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Timeline: The battle to legalize same-sex ‘marriage’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While same-sex “marriage” was legalized in Massachusetts May 17, the nationwide battle over its legalization dates back to the 1990s.

Following is a timeline of important dates in the long battle:

May 17, 2004 — Court ruling takes effect, making Massachusetts the first state in nation to legalize same-sex “marriage.” U.S. is now one of only four countries where same-sex “marriage” is legal in at least one locality.

May 14, 2004 — U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal from lawyers asking for a temporary injunction against the Massachusetts ruling, paving way for nation’s first state-sanctioned same-sex “marriages.”

March 29, 2004 — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, announces intent to ask state high court to delay ruling until voters can vote on amendment. But State Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, a Democrat and Romney’s legal representative, says he will not follow Romney’s request.

March 29, 2004 — Massachusetts’ legislature passes amendment that would ban same-sex “marriage” and legalize civil unions, capping first step of lengthy three-step process. Amendment can’t go to voters until 2006.

Feb. 27, 2004 — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry tells homosexual activists that the federal government should recognize same-sex “marriages” legalized on the state level, The Washington Post reports.

Feb. 24, 2004 –- President Bush publicly embraces federal marriage amendment, saying, “The amendment process has addressed many serious matters of national concern. And the preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance.” Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry states opposition to amendment.

Feb. 12, 2004 –- San Francisco city officials defy state law, issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Officials in New Paltz, N.Y.; Multnomah County, Ore.; Asbury Park, N.J.; and Sandoval County, N.M., follow. All are stopped eventually by state officials or state courts.

Feb. 7, 2004 –- Three major organizations of black pastors in Boston issue statement opposing same-sex “marriage” and supporting constitutional amendment, dealing a blow to those equating “gay rights” with civil rights.

Feb. 4, 2004 –- Massachusetts’ high court rules that Vermont-type civil unions are not an option for the state legislature. Same-sex “marriage” must be legalized.

Jan. 20, 2004 –- In the State of the Union address, President Bush comes close to embracing a federal marriage amendment, stating, “If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”

Nov. 25, 2003 –- Federal Marriage Amendment introduced for the first time in U.S. Senate. Amendment already introduced in House.

Nov. 18, 2003 — Massachusetts’ high court rules that the state’s marriage laws violate the state’s constitution and that same-sex “marriage” must be legalized. Court stays its opinion 180 days.

June 26, 2003 — U.S. Supreme Court issues Lawrence v. Texas ruling striking down nation’s anti-sodomy laws. Some say ruling sets stage for legalized same-sex “marriage.”

July 14, 2003 –- Massachusetts’ high court passes internal non-binding deadline for issuing opinion in same-sex “marriage” case. Opinions normally are handed down in 130 days.

June 10, 2003 –- Ontario Appeal Court legalizes same-sex “marriage,” making it the first province in Canada to do so. British Columbia and Quebec follow.

March 4, 2003 — Massachusetts’ high court, the Supreme Judicial Court, hears arguments in same-sex “marriage” case. The case is Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.

April 1, 2001 –- The Netherlands becomes first country in world to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

Dec. 20, 1999 –- Vermont Supreme Court rules that the state must give legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Legislature follows by legalizing “civil unions.”

Nov. 3, 1998 –- Voters in Alaska and Hawaii overwhelming approve state constitutional amendments, ending threats from respective states courts to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

Sept. 21, 1996 –- President Clinton signs Defense of Marriage Act into law. The law prevents federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriage” and gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriage.” The law partially is in reaction to court rulings in Alaska and Hawaii.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust