Same-Sex Marriage License Laws

Federal Law and Each State's Position on Same-Sex Marriage

Affectionate homosexual couple lying on bed
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State level bans against same-sex marriage licenses became obsolete in June 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell vs. Hodges that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The decision was an unprecedented step forward in the gay rights movement when the court ruled in a 5-4 decision that all states must recognize same-sex marriages under federal law.

It was a narrow decision, but it nonetheless forced all states to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Many states already had laws in place approving same-sex marriage, so the SCOTUS decision was something of a moot point in these jurisdictions. Other states resisted the Obergefell decision, but to no avail. Here's a summary of each state's position as of 2017. 

  • Alabama: Allowed same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court decision. Laws banning same-sex marriages were initially overturned in January 2015 by a U.S. District Court judge just months before the SCOTUS decision.
  • Alaska: Had an official registry for same-sex couples but DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act enacted in 1996, forbade the federal government from recognizing these marriages at that time. Obergefell vs. Hodges overturned DOMA and the state began issuing same-sex marriage licenses. 
  • Arizona: Had a DOMA law banning same-sex marriages but then reversed that and approved them before the 2015 Supreme Court decision. 
  • Arkansas: Passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in November 2004. There was a brief legislative skirmish in 2016 protesting the rights of both same-sex parents having their names appear on their children's birth certificates, but the state ultimately determined to follow federal law. 
  • California: Has recognized same-sex marriage since June 16, 2008.
  • Colorado:  Same-sex couples were able to enter into civil unions as of May 1, 2013 and the state recognized same-sex marriage as well before the 2015 decision. 
  • Connecticut: Same-sex marriages became legal in Connecticut in November 2008.
  • Delaware: Recognized same-sex marriage before the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision. 
  • District of Columbia: Same-sex marriages became legal in DC in March 2010. The District also has an official registry for same-sex couples and it recognized gay marriages performed in other states before the 2015 decision. 
  • Florida: The DOMA law in Florida that banned same-sex marriages was lifted by a state judge in January 2015, just months before the SCOTUS decision. 
  • Georgia: Passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in November 2004. The amendment stood until the 2015 Supreme Court decision. 
  • Hawaii: Gay marriages became legal in Hawaii on December 2, 2013. The state also has a domestic-partnership law that provides certain legal rights to gay couples who choose not to marry. 
  • Idaho: Once had a DOMA law banning same-sex marriages, but it had legalized them by the time of the 2015 SCOTUS decision. 
  • Illinois:  Same-sex couples have been legally able to marry in Illinois since June 1, 2013. Prior to this, same-sex couples were given spousal rights through civil unions effective June 2011. The spousal rights included "such things as hospital visitation, making health-care decisions, and matters concerning probate of a partner's estate."
  • Indiana: Gay marriages have been legal in Indiana since October 2014. 
  • Iowa: Same-sex marriages were legalized in Iowa in April 2009.
  • Kansas: Once had a DOMA law banning same-sex marriages, but this decision had been reversed prior to the 2015 federal court decision. 
  • Kentucky: Passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in November 2004. A federal appeals court upheld the state's position in November 2014, but this was reversed by the 2015 SCOTUS decision. Nonetheless, court clerk Kim Davis famously refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2016, arguing that to do so was against her religious beliefs. In fact, she refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone at all on this basis. She was sent to jail but subsequently released. 
  • Louisiana: Had both a state law (DOMA) and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, but the 2015 Supreme Court decision invalidated the ban. 
  • Maine: Gay marriage has been allowed in Maine since December 29, 2012. 
  • Maryland: Same-sex couples have been permitted to marry in Maryland since January 1, 2013.
  • Massachusetts: Same sex marriages were legal in Massachusetts prior to the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision. 
  • Michigan: Passed a constitutional amendment in November, 2004 to ban same-sex marriage. A federal appeals court judge upheld the state's position on November 6, 2014, but the 2015 SCOTUS decision invalidated this seven months later. 
  • Minnesota: Recognized same-sex marriages prior to 2015. 
  • Mississippi: Passed a constitutional amendment in November, 2004 banning same-sex marriage, but the ban was declared unconstitutional by the 2015 SCOTUS decision. 
  • Missouri: Had both a law (DOMA) and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages prior to Obergefell vs. Hodges. 
  • Montana: Had a DOMA law banning same-sex marriages, and the state passed a constitutional amendment in November 2004 defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The state had reversed these laws prior to the June 2015 Supreme Court decision, however. 
  • Nebraska: Nebraska law didn't rule either way prior to June 2015. The state had no constitutional law banning same-sex marriages, not had they been explicitly declared legal.
  • Nevada: Recognized same sex marriage before the 2015 SCOTUS decision. 
  • New Hampshire: Same-sex marriages have been allowed in New Hampshire since January 1, 2010.
  • New Jersey: Same-sex civil unions and marriages were allowed in New Jersey prior to June 2015.
  • New Mexico: A few counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in New Mexico in August 2013. The New Mexico Supreme Court then ruled that same-sex couples could marry here several months later in December of that year. 
  • New York: The New York legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York in June 2011. 
  • North Carolina: North Carolina once had a DOMA law banning same-sex marriages, but the state had repealed it by June 2015. 
  • North Dakota: North Dakota passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in November 2004. The amendment was invalidated by Obergefell vs. Hodges. 
  • Ohio: Passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in November 2004. The law was revoked by the 2015 Supreme Court decision. 
  • Oklahoma: After the Supreme Court declined to review Oklahoma's case against gay marriage in October 2014, they were allowed to begin there immediately ahead of the 2015 SCOTUS decision. 
  • Oregon: A state judge ruled that the state ban against same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in May 2014. 
  • Pennsylvania: This state's DOMA law was overturned in May 2014, more than a year before the SCOTUS decision. 
  • Rhode Island: Same-sex civil unions have been allowed in Rhode Island since July 2011. The state subsequently allowed same-sex marriages before the 2015 Supreme Court decision. 
  • South Carolina: Allowed same-sex marriages before the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision. 
  • South Dakota: Banned same-sex marriages before the 2015 SCOTUS ruling. 
  • Tennessee: Banned same-sex marriages before the 2015 Supreme Court decision.
  • Texas: Texas resisted Obergefell vs. Hodges in a big way. Several counties continued to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds even after the Supreme Court decision. The state's attorney general publicly came out in support of these counties. Most of them eventually complied with the Supreme Court decision, but Irion County was still holding out as of June 2016. 
  • Utah: Although Utah had a DOMA law banning same-sex marriages and the state passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in November 2004, a federal judge overturned that ban in December 2013. The ruling was halted in January 2014 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The state did not officially recognize same-sex marriages until October 2014 when the Supreme Court decline to review that case further. Then the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell vs. Hodges, making the issue moot. 
  • Vermont: Has recognized same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriages since September 1, 2009.
  • Virginia: After the Supreme Court declined to review Virginia's case against gay marriage in October 2014, same-sex couples were permitted to begin marrying there immediately.
  • Washington: Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the state of Washington since December 6, 2012. 
  • West Virginia: West Virginia was on board with same-sex marriage before the 2015 Supreme Court decision, although it initially had a DOMA law banning these marriages.
  • Wisconsin: Gay marriages were permitted to begin in October 2014 after the Supreme Court denied to review Wisconsin's case against prohibiting them. 
  • Wyoming: Once had a law banning same-sex marriages, but the state had reversed it prior to Obergefell vs. Hodges.