An Overview of State Laws on Same-Sex Marriage
As of February, 2015, 37 states and the District of Columbia have all either formally legitimized gay marriage or plan to do so. Thus far, federal courts have dealt with the 14th Amendment issues raised by proponents of gay marriage on a state-by-state basis. In January, 2015, however, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on whether the 14th Amendment requires all states to allow same-sex marriage. A decision is expected this year.
Public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted dramatically in the last 15 years. In 2000, a poll showed that only 35% of people thought gay marriage should be legal. In 2014, a similar poll found 55% of Americans in favor of gay marriage.
A look at the history of gay marriage in the United States shows an interesting phenomenon—the response to the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003, allowing gay marriage in the state, was reactionary. Before that decision, only two states had constitutional bans on gay marriage. The year following that decision, 14 more states added constitutional bans, and as recently as 2012, nearly 30 states banned same-sex marriage. Currently, 15 states have constitutional amendments defining marriage to be between a man and a woman, but those proscriptions are rapidly falling under 14th Amendment arguments.
Geographically, the remaining constitutional bans are primarily clustered in the southern states—Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia still have bans, whereas Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas allow gay marriage. Missouri’s law was invalidated in late 2014 and Alabama’s ban was ruled unconstitutional earlier this year.20. The Dakotas ban the practice, but Nebraska’s constitutional provision was recently struck down. In addition, Michigan and Ohio remain legally opposed to gay marriage.