To learn a little more about the current political status of gay marriage, I highly recommend looking at this article.
For your convenience, however, I’ll give a brief background and catch you up on what’s going on today.
To put it simply, gay marriage has been an ‘issue’ in American politics for over a decade. It came to the attention of the Supreme Court of Hawaii first, of all places, in 1993 when the denial of marriage licenses to three homosexual couples was ruled unconstitutional on the basis of gender discrimination (but not sexual orientation, how interesting?). Soon after, in 1994, Hawaii legislature passed a bill defining marriage as intended for “man-woman units” capable of procreation. Afraid that the ruling of the Supreme Court case would lead to the sanctioning of same sex marriage in other states, the controversy over and campaign against gay marriage began.
Conservatives opposed to the recognition of same sex marriage became convinced that a federal law was necessary, and it was due to this conviction that in September of 1996 the United States Congress approved the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Signed by President Clinton himself, this bill would deny Federal benefits to married people of the same sex and allow states to ignore such marriages sanctioned in other states.
Same sex marriage only became a reality in the United States in 2004, when the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled that it was required under the equal protection clause of the state’s Constitution. There are eight states today that recognize gay marriage and/or civil unions; California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, and New Jersey.
Progress is shaky, with legislation hanging in the balance in states like California and Maine, but it is being made.
Most recently this progress can be seen in President Obama’s judgment that the “Defense of Marriage Act” is unconstitutional and his direction to the Justice Department to stop defending the law in court. This is a massive step forward and a huge political shift for Obama. Despite having defended the Act for the first two years of his term, the Justice Department will do so no longer, as it’s classifications based on sexual orientation have been deemed unconstitutional.
The White House has been careful to make it clear that Obama’s opinion of gay marriage (he favors civil unions) has not changed, however this new legal stance has been perceived by many as a potential signal that he might be changing his mind.