Gay Rights: A State-By-State Guide to Gay Marriage Laws

Support for marriage equality has continually gained steam in recent months: Maine, Maryland, and Washington legalized gay marriage last Election Day; the Colorado legislature is debating a bill that would offer civil unions to same-sex couples; and last week, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to strike down California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.

Yet despite growing support, 31 states still do not offer legal recognition of same-sex relationships (though Wyoming did allow a gay couple to divorce there in 2011). And states that do recognize gay relationships vary widely in the rights and protections they provide. It gets hard to keep track of that much state-to-state disparity.

Here’s your guide to those states that, to date, offer some form of recognition for same-sex relationships.  

California:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions unless they were performed before Nov. 5, 2008. Offers civil unions to same-sex couples.

Colorado:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. A bill to allow civil unions is up for debate in the state legislature. Though it’s still waiting to undergo a full House debate, the bill has already cleared the Colorado Senate, as well as the House Judiciary Committee. It’s expected to become effective May 2013.

Connecticut:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions.

Delaware:

Does not offer gay marriage. Recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions as civil unions. Offers civil unions.

Hawaii:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. Offers civil unions

Illinois:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. Offers civil unions.

Iowa:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions.

Maine:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions. Also offers domestic partnerships.

Maryland:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions.

Massachusetts:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions.

Nevada:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. Offers domestic partnerships.

New Jersey:

Does not offer gay marriage. Recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions as civil unions. Offers civil unions.

New Mexico:

Neither allows nor prohibits gay marriage. No court has addressed whether New Mexico recognizes same-sex marriages from other states, but in 2011, attorney general Gary King issued an opinion stating that courts most likely would recognize them.

New York:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions.

Rhode Island:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. Offers civil unions.

Oregon:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. Offers domestic partnerships.

Vermont:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions.

Washington:

Allows gay marriage and recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions.

Wisconsin:

Does not allow gay marriage, or recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. Offers domestic partnerships.

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Kate Moening

Kate Moening graduated from Grinnell College. She eats a lot of popcorn and enjoys talking social change, history, and the Pacific Northwest.

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