The shift in legal recognition of same-sex marriages has picked up considerable momentum in the last decade. Before 2004, same-sex marriage was not performed anywhere in the U.S. After a 2003 decision in Massachusetts went into effect in 2004, though, a total of 19 states and the District of Columbia have instated legalized marriage equality. On top of that, eight additional states have seen marriage equality instated through various courts, though their rulings are currently stayed while on appeal. With the changes coming faster than ever in the last year, you’ll be forgiven for not being up to date on where exactly same-sex marriages are legal in the United States today. That’s where we come in.
States Allowing Marriage Equality
Starting with Massachusetts, 19 states have legalized marriage equality. Between 2004 and the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions on marriage equality on June 26, 2013, marriage equality was legalized and made effective in ten states – Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maine and Maryland – and the District of Columbia.
Three more states – Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota – legalized marriage equality, but went into effect within a few months of the Supreme Court’s decisions. In the last year, six more states have legalized marriage equality and made it effective: New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. All told, the 20 areas encompass over 137.5 million people, or 43.5% of the American population.
States with Stayed Rulings
Though some states have enacted marriage equality through state legislatures, many of the changes have come through court decisions. In the past year, in addition to the six states where marriage equality has become legal and effective, an additional eight states have seen marriage equality enacted through courts, only to have the decisions stayed on appeal. The eight states are: Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Idaho and Wisconsin. The states cover 55.9 million people, or 19.5% of the American population.
Though marriage equality was halted in these eight states, there have been some same-sex marriages conducted already in half of the states. In Utah, Michigan, Arkansas and Wisconsin, same-sex marriages were performed for brief periods of time before the stays went into effect.
States with Litigation
With a majority of states now either performing same-sex marriages or coming close through court rulings, that leaves 23 states where same-sex marriage is not legal. With litigation pending in the states, though, the chances of seeing more states with marriage equality is high.
That includes our home state of Georgia, which joined the fray earlier this year. Lambda legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven plaintiffs: Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville, Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta, and Jennifer Sisson of Decatur. All seven plaintiffs, along with the Southern Regional Office of Lambda Legal, were recently named as Grand Marshals for this year’s Atlanta Pride.