DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional, Rejects Prop 8! A History of the Movement

In a major victory for the movement for legalization, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense Of Marriage Act—which held in 1996 that marriage was legally between a man and a woman—unconstitutional on Wednesday. It also rejected taking Prop 8 as a case, paving the way for gay marriage in California. The verdicts could be this generation's Roe vs. Wade—in other words, likely to change the face of the issue forever. Though Europe has largely come around to same-sex marriage in the decades since Stonewall, up until recently, Advocates for legalization say they're cautiously optimistic; according to studies, most Americans expect gay marriage to become legal relatively soon. So where did this quick turnaround come from? Click on for a brief timeline of the movement.

A Great Day for Gay Marriage

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In a major victory for the movement for legalization, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense Of Marriage Act—which held in 1996 that marriage was legally between a man and a woman—unconstitutional on Wednesday. It also rejected taking Prop 8 as a case, paving the way for gay marriage in California. The verdicts could be this generation's Roe vs. Wade—in other words, likely to change the face of the issue forever. Though Europe has largely come around to same-sex marriage in the decades since Stonewall, up until recently, Advocates for legalization say they're cautiously optimistic; according to studies, most Americans expect gay marriage to become legal relatively soon. So where did this quick turnaround come from? Click on for a brief timeline of the movement.

1969: Stonewall Opens The Door

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In 1969, when homosexuality was still relatively under wraps in New York City, the Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn was a safe haven for drag queens, transexuals, and same-sex couples. When the police burst through the Greenwich Village bar's doors in June and raided the place, the gay community fought back and violently protested. The Stonewall Riots sparked the emergence of gay-rights organizations, gay pride marches, and brought national attention to the concept of gay rights, and are generally regarded as the first breakthrough in the gay-rights movement.

1971: Supreme Court Strikes Down Marriage Request

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In 1971, a male couple applied for a marriage license—and sued the state of Minnesota when it was turned down. The state court ruled conclusively that marriage is "a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family." The public was also not yet on the movement's side, and gay relationships, let alone marriage, were still not widely accepted. When a 1977 Gallup asked Americans if gay relations (read: sex, relationships) should be legal, a whopping 43 percent answered "no."

1979: Europe Comes Around

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By 1979, same-sex couples could apply for legal rights—but only in the Netherlands. Throughout the eighties and nineties, as LGBT communities became increasingly accepted in Western culture, Europe slowly but steadily got on board: Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Greenland all adapted their gay-rights policies to allow for some degree of civil partnership. In America, however, only Hawaii began to take steps to consider changing its attitude towards gay couples—and didn't succeed.

The AIDS Outbreak Acts As Catalyst

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As the AIDS epidemic devastated the gay community in the 1980s, it also organized and mobilized the activist community—and drew the public's attention to how common being gay really was. It appeared that young, gay males were most at risk of contracting the virus, and the LGBT community banded together to create organizations and unions protecting those infected. As word spread of the life-and-death situation, so did the commitment to equal rights for those at risk.

1996: The Defense Of Marriage Act Makes Itself Clear

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In a milestone for the gay right movement—or, more precisely, the opposition of it—president Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Defense Of Marriage Act. The act defines marriage in absolute terms as being between a man and a woman. In other words, any other kind of marital union officially became unconstitutional. But cultural shifts were coming. Between 1996 and 2003, support for gay marriage began to climb, with more than a third supporting the change.

The Revolutionary Noughties

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The Noughties (that's the 2000s ya'll) brought in a new, spirited advocacy for same-sex unions. At the turn of the century, Vermont became the first state to legalize gay marriage. Massachusetts and San Francisco followed suit, though San Francisco's ruling was later declared void. President George Bush, as ever, got in the way of progress. "Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious, and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society," the president insisted. He backed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage; and eleven states followed suit it.

2004-2008: One By One, States Jump On Board

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In 2004, Massachusetts legalized gay marriage. Over the next few years, legal wrangling and gay-rights protests ensued across America; by 2008, Iowa and Connecticut legalized civil unions, and California came within a hair's breadth of joining them (52 percent of Californian voters opposed the unions). More and more states jumped on board, including New York and the District of Columbia.

Obama And Clinton Change Their Minds

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By 2012, the fight for gay marriage had gained enough momentum for President Obama to announce he'd changed his mind declaring "same-sex couples should be able to get married." Bill Clinton backtracked on the Defense of Marriage Act he'd once signed, stating categorically in an op-ed that, rather than gay marriage being unconstitutional, DOMA itself was. Republican senator Rob Portman, whose son is gay, followed their lead and became the first in his party to back gay marriage.

And As Of Today...

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At the moment, twelve states have legalized same-sex marriage. And as of this year, it's official: more Americans support gay marriage than oppose it. The Supreme Court could hand down any of the following rulings: nationwide support of gay marriage; a backtrack of the entire issue and a dismissal of the case; the rejection of gay marriage as unconstitutional; or the legalization of gay marriage in California. Stay tuned to find out...