Not a lot of states allow gay marriage. Most states have either passed either a law or adopted a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. A few countries (Canada and the Netherlands are two examples) have legalized gay marriage nationwide.
|Name of State||Date||Gay Marriage or Civil Union|
|Massachusetts||May 2004||Gay Marriage|
|Connecticut||April 2005||Civil Union|
|New Jersey||February 2007||Civil Union|
|New York||N/A||Law Silent|
|New Mexico||N/A||Law Silent|
Massachusetts: A State That Allows Gay Marriage
Massachusetts is one of the states that permits gay marriage or civil unions. Same-sex couples have been able to get marriage licenses starting in May 2004. The first wedding ceremonies were performed shortly thereafter. The way was cleared for this policy when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in February of that year that it was a violation of the state constitution to bar gay couples from being married.
The issue of gay marriage was brought to the attention of the Courts when seven gay couples started a legal action against the Massachusetts Department of Health. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were refused when they tried to apply for marriage licenses.
State lawmakers seek to amend the constitution to put a ban on gay marriages; under the proposed amendment, homosexual couples would be able to enter into civil unions. When the state legislature recessed in November 2006 without voting on the issue, it effectively died on the order paper.
Connecticut is not one of the states that allows gay marriage. Same-sex partners have the option of entering into a civil union that gives them rights that are similar (but not identical) to those given to married couples. Connecticut was the first state to develop a policy to create civil unions without being instructed to by a court of law.
If you live in New Jersey, you are not living in a state that allows gay marriage. Here, gay couples have the right to enter into a civil union that give them the same rights as straight couples; it just isn't called marriage. Same-sex partners have been given adoption and inheritance rights as well.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in October of 2006 that gay couples had the same rights as straight ones. Legislators were given a six-month period in order to review the law. With respect to use of the word marriage with respect to same-sex couples, the court was unable to find that gay couples had the fundamental right to marry under the terms of the constitution.
Although Vermont is also not one of the states that allow gay marriage, gay couples in Vermont can enter into a civil union. They can apply for a license, which is similar to a marriage certificate. This document gives them the same rights as married couples with respect to health benefits, life insurance, and custody of children. If they choose to separate, they have to go to court.
Same-sex couples in New York who wish to marry are caught in a kind of legal limbo. New York is not one of the states that allow gay marriage but there is no law specifically banning same-sex marriage.
New Mexico is also an interesting situation with respect to gay marriage. In February of 2004, a number of gay couples were issued marriage licenses in Sandoval County. At least 60 same-sex couples were married before the attorney general ordered that the practice be stopped. An amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman died in committee; the state law is currently silent on this issue.
No doubt the question of extending marital rights to same-sex couples will continue to be a controversial one. Some will argue that this is a human rights issue, while others will continue to object on moral and/or religious grounds.