49% supporting and 47% opposing. Only Mississippi and Arkansas have majority opposition to same-sex marriage; in Mississippi, 55% oppose and 44% support, while in Arkansas, 52% oppose and 47% support same-sex marriage.
As of 2018, 60% of Americans said they would not mind if their child married someone of the same gender.
Annual polling conducted by Gallup each May in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 has found support for same-sex marriage stable, with two-thirds of Americans indicating that same-sex marriage should be recognized as valid under law (a range of 63% to 67% was recorded). In 2020, 67% of respondents stated that same-sex marriage should be legally recognized as valid under the law.
[T]he APA says that sexual orientation is not a choice [...]. (American Psychological Association, 2010).
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