State Laws

State DOMA laws are widespread; about half the states have enacted statutes that provide that marriage is confined to one man and one woman. About a third of the states have constitutional provisions that define marriage as only permitted between a man and a woman.

Massachusetts is currently the only state to allow same-sex marriages. Connecticut and Vermont permit civil unions. Vermont defines civil union as follows: “Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under Vermont law, whether they derive from statute, policy, administrative or court rule, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.”

Although most states prohibit same-sex marriages and civil unions, many provide some rights for same-sex couples that are available to married persons. The amount of protection provided varies greatly from just one or two rights in some states, to dozens of rights in other states. Following are some examples of rights that states have conferred to same-sex couples:

  • hospital visitation
  • the right to make healthcare decisions
  • eligibility for certain tort claims
  • family leave
  • workers’ compensation
  • inheritance under intestacy laws
  • state tax deductions or exemptions
  • eligibility for family health insurance for state employees

Inside State Laws