ACLU History: The Fight for Marriage

Document Date: September 1, 2010

The ACLU’s Minnesota affiliate brought the very first case seeking marriage for same-sex couples in 1971. Although that case, Baker v. Nelson, wasn’t successful, the ACLU has continued to fight for marriage and has lent its support to every important marriage case since, including successful marriage litigation in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa, as well as legislative efforts in New Hampshire and Vermont.

The ACLU was central to the closely watched California marriage fight. The ACLU, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) brought the lawsuit that resulted in the California Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from marriage there. We worked tirelessly to fight Proposition 8, which overturned the ruling by voter initiative. We are now working to defend a recent federal district court ruling striking down Prop 8 as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

But the ACLU recognizes that marriage must be afforded same-sex couples in all states and that working for marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships, whether through legislation and court cases, all build towards the ultimate goal of the freedom to marry for everyone. The ACLU has continued its efforts to secure a range of relationship protections in many states. We are also backing federal legislative efforts to get rid of the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of marriages by same-sex couples.

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