In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court finally settled the legal question of whether gay marriage would be the law of the land. This ruling came after a long and winding route that the issue traveled throughout the many state courts. Though New York ruled that same-sex marriages were legal in 2011, even here, the issue went back and forth for several years.
The matter of gay marriage first came to attention in 1996, when then-president Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act, which stated that marriage was defined as a legal union between one man and one woman. This act effectively banned any recognition of same-sex marriages. However, just a few months later, Hawaii became the first state to offer legal protection to same-sex couples. Unfortunately, that decision was appealed just one day later.
Over the next 19 years, the issue came up repeatedly throughout the country, with the majority of states attempting to reject the legal recognition of these marriages. Even in states where voters approved, allowing same-sex couples to marry, state lawmakers usually worked to overturn these measures. It was only when state courts began ruling that bans were unconstitutional that lawmakers and governors began to yield and permit these couples to marry. In 2004, Massachusetts was the first state to rule that same-sex marriages were legal.
The majority of the states eventually started to allow gay couples to wed. When the IRS stated that it would recognize same-sex marriages for tax purposes, it opened the door for many other agencies and states to follow through. However, even though same-sex marriages now enjoy the same protected status as heterosexual marriages on the federal level, there are still some areas that continue to practice discrimination. New York residents who encounter difficulties based on their relationship status are entitled to seek assistance from an experienced attorney who can protect their rights in family law matters.