Marriage in the 50 StatesTHE HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Many states across the nation are moving to either strengthen their existing statutory language that recognizes marriage between a man and a woman or to amend their constitution to preserve the traditional meaning of marriage. The information on this page is intended to reflect the breadth of the movement to defend marriage throughout the United States.
states currently have statutory language recognizing traditional marriage. Because
states are concerned that their laws may not stand up to legal challenge before
activist judges, twenty-two state legislatures are taking action to protect marriage,
either through the statutory amendment process, constitutional amendment process,
or passage of a non-binding resolution urging Congress to pass a federal constitutional
The national map above is linked to a database of
state laws and constitutional provisions that protect marriage. It also tracks
the marriage-protecting measures that are being considered in state legislatures.
Taking a cue from the passage of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
in 1996, many states moved to protect marriage in their state codes in the late
1990s. While all of these states adopted language similar to the federal DOMA,
there is some variation. This chart breaks down the federal DOMA language into
its componenents and tracks what language was used by which states. States incorporating
more components benefit from stronger the statutory language. Examples of states
with strong marriage statutes are Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio. States
with weaker marriage statutes include Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, South Dakota,
and Vermont. Some states had already defined marriage in their state statutes
prior to the passage of the federal DOMA. These states are Maryland, New Hampshire,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Vermont passed a statute in 1999 defining marriage between
one man and one woman. It should also be noted that Connecticut’s common law recognizes
marriage as between a man and a woman.
Regardless of whether or not a state
has laws or constitutional provisions specifically defining marriage or prohibiting
same sex marriage, all states have consanguinity laws, prohibiting individuals
from marrying their blood relations. Many states specifically prohibit a male
from marrying his female blood relations and females from marrying her male blood
relations. Inherent in these laws is the understanding that marriage is between
a man and a woman.
on the map below to read comments from your U.S. Senator about the proposed Federal
Marriage Amendment. You will also find information about how they voted on the
federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996.
database tracks only current state laws and the actions of state legislatures.
There are several court cases pending that could potentially redefine marriage
by judicial decree. The is involved in many of these court cases. The and track them.
Charissa Kersten. "Marriage in the 50 States." The Heritage
Foundation (July, 2004).
This information has been compiled and is being
updated by Charissa Kersten
and is based on official state websites and information provided by www.stateline.org.
It is reprinted here with permission from The Heritage Foundation.
in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute
a think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative
public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government,
individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
Charissa Kersten is program
coordinator of the Heritage Foundation's Center for American Studies where she
is a research assistant and events planner/coordinator.
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