The fight to legalize same-sex marriages in the U.S. came a step closer today when Washington State passed a bill to make it the seventh state to legalize the union. The battle for marriage equality began in the U.S. in the 1970s, according to FreeToMarry.org, one of many grassroots gay marriage advocacy groups. Here is a timeline outlining the small victories and let downs through the years. (This information was sourced from FreeToMarry.org, LambdaLegal.org and MarriageEquality.org).
1970s: A number of gay couples, including Minnesotans Jack Baker and James Michael McConnell, applied for marriage licenses that were immediately rejected.
1993: The Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled n Baehr v. Lewin that the state's stance on same-sex marriage is discriminatory. The case was sent back down to the trial court for a new hearing and, as a result, the Hawaii legislature passed the Reciprocal Beneficiaries statute.
1996: The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed, prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex legal relationships made legal in one of the states that recognize same-sex unions. The law was signed by President Bill Clinton.
1999: Vermont becomes the first place state to recognize civil unions.
Definition of Civil Union: A legally recognized union of a same-sex couple, with rights similar to those of marriage. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
2004: The first same-sex legal marriages in the U.S. are performed in Massachusettes, thanks to a victory in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.
2005: The Connecticut State Senate legalized same-sex civil unions. Then, the bill got reworded to read "marriage is between a man and a woman" definition. It was sent back to the Senate for approval, where it was approved the amended bill by a vote of and Republican Governor Jodi Rell signed the same-sex civil union bill into law.
2005: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognizes legal same-sex marriages from other states and countries. Same-sex spouses will also be able to collect worker's compensation if a partner dies.
2005: California passed a bill to end exclusion of same-sex marriage. Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.
2006: New York State Court of Appeals rules the state does not have to recognize same-sex marriages.
2006: Washington State Supreme Court issues its decision upholding state DOMA laws.
2007: The states of Washington, Oregon legalizes domestic partnerships. The state of New Hampshire legalizes civil unions. Maryland Court of Appeals upholds state law banning same-sex marriage, overturning a lower court ruling.
2008: Same-sex marriage becomes legal in California and Connecticut.
2008: Measures pass amending the constitutions of Arizona, California, and Florida to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. California's same-sex marriage law is overturned.
2009: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Iowa legalize same-sex marriage. Washington state governor signs the "everything-but-marriage" bill into law. California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8, defining marriage between a man and a woman, but rules that previously officiated same-sex marriages shall remain valid.
2009: Nevada and Wisconsin approve domestic partnerships. The District of Columbia recognizes same-sex marriage, but cannot be performed in DC itself.
2009: Ballot measure in Maine overturns same-sex marriage, while ballot measure in Washington upholds "everything-but-marriage."
2009: The District of Columbia legalizes same-sex marriage.
2010: U.S. District Court of Northern California declares that Proposition 8, a 2008 California-electorate ban on same-sex marriage, violates due process and equal protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution. Supporters of the proposition are likely to appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
2010: The Illinois House of Representatives approves civil unions in the state.
2011: Hawaii Legislature passed civil unions bill. Obama administration drops defence of DOMA.
2011: Maryland State Senate passed legislation to allow same-sex marriage. Washington state recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages as domestic partnerships.
2011: New York state passes same-sex marriage.
2012: Delaware and Hawaii approve civil unions for same-sex couples.
2012: The Washington state Senate approves a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.