Reflecting on Marriage Equality Two Decades after Massachusetts

Movement Advancement Project
2 min readMay 17, 2024

Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts — the first U.S. state where same-sex couples could legally marry. We also recognize the hard work of the advocates and plaintiffs who helped pave the way for additional marriage wins across the country and eventually the 2015 ruling for federal marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges.

This momentous victory changed the standard of equality for the nation, educating people on the incredibly important benefits conferred with marriage, including a long list of benefits for children raised by same-sex couples, filing a joint tax return and accessing vital Social Security benefits, and the ability to make medical decisions for loved ones.

MAP’s research and reports contributed to an understanding of how important marriage was to LGBTQ older adults, children in LGBTQ families, and the economic well-being of LGBTQ people as well helped share the story about why marriage mattered in terms of love and commitment that resonated with millions.

Unfortunately, members of the U.S. Supreme Court have recently expressed a desire to revisit decades of precedent, including for the cases that paved the way for marriage equality. That is especially concerning because, today — despite being unenforceable — most states still have statutory and constitutional bans. These existing state statutes and amendments banning marriage would go back into effect if Obergefell were overturned. A 2022 MAP report examined the state-level legal landscape for marriage equality.

Figure 1 from MAP’s 2022 report, “Underneath Obergefell: A National Patchwork of Marriage Laws

Note: In elections this November, Colorado and California will both have ballot measures to repeal constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

The ability of same-sex couples to marry is a fundamental right that began with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s watershed decision twenty years ago. Knowing that conservative think tanks and lawmakers continue to include marriage equality as a target for their efforts, today should be a day of recognition and action.

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Movement Advancement Project

MAP is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all.