Civil Rights

Gay Marriage Update

Maryland, Maine and Washington recently became the first states in which same-sex civil marriage has been approved by popular vote. In Minnesota, voters rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, also by popular vote.

This outcome in the November 2012 elections broke a 32-state popular-election losing streak on the issue of gay marriage. The new state laws take effect in January 2013, making same-sex marriage legal in a total of nine states.

Signifying a shift in public opinion, especially among young people, a majority of Americans now support the legalization of marriages for gay, lesbian and bisexual couples. However, opposition remains strong throughout the South.

State Law Varies on Same-Sex Marriage

Prior to the 2012 elections, gay marriage was already legal in six states, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, and the District of Columbia. In each case, legalization was the result of legislation or court orders, not popular vote.

Now, same-sex marriage is legal in nine states. In these nine states, gay couples may marry and enjoy the same state (although not federal) rights as traditional couples. To end their marriages, they must seek a divorce.

Over the past 15 years, 30 states have adopted constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Eight states have adopted statutory bans. The remaining three states have neither.

Federal Defense of Marriage Act

The federal Defense of Marriage Act was signed in 1996. It bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected take up the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has been struck down in part by two federal appeals courts, or California’s Proposition 8, which repudiated a state Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage. The outcome of either of these cases would be pivotal.

A Family Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding gay marriage is complicated and constantly evolving. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. To learn more about the rights to same-sex marriage, you can contact a family lawyer through

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