What do various state constitutions or statutes say about same-sex marriages?
The majority of states prohibit same-sex marriages either by statute or in their state constitution—or both. The following is a compilation of these statutory and/or state constitutional provisions.
Alabama Ala. Code 1975 § 30-1-19
Definition: Marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman. As a matter of public policy, this state has a special interest in encouraging, supporting, and protecting the unique relationship in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and its children. A marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state.
Alaska AS § 25.05.013
Definition: A marriage entered into by persons of the same sex ... is void in this state.... Arizona 25-101(c)
Definition: Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.
Arkansas Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 83, § 1
Definition: Marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman.
Arkansas Arkansas Statute A.C.A. 9-11-208
Definition: (a) It shall be the declared public policy of the State of Arkansas to recognize the marital union only of man and woman. No license shall be issued to persons to marry another person of the same sex and no same-sex marriage shall be recognized as entitled to the benefits of marriage. (b) Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state. Any marriage entered into by persons of the same sex, when a marriage license is issued by another state or by a foreign jurisdiction, shall be void in Arkansas, and any contractual or other rights granted by virtue of that license, including its termination, shall be unenforceable in the Arkansas courts.
California Cal. Fam. Code § 308.5
Definition: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California [a court decision in 2008 rendered this statute unconstitutional on equal protection grounds].
Colorado Colorado Statute C.R.S.A. § 14-2-104.
Definition: Formalities (1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) of this section, a marriage is valid in this state if: (a) It is licensed, solemnized, and registered as provided in this part 1; and (b) It is only between one man and one woman.
Delaware Delaware Statute 13 Del. C. § 101(a)
Definition: A marriage is prohibited and void ... between persons of the same gender.
Florida F.S.A. § 308.5
Definition: Marriages between persons of the same sex entered into in any jurisdiction . are not recognized for any purpose in this state.
Georgia Georgia Constitution, Article I, § 4
Definition: (a) This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state. (b) No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. This state shall not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties' respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship.
Georgia Georgia Statute—Ga. Code Ann. § 19-3-3.1
Definition: (a) It is declared to be the public policy of this state to recognize the union only of one man and woman. Marriages between members of the same sex are prohibited in this state.
Hawaii HRS § 572—1
Definition: In order to make valid the marriage contract, which shall be only between a man and a woman..
Illinois 750 ILCS 5/213.1
Definition: A marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this state.
Indiana Indiana Statute 31-11-1-6
Definition: Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female. A marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized.
Kansas Kansas Statute—K.S.A. 23-101
Definition: The marriage contract is to be considered in law as a civil contract between two parties who are of opposite sex. All other marriages are declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void. The consent of the parties is essential. The marriage ceremony may be regarded either as a civil ceremony or as a religious sacrament, but the marriage relation shall only be entered into, maintained or abrogated as provided by law.
Kentucky Kentucky Statute K.R.S. 402.005
Definition: Definition of marriage As used and recognized in the law of the Commonwealth, "marriage" refers only to the civil status, condition, or relation of one (1) man and one (1) woman united in law for life, for the discharge to each other and the community of the duties legally incumbent upon those whose association is founded on the distinction of sex.
Louisiana La. C.C. Art. 86
Definition: Marriage is a legal relationship between a man and a woman that is created by civil contract. The relationship and the contract are subject to special rules prescribed by law.
Louisiana La. C.C. Art. 3520(B)
Definition: A purported marriage between persons of the same sex violates a strong public policy of the state of Louisiana and such a marriage contracted in another state shall not be recognized in this state for any purpose, including the assertion of any right or claim as a result of the purported marriage.
Maryland Md. FAMILY LAW Code Ann. § 2-201
Definition: Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state.
Michigan Mich. Constitution Art. I, § 25
Definition: To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.
Michigan M.C.L.A. § 551.1.
Definition: Marriage between same sex, invalidity: Marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman. As a matter of public policy, this state has a special interest in encouraging, supporting, and protecting that unique relationship in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and its children. A marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state.
Minnesota Minnesota Statute M.S.A. § 517.01
Definition: Marriage, so far as its validity in law is concerned, is a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties, capable in law of contracting, is essential. Lawful marriage may be contracted only between persons of the opposite sex and only when a license has been obtained as provided by law and when the marriage is contracted in the presence of two witnesses and solemnized by one authorized, or whom one or both of the parties in good faith believe to be authorized, so to do. Marriages subsequent to April 26, 1941, not so contracted shall be null and void.
Missouri Missouri Constitution: Art. I, § 33
Definition: That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.
Missouri Missouri Statute 451.022
Definition: Marriage, public policy, validity—marriage licenses, issued, when 1. It is the public policy of this state to recognize marriage only between a man and a woman. 2. Any purported marriage not between a man and a woman is invalid. 3. No recorder shall issue a marriage license, except to a man and a woman. 4. A marriage between persons of the same sex will not be recognized for any purpose in this state even when valid where contracted.
Nebraska Nebraska Constitution, Art. I, § 29
Definition: Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.
New York Domestic Relations Law
Definition: No particular form or ceremony is required when a marriage is solemnized as herein provided by a clergyman or magistrate, but the parties must solemnly declare in the presence of a clergyman or magistrate and the attending witness or witnesses that they take each other as husband and wife. In every case, at least one witness beside the clergyman or magistrate must be present at the ceremony.
North Dakota North Dakota Constitution Art. 11, § 28
Definition: Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.
North Dakota North Dakota Statute, NDCC 14-03-01
Definition: Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between one man and one woman to which the consent of the parties is essential. The marriage relation may be entered into, maintained, annulled, or dissolved only as provided by law. A spouse refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
Oregon Oregon Statute 106.010
Definition: Marriage contract; age of parties—"Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable, and solemnized in accordance with ORS 106.150.
South Dakota South Dakota Constitution, Article 21, § 9
Definition: Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in South Dakota. The uniting of two or more persons in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other quasi-marital relationship shall not be valid or recognized in South Dakota.
Tennessee T.C.A. 36-3-113(b)
Definition: The legal union in matrimony of only one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be the only recognized marriage in this state.
Utah U.C.A. 30-1-8.
Definition: (1) A marriage license may be issued by the county clerk to a man and a woman only after an application has been filed in his office, requiring the following information: (a) the full names of the man and the woman, including the maiden name of the woman..
Washington RCWA 26.04.020. Prohibited marriages:
Definition: Marriages in the following cases are prohibited . when the parties are persons other than a male and a female.
Wisconsin Constitution, Article 13, § 13
Definition: Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.
When did the law allow interracial marriages?
In the twentieth century, more and more states allowed interracial marriages. In 1967 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that a Virginia state law banning interracial marriages violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. At the time of the Loving decision, more than a dozen states still had laws banning interracial marriages.
Chief Justice Earl Warren said in Loving:
Allowing people of different races to marry did not begin to gain acceptance in the United States until the second half of the twentieth century. Today, it is a common practice (iStock.com).
There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy. We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race. There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.
Can a person have multiple spouses?
No, bigamy (or polygamy) is criminalized in every state in the union. Even individuals who have a sincere religious belief in polygamy cannot legally engage in such a practice. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a First Amendment-based religious freedom defense to a bigamy charge in Reynolds v. United States (1878). The Court reasoned that if it granted George Reynolds a religious-based exemption from polygamy, it would make him a law unto himself.
Who can perform marriages?
In most states, persons authorized to marry are members of the clergy and judges. Arizona allows "duly licensed or ordained clergymen" and various judges or justices of the peace to perform marriages.
Is a marriage in a foreign country recognized as valid in the United States?
Generally, yes—marriages in foreign countries are recognized as valid in the United States unless the marriage would violate clear public policy in the states (such as polygamy).