Big Story

This Is Where Marriage Equality Stands on Its 10th Birthday

It's a big week for same-sex marriage in the U.S., for three reasons.

A couple getting married in New York City in 2011

A couple getting married in New York City in 2011. (erin m / Flickr)

1. Legal same-sex marriage in Arkansas

On Thursday, Arkansas added itself to the list of states that have legalized same-sex marriage. (Out of all of the states without same-sex marriage, was anyone expecting Arkansas to be the one to legalize it next?)

Even though there was an immediate negative reaction to the ruling ...

... Judge Chris Piazza issued his final order on Thursday - and Pulaski County will begin issuing marriage licenses immediately.

2. Big ruling in Idaho

Meanwhile, a federal judge ruled that Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The changes were supposed to take effect today, but don't hold your breath. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals swooped in and delayed when the changes would actually happen ... for now.

3. The 10th anniversary of legal same-sex marriage

cambridge city hall gay marriage

Cambridge City Hall after midnight on May 17, 2004. (John Niedermeyer / Flickr)

On May 17, 2004, the first ever legal same-sex marriages in the U.S. took place in Massachusetts.

Robyn Ochs and Peg Preble, one of the first same-sex couples to wed in the United States.

Robyn Ochs and Peg Preble, one of the first same-sex couples to wed in the United States. (Bi Magazine / Flickr)

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, and on May 17, 2004, couples across the state were able to enjoy the right to marry.

Ten years later, a lot has changed - but a lot has stayed the same too. Just how far have we come as a country in the last decade when it comes to marriage equality?

These are the 17 states* where same-sex marriage is legal

Here's where we stand as a country in 2014.

6 states have legalized same-sex marriage by court decision:

  • Massachusetts - 2004
  • Connecticut - 2008
  • Iowa - 2009
  • California - 2013
  • New Jersey - 2013
  • New Mexico - 2013

san francisco prop 8

The San Francisco City Hall is lit up with rainbow colors to celebrate the end of Proposition 8. (davidyuweb / Flickr)

8 more states legalized it via their state legislature:

  • Vermont - 2009
  • New Hampshire - 2010
  • Delaware - 2013
  • Hawaii - 2013
  • Minnesota - 2013
  • New York - 2011
  • Rhode Island - 2013
  • Illinois - takes effect June 1, 2014

3 states legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote:

The same-sex marriage ballot initiative in Washington state.

The same-sex marriage ballot initiative in Washington state. (odditonic / Flickr)

  • Maine - 2012
  • Washington - 2012
  • Maryland - 2013

That brings the total number of states where same-sex marriage is legal to 17*. Why the asterisk? Because it's legal in the District of Columbia, too, home of our nation's capital, Washington.

We may see more states added to this list in 2014. Judges in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas and Michigan have ruled that their state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but all of those decisions have been stayed - put on hold - due to appeals.

That means same-sex marriage isn't legal in 33 states

Don't see your state above? Then it's one of the 33 where gay marriage is still banned.

In 26 states it's banned by a constitutional amendment AND the state law:

  • Alabama (2006, 1998)
  • Alaska (1998, 1996)
  • Arizona (2008, 1996)
  • Arkansas (2004, 1997)
  • Colorado (2006, 2000)
  • Florida (2008, 1997)
  • Georgia (2004, 1996)
  • Idaho (2006, 1996)
  • Kansas (2005, 1996)
  • Kentucky (2004, 1998)
  • Louisiana (2004, 1999)
  • Michigan (2004, 1996)
  • Mississippi (2004, 1997)
  • Missouri (2004, 1996)
  • Montana (2004, 1997)
  • North Carolina (2012, 1995)
  • North Dakota (2004, 1997)
  • Ohio (2004, 2004)
  • Oklahoma (2004, 1996)
  • South Carolina (2006, 1996)
  • South Dakota (2006, 1996)
  • Tennessee (2006, 1996)
  • Texas (2005, 1997)
  • Utah (2004, 1997)
  • Virginia (2006, 1997)
  • Wisconsin (2006, 1979)

In 3 it's banned by constitutional amendment only:

  • Nebraska (2000)
  • Nevada (2002)
  • Oregon (2004)

And in 4 it's banned just by state law:

  • Indiana (1997)
  • Pennsylvania (1996)
  • West Virginia (2000)
  • Wyoming (2003)

But no matter how it was banned, it's still illegal in over half of the country.

Need a visual? Here's our handy map:

gay marriage in U.S.

That's a lot of red.

Here's how else things have improved for LGBTs beyond marriage

People have been fighting for the right to same-sex marriage for decades now, but it seems like a lot of the progress has been made in just the last 10 years. The number of states where same-sex couples can legally marry has skyrocketed from just 1 to 17, a little over a third of the country.

Michael Sam, the first openly gay pro football player, was just drafted to play for the Saint Louis Rams.


Sam isn't the only pro athlete who is gay and out, but the fact that there's an openly gay player in the NFL is a powerful symbol.

The Boy Scouts of America has even made steps toward being inclusive, changing its policy to allow openly gay scouts, though gay leaders are still banned.

The general attitude towards gay marriage, and the LGBT community overall, is slowly becoming more positive and welcoming.

But in other ways, it's still an uphill battle

It's impossible to say that the LGBT community has true equal status in this country.

People who identify as queer, especially those who are transgender, are victimized and murdered at shockingly high rates.

People of color in the LGBT community are almost twice as likely to face violence than a white person with the same sexual orientation.

And the map above shows how many states still make it illegal for same-sex couples to marry.

But we've seen what the last 10 years did. Who knows what will happen between now and 2024?

Images used under Creative Commons licensing.

Get Kicker in your inbox!
This Is Where Marriage Equality Stands on Its 10th Birthday

Lauren Wethers

Lauren is originally from outside Saint Louis, but traveled down the Mississippi River to be a student at Tulane University, where she is the editor-in-chief of The Tulane Review and director of the New Orleans Universities Relay for Life. She has also written for NOLAWoman.com and Winnovating. One day she’ll figure out how to make the Time Turner real, but until then, she’d like to thank coffee for her success. Follow: @laurenwethers.

Share your comments