Marriage Equality USA

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  • 21 September 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted. Georgia Representative Bob Barr, then a Republican, authored DOMA. Though his official political position was against same-sex marriage, President Bill Clinton criticized DOMA as "unnecessary and divisive," while his press-secretary called it "gay baiting, plain and simple." However, after Congress had passed the bill with enough votes to override a presidential veto, Clinton signed DOMA into federal law.
  • On 26 June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
  • On 14 August 2014, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution "that recognizes the rights of individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as basic human rights around the world and condemns laws, regulations, rules and practices that discriminate against them on the basis of their status while encouraging the U.S. government to work to end this discrimination."
  • 6 October 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States did not grant cert for any of 7 marriage equality cases from 5 states that had submitted petitions (asked for review/appealed). 
  • 18 December 2014, Justice Department Will Now Support Transgender Discrimination Claims In Litigation - By Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed News: "Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department’s position going forward in litigation will be that discrimination against transgender people is covered under the sex discrimination prohibition in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
  • 16 January 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States granted cert to all four marriage cases from the 6th Circuit - see Obergefell v. Hodges under LAWSUITS RESOLVED
  • 10 February 2015, Full Transcript Of BuzzFeed News’ Interview With President Barack Obama - BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith sat down with President Barack Obama. Twenty-two minutes, eighteen questions.


Legislation - Pending

Equality Act

Author/Sponsor: Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon in the Senate + 40 co-sponsors,  Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline in the House + 157 co-sponsors
Date Introduced:
23 July 2015


HR 2802, SB 1598 - First Amendment Defense Act

Author/Sponsor: Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) for the House and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) for the Senate
Date Introduced: 18 June 2015


  • This bill would give federal employees and contractors the right to sue the federal government if they oppose marriage equality.
  • The congressional lawmakers sponsoring the bill say it would protect "religious freedom." Under the bill, agencies would be prohibited from denying grants, tax exemptions, certifications or licenses because of a business or individual’s belief that marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples. (In other words, it would legally protect the right to discriminate.)
  • 9 June 2015, Republicans Introduce 'First Amendment Defense Act' To Shield Those Who Oppose Same-Sex Marriage - By Jean Ann Esselink, The New Civil Rights Movement
HR 1968 - Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015

Author/Sponsor: Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)
Date Introduced: 22 April 2015


The International Human Rights Defense Act 

Author/Sponsor: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts)
Dates Introduced: 29 January 2015; June 2014


Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) - H.R. 2523, S. 1236

Author/Sponsor: 2013 Author/Sponsor Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and 174 co-sponsors. The 2015 sponsors are U.S. Senator Feinstein and U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Dates Introduced: 6 January 2015; 26 June 2013; 16 March 2011; 15 September 2009  


  • The Respect for Marriage Act is a proposed bill in the United States Congress that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and require the U.S. federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages.
  • In addition to repealing DOMA, the legislation would establish a method for the federal government to determine whether a marriage is valid for federal purposes, a legal dilemma known as choice of laws.
  • This bill was originally introduced to the 111th Congress by U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York on 15 September 2009 and garnered 120 cosponsors.
  • It was next introduced to the 112th Congress by Representative Nadler on 16 March 2011, and a U.S. Senate version was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California the same day.
  • President Obama announced his support for the bill on 19 July 2011.
  • In September 2011, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida became the 125th cosponsor of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Republican member of the U.S. Congress to announce support for the bill.
  • The bill's sponsors decided not to reintroduce the Respect for Marriage Act in 2013 until the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in United States v. Windsor. They introduced it to the 113th Congress on 26 June 2013, the same day the Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
  • On 26 June 2014, H.R. 2523 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, and S. 1236 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • 15 July 2013 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. (The 113th Congress ended on 3 January 2015.)
  • 6 January 2015, this bill was re-introduced to the new Congress by U.S. Senator Feinstein and U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. RMA would fully remove the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) from the books and establish a clear rule for the federal government that all married same-sex couples – regardless of what state they currently live in – have access to equal rights, benefits, and protections under federal law.
  • “From social security benefits to veterans benefits, DOMA continues to harm families across the country,” said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director for HRC. “Every legally married couple - no matter where they live - should have access to the full federal benefits and protections they deserve. It’s far past time for DOMA to be completely repealed once and for all. We applaud Senator Feinstein and Representatives Nadler and Ros-Lehtinen for their tireless commitment to fully repealing this discriminatory and antiquated statute.”

Legislation - Enacted

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

Author/Sponsor: U.S. Representative from Georgia Bob Barr (then a Republican)
Date Introduced: May 1996
Date Enacted: 21 September 1996


  • The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a United States federal law that defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman and allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states.
  • Section 2. Powers Reserved to the States: No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
  • Section 3. Definition of Marriage: In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. (Ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS on 26 June 2013)
  • Until Section 3 of the Act was ruled unconstitutional on 26 June 2013, DOMA, in conjunction with other statutes, had barred same-sex married couples from being recognized as "spouses" for purposes of federal law, effectively barring them from receiving 1,138 federal marriage benefits. DOMA's passage did not prevent individual states from recognizing same-sex marriage, but it imposed constraints on the benefits received by all legally married same-sex couples.
  • Initially introduced in May 1996, DOMA passed both houses of Congress by large, veto-proof majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in September 1996. By defining "spouse" and its related terms to signify a heterosexual couple in a recognized marriage, Section 3 codified non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes.
  • Clinton and many key legislators later actively advocated for DOMA's repeal.
  • Advocating for the repeal of DOMA was a key point in Barrack Obama's 2008 campaign for president.
  • The Obama administration announced in 2011 that it had concluded Section 3 was unconstitutional and that although the administration would continue to enforce the law while it existed, it would no longer defend the law in court.
  • In United States v. Windsor (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Lawsuits - Pending

On 28 April 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the combined marriage cases from the 6th Circuit.
The SCOTUS marriage ruling was issued on 26 June 2015. Obergefell v. Hodges has been moved to LAWSUITS-RESOLVED below.

Lawsuits - Resolved


Obergefell v. Hodges at SCOTUS via SCOTUSblog

Questions the Court ordered the parties to address:   

1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?  (90 minutes of oral argument allocated) 

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? (60 minutes of oral argument allocated)  

The parties were limited to filing briefs on the merits and presenting oral argument on the questions presented in their respective petitions. 

DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan), 14-571

Plaintiffs' Brief (27 February 2015)
State's Brief (27 March 2015)
Plaintiffs' Reply Brief (17 April 2015)

Obergefell/Henry v. Hodges (Ohio) 14-556

Plaintiffs' Brief (27 February 2015)
State's Brief (27 March 2015)
Plaintiffs' Reply Brief (17 April 2015)

Tanco v.Haslam (Tennessee) 14-562

Plaintiffs' Brief (27 February 2015)
State's Brief (27 March 2015)
Plaintiffs' Reply Brief (17 April 2015)

Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky) 14-574

Plaintiffs' Brief (27 February 2015)
State's Brief (27 March 2015)
Plaintiffs' Reply Brief (17 April 2015)

AMICUS BRIEFS in Support of Plaintiffs

Chronological background info for the marriage cases reaching SCOTUS:
  • 7 November 2014, it was announced that the couples from the Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee marriage cases all will be seeking SCOTUS review.
  • 14 November 2014, Henry v. Hodges and Obergefell v. Hodges (Ohio marriage cases) plaintiffs filed a Joint Petition for Writ of Certiorari asking SCOTUS to reverse 6th Circuit decision. Lambda Legal/ACLU Press Release
  • 14 November 2014, Tanco plaintiffs (Tennessee marriage case) filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari asking SCOTUS to reverse 6th Circuit decision. NCLR Press Release
  • 17 November 2014, the DeBoer v. Snyder plaintiffs (Michigan marriage case) filed their Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court, seeking reversal of 6th Circuit decision. Note that GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders)'s Mary Bonauto has joined the legal team.
  • 17 November 2014, the Bourke v. Beshear plaintiffs (Kentucky marriage case) filed their Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court, seeking reversal of 6th Circuit decision. All four 6th Circuit states have now filed with SCOTUS!
  • 20 November 2014, the Robicheaux v. George plaintiffs (Louisiana marriage case) filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court.
  • 2 December 2014, Momentum builds for review of same-sex marriage - By Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog
  • 17 December 2014, Idaho to take same-sex marriage case to Court - By Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog
  • 17 December 2014, SCOTUS listed the petition from Louisiana for Robicheaux v. Caldwell for consideration at its 9 January 2014 conference. None of the other petitions currently before the Court in the marriage cases have been listed yet. The last distribution list for the Jan. 9th conference will be created on 23 December 2014.
  • Amicus Briefs filed with the Supreme Court in the marriage cases, supporting the grant of cert:
    Amicus Brief of 76 Scholars of Marriage (including Regnerus) supporting Review and Affirmance. Filed in Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana marriage cases; supporting the defendants.
    15 December 2014, Amicus Brief of COLAGE, Equality Federation, Family Equality Council, Freedom to Marry and PFLAG in support of respondents. Filed in marriage cases from Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky.
  • 23 December 2014, all of the the 6th Circuit marriage cases - Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee - are scheduled for the 9 January 2014 Supreme Court Conference. Also on the list for this conference (previously reported) is the petition for cert before judgment in the Louisiana case.
    You can see the dockets at the Court here:
    - Michigan:
    - Kentucky:
    - Ohio: 
    - Tennessee:
    - Louisiana: 
  • 9 January 2015, per Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog, the Court did not grant cert to (take for review) any new cases following their private conference today. The orders that were issued today were routine. New orders will be released on Monday, 12 January 2015. Stay posted!
  • 12 January 2015, SCOTUS denied cert to Louisiana's Robicheaux before the 5th Circuit rules (see page 20 on Orders list), but took no action on the cases from the 6th Circuit. UPDATE: The Court has officially listed all four 6th Circuit marriage cases for consideration at their conference on Friday, 16 January 2015.
  • 16 January 2015, cert granted to all four marriage cases from the 6th Circuit!

Windsor v. United States 

Case #: 12-307
Date Filed: 11 September 2012
Ruling Date: 26 June 2013


Baker v. Nelson

Case #: 71-1027
Date Filed: 1970
Ruling Date: 10 October 1972


  • 18 May 1970, two University of Minnesota gay student activists, Richard Baker and James Michael McConnell, applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis. The clerk of the Hennepin County District Court, Gerald Nelson, denied the request on the sole ground that the two were of the same sex.
  • The couple filed suit. The trial court, quashing an alternative writ of mandamus, ruled that respondent was not required to issue a marriage license to petitioners and specifically directed that a marriage license not be issued to them.
  • On 15 October 1971, the Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed the trial court’s decision and ruled that “Minn. St. c. 517 does not authorize marriage between persons of the same sex and that such marriages are accordingly prohibited.”
  • The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • 10 October 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-sentence order stating, "The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question." Since this case came to SCOTUS through mandatory appellate review, the summary dismissal was a decision on the merits of the case.
  • 8 October 2014, LGBTQ History Month: Jack & Mike, Our Pioneers

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

At the present time, this section does not apply at the federal level.


  • 21 April 2015, Poll: Americans Say There's No Turning Back On Marriage - By Susan Page, USA Today via HuffPost Gay Voices "In a nationwide USA Today/Suffolk University Poll, those surveyed say by 51 percent-35 percent that it’s no longer practical for the Supreme Court to ban same-sex marriages because so many states have legalized them."
  • 18 March 2015, Sixty-nine percent of American voters — including 51% of Republicans — want a federal law that prohibits discriminating against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a new national poll released. News Source Poll Details
  • 10 March 2015, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 59% of Americans support allowing same-sex marriage, nearly double the 30% support reported in 2004. News Source
  • 19 February 2015, 63% of Americans say that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry and have their marriages recognized by the law as valid per new CNN International PollPoll Details 
  • 17 February 2015, The most surprising marriage poll we’ve seen in a while - By Aaron Blake, The Fix, Washington Post. NOTE: The polling is from a variety of states, this is not a single national poll.
  • 22 January 2015, a new Gallup poll shows that Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gay People Plateaus at 53% News Source Poll Details