State Courts

Alaska Civil Liberties Union v. State
October 28, 2005

The Supreme Court of Alaska ruled that state and local government programs violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection provision by extending benefits to public employees’ spouses but denying benefits to employees’ domestic partners.  The court held the programs unconstitutional because they denied benefits to people who are precluded, under Alaska’s marriage laws, from becoming eligible to receive them.

Arizona Together v. Brewer
January 12, 2007 (judgment entered on August 31, 2006)

The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the validity of a proposed ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to different-sex couples and prohibit the state from recognizing a legal status for same-sex relationships.  The court held that both provisions were not separate amendments because they were sufficiently related to the common purpose of preserving and protecting marriage in Arizona.

Arkansas May v. Daniels
October 7, 2004

The Arkansas Supreme Court refused to prevent a proposed amendment limiting marriage to different-sex couples from being placed on the ballot.  The court held that the amendment’s title and popular name were not partisan or misleading.

California Marriage Cases
May 15, 2008

In six consolidated cases, the Supreme Court of California ruled that the state’s constitution protects the fundamental right to marry for both different-sex and same-sex couples.  It also held that laws imposing differential treatment on the basis of sexual orientation are subject to strict judicial scrutiny.

Strauss v. Horton
May 26, 2009

The Supreme Court of California upheld both Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage, and the marriages of 18,000 same-sex couples that were performed before the ban went into effect.

Connecticut: Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health
October 28, 2008

The Supreme Court of Connecticut, applying heightened judicial scrutiny, ruled that the state’s statutory prohibition against same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Connecticut Constitution. The court also held that civil unions were not a sufficient alternative for same-sex couples because of the stigma attached to the segregation of these couples into a separate institution.

Dean v. District of Columbia
January 19, 1995

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the highest court in the District, interpreted the District’s marriage statute as applying only to different-sex couples and ruled that the statute did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Florida: Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General re: Florida Marriage Protection Amendment March 23, 2006

At the Florida Attorney General’s request, the Florida Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion, an opinion on a matter of law that does not resolve a particular case, regarding a proposed ballot measure limiting marriage and its “substantial equivalent” to different-sex couples. The court approved the measure, holding that it did not violate the state’s single-subject requirement for ballot measures and that its language was clear and unambiguous.

Georgia: Purdue v. O’Kelley

July 6, 2006

The Supreme Court of Georgia upheld the constitutionality of an amendment to the state’s constitution limiting marriage to different-sex couples. The court ruled that the amendment did not violate the state’s single-subject requirement for ballot measures and its language was not misleading.


Baehr v. Lewin
May 5, 1993

In the case that inaugurated the modern marriage equality movement, the Supreme Court of Hawaii held that a statute excluding same-sex couples from marriage was discrimination on the basis of sex. The court sent the case back to trial to decide whether the statute could survive strict scrutiny.

Baehr v. Miike
December 9, 1999

In light of a legislative amendment banning same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that the state’s constitution no longer protects marriage equality.

Iowa: Varnum v. Brien

Varnum v. Brien The Supreme Court of Iowa, applying intermediate scrutiny, held that a statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Iowa Constitution.

Kansas: In re Estate of Gardiner March 15, 2002

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a marriage between a man and a post-operative male-to-female transgender individual was void under a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to different-sex couples.

Kentucky: Jones v. Hallahan November 9, 1973

The Court of Appeals of Kentucky, the highest state court in Kentucky at the time, ruled that same-sex couples were incapable of entering into a marriage because the term “marriage” was traditionally limited to different-sex couples.

Louisiana: Forum for Equality PAC v. McKeithen January 19, 2005

The Supreme Court of Louisiana held that a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to different-sex couples did not violate the Louisiana Declaration of Rights or the state’s single-object rule for constitutional amendments.

Maryland: Deane & Polyak v. Conaway September 18, 2007

The Supreme Court of Maryland upheld the state’s statutory prohibition of same-sex marriage, ruling that the law did not discriminate on the basis of sex in violation of the state’s constitution or abridge the fundamental right to marry. The court further held that same-sex marriage was not a fundamental right.

Massachusetts: Chambers v. Ormiston December 7, 2007

A same-sex couple legally married in Massachusetts petitioned for divorce in Rhode Island.  The Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that because Rhode Island law limited marriage to different-sex couples, Rhode Island courts could not divorce a same-sex couple “purportedly married” in another state.

Goodridge v. Department of Public Health November 18, 2003

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the state did not have a rational basis to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying.  Such a prohibition, the court held, would violate the state constitution’s equal protection and due process guarantees.  This decision made Massachusetts the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Michigan: National Pride at Work, Inc. v. Governor of Michigan May 7, 2008

The Supreme Court of Michigan interpreted the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment providing that only different-sex unions may be “recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”  The court ruled that the statute prohibited public employers from offering health insurance benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners because domestic partnerships are “similar unions” to marriage.

Minnesota: Baker v. Nelson October 15, 1971

The Supreme Court of Minnesota interpreted the state’s marriage statute as applicable only to heterosexual couples and held that such an interpretation did not violate either the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal for want of a substantial federal question.

New Jersey: Lewis v. Harris October 25, 2006

The Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that New Jersey’s marriage laws, which limited marriage to different-sex couples, violated the equal protection provision of the state constitution.  The court gave the New Jersey Legislature 180 days either to amend the marriage statutes or enact laws giving same-sex couples the same benefits afforded married couples.  In December 2006, the New Jersey Legislature passed a law providing for civil unions.

New York: Hernandez v. Robles July 6, 2006

The Court of Appeals of New York, the highest state court in New York, held that the state’s statute limiting marriage to different-sex couples did not violate the New York Constitution’s equal protection or due process provisions.

Oklahoma: O’Darling v. O’Darling July 1, 2008

A same-sex couple purportedly married in Ontario, Canada (before marriage equality laws had gone into effect in Ontario) obtained a divorce decree in Oklahoma before the court discovered that the divorcees were both women.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the divorce decree because it was improperly obtained, but remanded the case, or sent it back, to trial for a hearing to determine whether the woman seeking the divorce could obtain one under Oklahoma law.  Her case was dismissed on remand.

Oregon: Li v. State April 14, 2005

The Supreme Court of Oregon voided the marriages of 3,000 same-sex couples as invalid under the state’s marriage statute and ruled that the state constitution, amended in 2004 by ballot initiative, now expressly limited marriage to different-sex couples.

Tennessee: American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee v. Darnell July 14, 2006

The Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled that although a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to different-sex couples was not published within the time limits specified by the state constitution, the plaintiffs did not suffer a concrete injury from its untimely publication and therefore lacked standing to challenge the amendment’s placement on the November 7, 2006 ballot.

Vermont: Baker v. State December 20, 1999

The Supreme Court of Vermont held that same-sex couples had a right to the same benefits and protections flowing from marriage as different-sex couples.  As a remedy, the Vermont legislature passed a law making Vermont the first state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples.

Washington: Anderson v. King County July 26, 2006

The Supreme Court of Washington upheld the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that the Act did not violate either the Privileges and Immunities Clause or the Due Process Clause of the Washington State Constitution because the Act furthered the state’s legitimate interest in encouraging procreation by different-sex couples within the framework of marriage.

Wisconsin: McConkey v. Van Hollen Pending

On May 14, 2009, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed to hear a suit challenging the legality of a 2006 referendum amending the state’s constitution to prohibit both same-sex marriages and civil unions.  The plaintiff argues that the referendum violated the state’s single-subject requirement for ballot measures amending the state constitution because the referendum included two questions that should have been voted on separately.  A decision is expected in fall or winter of 2009.