In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. The DOMA did not prohibit same-sex marriage, but it did allow states to decline to recognize such marriages performed outside their borders. Since then, aside from the current president's call for a constitutional amendment, the fight over legal recognition of same-sex marriages has mostly been waged state by state.
1.) In July 2000, Vermont became the first state to authorize same-sex civil unions, which grant the same rights as marriage.
2.) In February 2004, newly minted San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Some 3,900 gay couples got married before the California Supreme Court halted the process the next month. In August, the state court declared the marriage licenses invalid, ruling that Newsom had overstepped his authority.
3.) In March and April 2004, 3,000 same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses in Multnomah County.
4.) In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses, after its Supreme Court ruled that government attorneys "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason" not to.
In November 2004, measures banning gay marriage appeared on ballots in 11 states; voters passed all of them by substantial margins. Sixteen states, including Oregon, have amended their constitutions to outlaw gay marriage.
5.) In July 2003, British Columbia became the first Canadian province to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Now, six provinces and one territory issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, while the House of Commons is currently considering a bill requiring all civic officials to perform gay marriages.
6.) Scandinavian countries started giving same-sex couples the same rights as married couples in 1989 through "registered partnerships."
7.) In 2001, Germany began allowing same-sex couples to register as "life partners," granting the same inheritance and tenants' rights as married couples.
8.) Pending legislation in Britain would clear the way for same-sex couples to register in "civil partnerships" and receive financial and legal rights similar to those of married couples by the end of 2005.
9.) Catholic Pope John Paul II, in his newly published Memory and Identity, describes gay marriage as part of an "ideology of evil."