Massachusetts later became the first state in the United States and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize same-sex marriage following the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge against the Department of Public Health six months earlier. The history of same-sex marriage in the United States dates back to the early 1970s, when the first lawsuits calling for legal recognition of same-sex relationships made the public aware of the issue of the rights and benefits of civil marriage for same-sex couples, although they were unsuccessful. The issue gained increasing prominence in US politics following the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision in Baehr v. Miike, which suggested the possibility that the state's ban could be unconstitutional.
That decision was supported by measures at both the federal and state levels to restrict marriage to male and female couples, in particular the federal enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the United States are determined by the nation's federal system of government, in which a person's status, including marital status, is largely determined by individual states. Before 1996, the federal government did not define marriage; any marriage recognized by a state was, even if that marriage was not recognized by one or more states, as was the case until 1967 with interracial marriage, which some states prohibited by law. Before 2004, same-sex marriage was not celebrated or recognized in any jurisdiction in the United States, but later it began to be celebrated and recognized by law in different jurisdictions through laws, court decisions, tribal council decisions and popular referendums.
The Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case put an end to all interstate legal complications related to same-sex marriage, as it ordered states to celebrate marriages of same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages concluded in other states. According to the Office of Government Accountability (GAO), in 2004, 1,138 federal rights and protections were afforded to U.S. citizens upon marriage; affected areas include Social Security benefits, veterans benefits, health insurance, Medicaid, hospital visits, estate taxes, retirement savings, pensions, family leave and immigration law.
The NAACP, the leading African-American civil rights organization, is committed to supporting gay rights and same-sex marriage, stating that it supports marriage equality in line with equal protection under the law provided for in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and has declared that same-sex marriage is a civil right. Politicians who have been strongly opposed to same-sex marriage include Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. Notable politicians who have moved on from opposing same-sex marriage include Republican Senator Rob Portman and Republican Rep. Bob Barr (author of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996).
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. However, that same year, voters in 13 states approved constitutional amendments that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.