New Democracy Maps

MAP Report: The National Patchwork of Marriage Laws Underneath Obergefell

Rebecca Farmer, Movement Advancement Project | 303-578-4600 ext 122

As the Respect for Marriage Act moves through Congress, MAP’s March 2022 report on the landscape of varying state marriage laws around the country is a resource. MAP researchers are available to answer questions and our infographics are available for use.  

MAP’s report, Underneath Obergefell, explores the patchwork of marriage laws around the country. The report highlights the fact that a majority of states still have existing laws on the books that would ban marriage for same-sex couples – even though those laws are currently unenforceable under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell.  

If the U.S. Supreme Court were to revisit the Obergefell decision, the ability of same-sex couples to marry could again fall to the states, where a majority of states still have in place both bans in the law and in state constitutions.   

The policy landscape for state marriage laws can be broken into four major categories (shown in the image above):  

  • Twenty-five states have both statutes and constitutional amendments limiting the ability of same-sex couples to marry.  

  • Five states have constitutional amendments, but not statutes, prohibiting marriage between people of the same sex.  

  • Five states have statutes, but not constitutional amendments, prohibiting marriage between people of the same sex.  

  • Fifteen states, the District of Columbia, and all five U.S. territories have no statutes or constitutional amendments prohibiting marriage between people of the same sex.   

Notably, three of the 35 states with amendments or statutes would remain unenforceable even were Obergefell overturned (California, Hawaii, and Iowa).  

Additionally, a number of states have updated their marriage laws to explicitly allow marriage for same-sex couples (see map below)  

The implications of the existing marriage laws on the books are varied and eliminating those existing bans is challenging., The process for amending state constitutions is arduous and requires not only legislative action but also approval from voters. And many of the states that still have statutory bans on the books are places where efforts to pass nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ have faced substantial barriers.  

While many steps would need to happen for these bans to be enforceable again, their existence continues to signal the extent to which marriage equality remains a politicized issue.  

To schedule an interview with a MAP researcher about this report or other issues regarding LGBTQ equality please contact Rebecca Farmer at

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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