Tying the Gay Knot in the United States

For gay and  lesbian couples wishing to make a legal commitment to each other, through marriage or civil union, choices in the USA remain limited, despite recent significant changes in a handful of States. Following Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in 2003 which legalized gay marriage for Massachusetts residents in May 2004, Iowa and the District of Columbia have recently followed suit. In July 2000 Vermont became the first state to offer legal status to same sex couples by approving a civil union status, encompassing the same legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. California had previously offered legal status to same-sex couples, but sadly the short-lived ability of gays and lesbians to marry in California was overturned when voters in the state passed Proposition 8 in November 2008, banning same sex couples from legally marrying in California.

New Hampshire’s new marriage equality law went into effect on January 1, 2010 legalizing same sex marriage in the state of New Hampshire. In 2008 Connecticut joined those other New England states which allow gay marriage. Lastly, at least at present, New Jersey allows civil unions, and provides state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples.

Although not allowing gay unions to be performed in their states, New York, Rhode Island and New Mexico recognize marriages by same-sex couples legally performed elsewhere.

One thing is certain- inequality ‘rules’ in most states, and much work still  needs to be done to ensure that gay and lesbian couples can enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, irrespective of where they live. We encourage all our members to make their voices heard with their state representatives whenever possible, so that other states will join the six that are already enlightened.

More information on same sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships can be found on the NCSL website.

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