• 1920’s Sexual Revolution - Dating was the new craze in
restaurants and cars, away from the oversight of family. Popular
culture embraced sex, but critics feared that marriage was on the
• Judge Ben Lindsey’s book, The Companionate Marriage, was
influential. Lindsey proposed the use of birth control and delaying
child rearing until the couple were sure they were compatible.
• Sephardic Jews in the Middle East maintained the right to
polygamy until an all-inclusive ban was pronounced in the
mid-twentieth century, after the formation of the State of Israel.
• In the 1950s, marriage became almost universal in the U.S. Four
out of five people surveyed in 1957 believed that preferring to
remain single was "sick," "neurotic" or "immoral."
• 1967 In Loving v. Virginia the United States Supreme Court
declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute unconstitutional,
thereby ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the
United States. The court’s decision was based on the due process and
the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
• In 1969 in California, Troy Perry presides over the "holy
union" of two women, Neva Heckman and Judith Belew — the first
public same-sex marriage ceremony in American history (Fleisher).
• 1970-71, Minnesota – Jack Baker and James Michael McConnell
sued Gerald Nelson, a clerk in Hennepin County, Minnesota, after
Nelson denies them a marriage license. Their case went all the way
to the U.S. Supreme Court. While Baker and McConnell awaited the
results of their lawsuit, a courthouse clerk in Blue Earth County,
Minnesota, granted them a marriage license (Fleisher).
Colorado – County clerk Clela Rorex decided to issue marriage
licenses to same-sex couples . Rorex defended her decision to issue
the licenses: “I am not in violation of any law and it is not for me
to legislate morality .” (Daily Camera). The issuing of marriage
licenses in Colorado ended abruptly when a legal opinion by state
attorney general J. D. McFarlane put an end to the practice (“May 7,
1975”). Six couples were issued licenses over a period of about one
month, including David McCord and David Zamora, the first couple to
receive their license (Daily Camera), and Anthony Sullivan and
Richard Adams, who traveled from California to Colorado to obtain
their license and who would go on to become longtime activists (The
• 1989, Denmark – The first government-recognized same-sex union
in modern history takes place.
• 1993-99, Hawaii – The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that absent a
"compelling state interest," barring gay couples from marrying is a
form of sexual discrimination. The case was sent back to the lower
courts. A Hawaii circuit court ruled that barring same-sex marriage
violates the state constitution's equal protection clause. The case
was appealed. As the Hawaii Supreme Court considered arguments over
the legality of denying same-sex couples the right to marry, Hawaii
voters passed a constitutional amendment against gay marriage
• 1996, United States – Bill Clinton, on January 3, signed into
law the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government
from recognizing same-sex marriages, even if the unions are lawfully
conducted by a state (Fleisher).
• 1999-2004, California – The California legislature passed laws
regarding domestic partnership. Originally domestic partnership
granted very limited rights, such as hospital visitation. The
institution was expanded over the years, creating an institution
intended to grant gays and lesbians rights and responsibilities
similar to marriage. Lesbian legislator Carole Migden was the
primary author and sponsor of the domestic partnership bills
(“Domestic partnership in California”). Early on during this period,
in 2000, California voters passed the 14-word Proposition 22, which
explicitly states: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid
or recognized in California” (Fleisher).
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Dawn of the 21st Century CE
(2000s CE thru the present)
• 2000, Vermont – Vermont became the first state in the U.S. to
grant civil unions to same sex couples. Civil unions are intended to
grant all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex
couples, although they are not recognized by the federal government.
The legislation that created civil unions came about as a result of
a state Supreme Court decision, in which the court ruled that
denying marriage rights to same sex couples was unconstitutional
• 2001, The Netherlands – Same-sex marriage becomes legal for the
first time in modern history.
• 2003, Belgium – This country became the second to legalize
• 2003, Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
ruled that same-sex couples should have equal rights to marry under
the state constitution. Their decision is based on the grounds of
due process and equal protection (Fleisher).
• 2004, United States – President Bush announced support in
February for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex
marriage. Voters in fourteen states subsequently passed state
constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in elections
held from August through November (“Gay Marriage Timeline”).
• 2004, California – On February 12th, at the order of Mayor
Gavin Newsom, San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to
same-sex couples. On March 13, the California Supreme Court ordered
a halt to same-sex marriages in San Francisco. More than 4,000 gay
and lesbian couples were married over twenty-nine days (Murphy).
Later that year, in August, the state Supreme Court voided the
marriages that had been performed (“California high court voids
• 2005, Navajo Nation – Joe Shirley Jr., Navajo President, vetoed
a bill by the tribal legislature that banned same-sex marriage on
the reservation (Fleisher).
• 2005, Connecticut – The Connecticut state legislature became
the first in the U.S. to pass civil unions legislation without
pressure from the courts (Yardley).
• 2005, Spain – Same-sex marriage became legal.
• 2005, Canada – Our neighbor to the north becomes the fourth
country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
• 2005-06, California – California Superior Court Judge Richard
Kramer ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional,
and cited the 1948 case Perez v. Sharp, which struck down
California's anti-miscegenation law. A California appeals court
reversed Judge Kramer's ruling in a 2-1 decision. Meanwhile, the
California Legislature passed AB 849, the first bill legalizing
same-sex marriage without a court order. Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger immediately vetoed the legislation (Fleisher).
• 2006, Arizona – The state’s voters become the first to reject a
constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (“Gay
• 2006, New Jersey – Under circumstances similar to those in
Vermont in 2000, the New Jersey state legislature enacted civil
unions in response to a state Supreme Court order that same-sex
couples be granted the same rights as married couples (“New Jersey
governor signs civil unions into law”).
• 2006, South Africa – Same sex marriage becomes legal.
• 2007, Iowa – On August 31, Polk County, Iowa, Judge Robert B.
Hanson ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is
unconstitutional. For the next four hours, gay marriage is legalized
in Iowa, until Hanson halts further same-sex marriage licensing,
pending the results of an appeal to the state Supreme Court
September 19, 2007, San Diego – In a tearful news conference, San
Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders
that he had reversed a previously-announced decision and would not veto a resolution in
support of same-sex marriage that had been approved by the City
Council. In announcing his decision, Sanders referred to gay and
lesbian friends, staff members, and his own daughter. “In the end, I
couldn’t look any of them in the face and tell them that their
relationships, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the
marriage I share with my wife, Rana,” said Sanders (Virgil).
• May 15, 2008 , Sacramento – California Supreme Court issued a
decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Noting
that the state’s domestic partnership law falls short of full
equality, the ruling also holds that any discrimination based on
sexual orientation must pass “strict scrutiny,” the same standard
that applies to race and gender (In re Marriage Cases). Chief
Justice Ronald M. George, an appointee of Gov. Pete Wilson (Dolan),
writing for the majority stated that “An individual’s sexual
orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a
legal basis on which to deny or withhold legal rights” (In re
• May, 2008, New York – Following an opinion by legal counsel,
Gov. David Paterson directed all state agencies to begin recognizing
same-sex marriages that are performed in other jurisdictions,
including Massachusetts, California, and Canada (Peters).
16 & 17, 2008, California – Some county clerks’ offices stayed open
late on the 16th allowing same-sex couples to marry at the earliest
moment permitted by the state Supreme Court’s May ruling.
Lyon and Del Martin were the first couple wed in San Francisco, in a
ceremony officiated by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Lyon and
Martin, together over fifty years, are longtime activists, founders
of Daughters of Bilitis, the early Lesbian rights organization, and
were the first couple married in 2004 in a rush of marriages in San
Francisco that set the stage for the state Supreme Court’s May, 2008
decision (Hall). By the end of June 17, the first full day of gay
and lesbian marriage in California, “well over 2,300 marriage
licenses had been issued statewide. The statewide average for a
weekday in June is 460… San Diego County issued 230 licenses,
surpassing its old record of 176 set on Valentine’s Day 2005” (Landsberg).
• July 15, 2008, Massachusetts – An anti-miscegenation law from
1913, that had been used to prohibit non-resident same-sex couples
from marrying in the state, is repealed by the State Senate. It is
expected to pass the House and to be signed by the governor (Belluck).
• November 4, 2008, California – The struggle for equality
continues. Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that
would ban gay and lesbian marriage, appeared on the November
ballot. Approved by a simple majority of voters, it attempts to overrule
the state Supreme Court’s May decision in favor of marriage equality
and throw those marriages that have been performed into legal limbo.
• January 1, 2009, Norway – Equal marriage rights becomes available to same-sex couples.
• 2012 -
President Obama is the first sitting president to come out in favor
of marriage equality, and it didn’t cost him at the polls. For the
first time ever, a ballot measure against same-sex marriage (in
Minnesota) was defeated. And for the first time ever, voters said
yes to marriage-equality measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington
2012 - US Supreme Court may rule on
California Proposition 8.
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Belluck, Pam, and Katie Zezema. “A
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July 15, 2008 at
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civil unions for gays in Connecticut,” New York Times, April 7,
2005. Accessed on July 15, 2008 at
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