First 5 States to Legalize Gay Marriage

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It’s finally happened. Gay marriage is legal in the state of California.

The US Supreme Court voted to overturn Prop 8, or the California Marriage Protection Act, which set the precedent that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized” in the state of California. Prop 8 initially overturned the right to same-sex marriage, which was briefly legal in California back in 2008.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling, which hinged largely on the fact that California state officials themselves refused to show up in defense of the statute, will legalize gay marriage in the state for the second time. Given California’s liberal history, it’s surprising that it could have taken this long, but many were well ahead of the Golden State on this crucial issue.

5 New Hampshire

Following the precedents set by its neighbors to the south and east, New Hampshire approved a bill allowing same-sex marriage in 2009. While the state had already allowed legal civil unions since ’07, it wasn’t until two years later that gay marriage was officially legalized in the Granite State.

4 Vermont

The third New England territory and fourth state overall to legalize gay marriage, was Vermont, which did so back in 2009. Although their Governor at the time, Jim Douglas, attempted to veto it, legislators voted to override his veto and the bill eventually went through. Vermont, which in 2000 became the first state to allow civil unions for gay couples, also became the first state to legalize gay marriage through legislative means, whereas the preceding states had done so following a court order.

3 Iowa

Perhaps the most surprising of all the states to legalize gay marriage, was Iowa. While Iowa isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of open-mindedness or a state with a particularly large gay population, the Supreme Court of the moderately liberally Midwestern state ruled that same-sex marriage was legal back in 2009. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the ruling caused such controversy that three State Supreme Court judges were forced from the bench the following year.

2 Connecticut

Five years after the historic ruling in Massachusetts, no other US state had stepped forward to join them until Connecticut finally broke the mold. The Connecticut State Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry in 2008, and the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples that same year. Connecticut joined its fellow hard-to-spell Northeastern state as the second to issue such a historic ruling.

1 Massachusetts

Back in 2003, Massachusetts became the very first state in the Union to legalize gay marriage. After a ruling by its highest court that a ban on gay marriage violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples, Massachusetts set the precedent for other states to come. The liberal New England state was the first to point out that there’s a little something in our constitution about treating all men equally—and actually followed through on enforcing it.
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