The U.S. Supreme Court dismisses Baker v. Nelson, an appeal of a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that found limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples did not violate the state constitution. The Court finds the case does not ask a substantial federal question, and some argue that dismissal set a binding precedent that could influence the Court’s eventual consideration of Proposition 8.
The Hawaii Supreme Court rules in Baehr v. Miike, finding that laws denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated state constitutional equal protection rights unless the state could show a “compelling reason” for such discrimination and sending the case back to trial court. The ruling was later credited with sparking a backlash in the form of laws and constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Hawaiian voters later passed a referendum giving the legislature jurisdiction over marriage, bypassing state courts.
Congress passes the Defense of Marriage Act, which is signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law, popularly known as DOMA, allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages and unions performed in other states. It also created a federal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
Ruling in Baker v. Vermont, the Vermont Supreme Court finds the state is constitutionally obligated to give same-sex couples the same rights, benefits and obligations as marriage, and orders the state legislature to decide how best to do so. 2000In response to the Baker ruling, Vermont becomes the first state to legally recognize same-sex couples with civil unions.
In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Court finds that same-sex couples are entitled to marry under the state’s constitution.
The nation’s first legal same-sex marriages are performed in Massachusetts in the wake of the Goodridge ruling. Public officials issue marriage licenses and perform ceremonies elsewhere, including New Mexico and San Francisco, but those unions will later be nullified.
The Supreme Court of California issues a broad decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Roughly 18,000 same-sex couples married in California before voters passed a referendum — Proposition 8 — declaring it illegal. In November, the Connecticut Supreme Court also struck down a law banning same-sex marriage, making Connecticut the third state to legalize it.
Same-sex marriage laws pass in Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. Maine legalizes same-sex marriage, but voters later overturn the decision with a ballot initiative.
In two separate cases, a federal judge in Boston rules July 8 that the federal Defense of Marriage Act violated the Constitution by denying federal benefits to married gay men and lesbians and by forcing Massachusetts to discriminate in order to obtain federal funds. Meanwhile, in California on Aug. 4, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker rules that Proposition 8 violated gays’ and lesbians’ due process rights. The decision is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
People think the battle for marriage equality began in California with Prop H8….or maybe in Iowa a year ago….in Massachusetts back in ’04, but the battle actually began almost forty years ago.
We need that reminder to tell us that this is worth the ongoing fight, and worth the ongoing struggle, and worth staying the course, if only to honor those who were there at the beginning.
Here are “Ten Key Moments in the Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage”.