Gay rights in America: How states stand on gay marriage and 6 other issues

The tapestry of federal and state laws surrounding gay rights is enormously intricate. Here is a look at each state's laws on issues ranging from gay marriage to hate crimes to discrimination. 

Molly Riley/REUTERS/File
Participants carry a rainbow flag toward the US Capitol during a gay rights demonstration in Washington in 2009.

1. Marriage

Gerry Broome/AP/File
National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown stands in front of projected election results in Raleigh, N.C., for the passage of a North Carolina constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

(Updated June 13, 2013)

• Federal: The federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage or extend to any same-sex couples the 1,138 rights afforded to married couples in the US by the federal government, as tallied by the United States Government Accountability Office.

• States: Some states do recognize marriage or offer some rights to same-sex couples. The majority of US states have legally defined marriage to be between a man and a woman or amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. 

Full rights (12 states and D.C.)
Marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in these states carry identical benefits and rights of heterosexual married couples:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware (as of July 1, 2013)
  • District of Columbia
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota (as of August 1, 2013)
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Rhode Island (as of August 1, 2013)
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Full spousal rights within the state (7 states and D.C.)

These states provide gay couples with the same rights, protections, responsibilities, and benefits that the states give to heterosexual married couples. Many gay-rights activists argue that civil unions and domestic partnerships nonetheless causes the public to perceive them as something less than marriage. Supporters defend them as the most realistic goal in states resistant to gay marriage.

  • California* (domestic partnerships)
  • Colorado* (civil unions)
  • District of Columbia (domestic partnerships)
  • Hawaii* (civil unions)
  • Illinois* (civil unions)
  • Nevada* (domestic partnerships)
  • New Jersey (civil unions)
  • Oregon* (domestic partnerships)

*These states ban same-sex marriage.

Some spousal rights within the state (1 state)

  • Wisconsin*

*These states ban same-sex marriage.

No rights (30 states)
Prohibit marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships, or have no or unclear laws on same-sex marriage:

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