Though same-sex marriage is now legal across the United States, it took nearly half a century to make that happen, from the first denial in 1970 of an application for a marriage license by a same-sex couple in Minnesota. In 1984, Berkeley, California, enacted the country’s first law allowing domestic partnerships, and courts in California and New York granted same-sex couples legal status as “families” later that decade.
In the 1990s, as many states moved to allow domestic partners access to the same benefits as married spouses, other states, such as Utah, enacted “defense of marriage” statutes prohibiting such access. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Over the next two decades, a number of states enacted statutes or constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage, whereas others passed laws or issued judicial rulings granting same-sex couples equal status with married couples.
In 2011, President Barack Obama declared DOMA to be unconstitutional and said that the federal government would not enforce it. In 2013, the United States Supreme Court agreed in part, striking down one of the key components of the law. That same year, the Internal Revenue Service legally recognized same-sex married couples. A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in five states, and in 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the court held same-sex marriage to be legal everywhere in the United States.
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