In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to recognize same sex marriage. Numerous states thus enact differing laws regarding the ability of same sex couples to marry in their states, with numerous states passing laws to ban same sex marriage, and various states over the years, voting to allow same sex marriage. Some states began to allow same sex couples to enter into “civil unions”. New Jersey did so in 2006. In 2012, Governor Chris Christie vetoed a potential law in New Jersey that would have allowed same sex marriage.
In 2012, President Obama became the first president to endorse same sex marriage, but stated that the legal decision should be up to the states. In 2011, however, the Obama Administration had already instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), leading to the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor.
As family law practitioners, this blog has followed much of the evolving law on same sex marriage. In 2013, James Yudes wrote a blog about the decision in United States v. Windsor to strike down as unconstitutional provisions in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defined “marriage” as only a legal union between on man and one woman as husband and wife , and defined the word “spouse” as referring only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. In 2013, I also wrote a blog post about the case of Lewis v. Harris, 188 N.J. 415 (2006), in which the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that the Legislature should afford same sex couples the same rights as married couples, either by allowing same sex couples to marry or creating an alternate solution. New Jersey became the fourteenth state to recognize the right of same sex couples to marry. In 2015, my former colleague wrote a blog about the milestone decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court held that that all states must (a) no longer prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, and (b) must recognize same-sex marriages validly entered into. The right of same sex couples to marry became the law of the land in the entire country.