Timeline: The evolution of same-sex marriage

A couple celebrates upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage in San Francisco on June 26, 2013.
A couple celebrates upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage in San Francisco on June 26, 2013.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage since 1996. The judges also ruled same-sex marriage is legal in California, repealing Proposition 8.

The country’s history of same-sex marriage:

Sept. 21, 1996

Former President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law, defining marriage as between a man and a woman. He passed the legislation during his re-election campaign when he was 18 points ahead of Republican challenger Bob Dole. The Senate’s final vote to pass the bill was 85-14.

Dec. 20, 1999

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples should be given the same rights as heterosexual couples. The following year Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions for same-sex couples.

Nov. 18, 2003

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Feb. 24, 2004

President George W. Bush announced support for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Nov. 4, 2008

Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages, is passed in the state elections.

May 9, 2012

President Obama’s views on same-sex marriage evolved continually over the years, but he became the first sitting president to endorse the issue. As a senator of Illinois and a presidential candidate in 2004, he endorsed civil unions but opposed gay marriage. But in 2012, five months before he was re-elected to office for a second term as president, he told ABC that his opinions changed.

July 7, 2012

Democratic Rep. Barney Frank became the first sitting congressman to enter into a same-sex marriage when he wed his longtime partner. The Democrat from Massachusetts in 1987 became the first sitting member of Congress to say that he was gay.

November 2012

Americans for the first time approved gay marriage at the ballot box. Voters in Maine and Maryland approved ballot initiatives to begin allowing same-sex unions; citizens in Minnesota declined to back an initiative that would have enshrined in the state’s constitution a definition of marriage as solely a union between one man and one woman; and nearly 52% of Washington voters said they supported same-sex marriage.

Tammy Baldwin made history on Election Day when Wisconsin elected her as the nation’s first lesbian senator.

March 7, 2013

In a Washington Post op-ed in March 2013, former President Bill Clinton publicly opposed DOMA, which he signed almost two decades ago.

March 18, 2013

Public opinion in support of same-sex marriage reached a record high with 58% of registered American voters agreeing with marriage equality and believing it should be legal. The statistic was a dramatic change from the 32% of registered voters who supported same-sex marriage in a similar 2004 survey.

April 19, 2013

In a controversial resolution, the Boy Scouts of America proposed lifting its ban on gay Scouts—while continuing to prohibit gay adult leaders.

April 29, 2013

NBA center Jason Collins became the first male athlete actively playing in a major pro-sport to come out as gay. He most recently played for the Washington Wizards but was previously with the Boston Celtics.

May 14, 2013

Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed a marriage equality bill into law, effective Aug. 1. Minnesota became the 12th state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

June 26, 2013

The Supreme Court rules DOMA and Proposition 8 unconstitutional.