Gay marriage in the US: six ways states differ on the issue

Take a look at where states currently stand on gay marriage in the US.

By , Contributor , Contributor

4. Have constitutional amendments that define marriage as between a man and a woman

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    Mikaela Smith, left, and Ben Butterfield, right, both of Purcellville, Va., display placards and flowers while demonstrating against gay marriage in front of the Statehouse in Boston on Feb. 23, 2004.
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Twenty-eight states have amended their constitutions to make gay marriage illegal, most of them explicitly defining marriage as between one man and one woman, according to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for gay rights.

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California*
Colorado
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Michigan
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada*
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon*
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia

A burst of such constitutional amendments came in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as a backlash to a ruling by Hawaii’s Supreme Court that recognized “different-sex-only” marriages. Some of these amendments also specify that the state is not obligated to recognize same-sex unions licensed in other states.

For example, Mississippi’s constitutional amendment reads: “Marriage may take place and may be valid under the laws of this state only between a man and a woman. A marriage in another state or foreign jurisdiction between persons of the same gender, regardless of when the marriage took place, may not be recognized in this state and is void and unenforceable under the laws of this state.”

States with asterisks have a more complicated policy. Nevada and Oregon have constitutional amendments that define marriage as between a man and a woman, but they also recognize same-sex couples under the separate institution of civil unions. In California, voters in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment endorsing a traditional definition of marriage, but that ballot initiative is now being challenged in federal court.

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