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Gay Marriage Laws

Over the past 25 years there have been a great deal of changes with regards to gay marriage laws in the United States. The laws differ considerably from state to state, with the vast majority banning the union of same-sex couples. Of the 50 states, only 6 currently sanction same-sex marriages. To be sure, some advocacy groups think using the "gay marriage" is discriminative. The popular use of "gay" is considered out of vogue, especially from lesbian and transgender advocacy groups. The politically correct term for gay marriage is "same-sex".

Same-sex marriages were completely unheard of until the middle of the last century. That is not to say these marriages were legal, but they did take place, usually without legal sanction. The United States has not escaped the pressure to formalize its same-sex marriage laws. On the contrary, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act took measures to prevent gay marriages from taking place. It has been adopted into the state constitutions of 37 states. Why do same sex couples want to marry and why are there so many straight people pushing to get gay marriage laws validated? Apart from the natural desire of a couple to make their relationship public and acknowledged, there are a whole host of benefits and privileges that married couples can claim.

Under federal law there are 1,138 of these rights and privileges, ranging from health insurance coverage to the right the spouse of a veteran has to be buried in a military cemetery.  All of which need a recognized marriage for an individual to benefit.  This list was requested by a Judge trying to work out exactly what it was that heterosexual couples were entitled to (and therefore what gay couples were being denied) under the current marriage laws, or lack thereof.

In some countries in Europe (such as Holland and, more recently, the United Kingdom), same-sex marriages have been legally recognized and are given exactly the same legal status as a marriage between a man and a woman. Although in the United Kingdom they are called civil unions and are performed by a registrar not by the clergy, it should be understood that the signing of the Register in the UK is the legalizing point, even in a religious marriage ceremony. Thus, there is no difference in the legality or status of the union between a gay couple and a non-gay couple.

Civil union statues began in the year 2000 in United States with the state of Vermont. The statues is not recognized by the federal government and do not need to be recognized under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Other US states such as Connecticut and New Hampshire followed suit.

Despite the popular passing of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriages were recognized in the state of Massachusetts in 2004. Every state in the Union has the right to determine the parameters of their respective marriage laws. As recently as 40 years ago, interracial marriages were considered illegal and immoral. Under its own gay marriage laws -- or lack thereof -- each state can choose whether or not to allow gay marriages to be performed within the state. Each state can also choose to accept, or not accept, a marriage that takes place in another state just as they were able to do with heterosexual marriages. However, a heterosexual marriage in any state is now recognized in all states.

The laws relating to the performance of a same-sex marriage and the laws on the legal recognition of a same-sex marriage vary from State to State. Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire all allow same-sex marriages and confer the same rights and privileges as for a mixed-sex marriage. In Massachusetts, any member of the clergy can refuse to conduct a same-sex marriage, though it is sanctioned by the state.

The District of Columbia, New York and Rhode Island do not allow same-sex marriages to take place in-state, but they do recognize the legality of such unions. Wisconsin has recently changed its laws so that same-sex couples can register a domestic partnership that confers 43 legal rights (although that is a long way from 1,138). The paperwork for this can done on the internet.

California allowed same-sex marriages for a few short months, but then overturned the law and banned them. However, they still recognize the marriages that were preformed while same-sex marriages were legal.  Perhaps learning from this, Maine will have legislation allowing same-sex marriages in September 2009, but until a voters decide in November of this year, the new gay marriage laws will not take effect and no ceremonies will take place.

So currently, the laws governing the legal union between two parties of the same sex are non-uniform throughout the USA.  Until the time comes when these marriages are recognized in all States and as well as in Federal Law, this confusion will continue. Lobbyists for both sides will go on striving to change same-sex marriage laws to either offer or deny rights to couples based on their sexual orientation.

You need to understand how the various marriage laws and by-laws affect you and your spouse. Marriage laws differ from state to state. Marriage is one of the last few rights given to the states to frame. We can help you find the rights and benefits that affect you most.

Find out the intricacies of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and how they affect you and your future spouse. Same-sex couples have been relegated to six states in the Union, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Hawaii. Know your rights and how you can enjoy a legal, same-sex marriage.