Marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in these states carry identical benefits and rights of heterosexual married couples:
New York (2011)
New Hampshire (2010)
District of Columbia (2010)
*Legislation passed in Washington and Maryland in February 2012 will allow same-sex marriages, but those laws have not yet taken effect.
In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that prohibiting same-sex civil marriages violates the state constitution. The state Senate subsequently asked the court to issue an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of establishing civil unions as an equivalent institution to marriage. The court in February 2004 ruled that defining opposite-sex and same-sex marriages as two separate types of unions would contradict the government's goal to encourage "stable adult relationships for the good of the individual and the community, especially its children."