A Brief History of: Gay Marriage

Justin Sullivan / Getty

A couple rejoices after a California ruling overturns the state ban on gay marriage.

When Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd cut into their wedding cake at city hall in Cambridge, Mass., on May 17, 2004, after becoming the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to complete a state-sanctioned marriage application, they probably hoped their union would open the floodgates for gay couples across the country. But instead, it became a high-water mark for same-sex marriage as the acrimonious debate over the issue raged on--a moment equaled only by a California Supreme Court's ruling in mid-May overturning the state's ban on gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage has a short but heated history in the U.S. It first...

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