Timeline of Gay Marriage in the United States


Gay Marriage States
Decided by
Date Law Took or
Will Take Effect
CaliforniaCourt Decision6/28/2013
ConnecticutCourt Decision11/12/2008
IowaCourt Decision4/24/2009
MassachusettsCourt Decision5/17/2004
New JerseyCourt Decision10/21/2013
DelawareState Legislature7/1/2013
HawaiiState Legislature12/2/2013
IllinoisState Legislature6/1/2014
Minnesota State Legislature8/1/2013
New HampshireState Legislature1/1/2010
New YorkState Legislature7/21/2011
Rhode IslandState Legislature8/1/2013
VermontState Legislature9/1/2009
MainePopular Vote12/29/2012
MarylandPopular Vote1/1/2013
WashingtonPopular Vote12/9/2012

Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage on May 17, 2004, seven months after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional under the state constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying.

Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage on November 12, 2008 when the state supreme court overturned a lower court ruling that prohibited gay couples from marrying. The Connecticut Supreme Court found that same-sex couples have the legal right to marry. On October 1, 2010, all existing Connecticut civil unions were automatically converted into marriages.

On April 27, 2009, Iowa became the third state to legalize gay marriage. In a unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state law that banned same-sex marriage, finding the law in violation of the state constitution.

In July 2000, Vermont became the first state to introduce civil unions. In February 2009, a same-sex marriage bill was introduced in Vermont and was passed within six weeks. Same-sex marriage became legal in Vermont on September 1, 2009 after the Vermont Senate and House of Representatives overturned a veto by Governor Jim Douglas. Vermont was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through legislative action.

On January 1, 2010, gay marriage became legal in New Hampshire after legislators passed a same-sex marriage bill. The bill was signed into law by Governor John Lynch. In 2012, the New Hampshire legislators rejected a bill to repeal the same-sex marriage law. New Hampshire was the fifth state to legalize gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Washington, DC on December 18, 2009 after the city council passed a law to legalize gay marriage. The law survived Congressional opposition and a Supreme Court challenge. The first marriages in Washington, DC took place on March 9, 2010.

Same-sex marriage legislation was initially passed by the New York State Assembly in 2007 but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate. A same-sex marriage bill was defeated in the Senate in 2009. On June 24, 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act, a bill to legalize gay marriage, into law. New York was the sixth state to legalize gay marriage.

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage passed both the Maryland House and the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley, who had campaigned for same-sex marriage legislation. In November 2012, voters upheld the gay marriage law, marking the first time marriage rights have been granted to gay couples by popular vote. Same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland on January 1, 2013.

While Maine Governor Baldacci signed a same-sex marriage bill into law in May 2009, voters repealed the law in the November election. After a popular referendum put the issue back on the ballot, voters approved gay marriage in November 2012. Same-sex marriage became legal in Maine on December 29, 2012.

After same-sex marriage legislation passed the Washington House and Senate in February 2012, Governor Christine Gregoire promptly signed the bill. Opponents collected enough signatures to put the legislation to a vote. After voters approved the legislation in the November election, same-sex marriage in Washington became legal on December 6, 2012. The first same-sex marriages were celebrated in the state on December 9, 2012.

On May 7, 2013, Governor Jack Markell signed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Delaware. The law became effective on July 1, 2013. Delaware became the 11th state to allow gay couples to marry. The state will no longer offer civil unions to any couples. By July 1, 2014, existing civil unions will automatically convert to marriages.

On June 26, 2013, California became the 12th state and 13th U.S. jurisdiction to allow gay couples to marry. While the state originally began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on June 16, 2008 after a court found same-sex marriage legal, opponents launched a massive campaign to declare gay marriage unconstitutional in the state. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law, upholding the lower court’s 2008 decision.

Rhode Island became the last of the New England states to approve same-sex marriage. After the state legislature approved same-sex marriage, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law on May 2, 2013. The same-sex marriage law will become effective on August 1, 2013.

In 2012, Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Legislators proposed a bill to legalize gay marriage, which was approved and signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton on May 14, 2013. Same-sex marriage will become legal in Minnesota on August 1, 2013.

In 2012, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, who argued the issue should be decided by voters. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, 2013, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson determined same-sex marriage should be legal in the state. New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize gay marriage on Oct. 21, 2013 after the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the state’s request to block same-sex marriages and Christie dropped his appeal.

While Hawaii was one of the first to allow same-sex unions in the 1990s, it amended its constitution to ban gay marriage in 1998. In 2011, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law a civil union bill that offered some protections to same-sex couples. In October 2013, the state legislature approved the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act in a special session, and gay marriage became legal in Hawaii on Dec. 2, 2013.

Illinois became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage after Gov. Pat Quinn signed a same-sex marriage bill into law on Nov. 20, 2013. The law is scheduled to take effect on June 1, 2014. However, after a federal judge ruled in February 2014 that gay couples in Cook County should not be required to wait until the law takes effect to marry, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recommended the rest of the state’s counties follow suit. Madigan insisted her office would support any couples who are denied an early same-sex marriage license.

New Mexico was the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage. In a unanimous ruling, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed the right of same-sex partners to marry on Dec. 19, 2013. The justices found that the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution guaranteed that gay couples should enjoy the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples. The state previously did not have any laws either supporting or opposing gay marriage.