1969: Troy Perry presides over the “holy union” of two women, Neva Heckman and Judith Belew — the first public same-sex marriage ceremony in American history.
1970: Jack Baker and James Michael McConnell, a gay couple, sue Gerald Nelson, a clerk in Hennepin County, Minnesota, after Nelson denies them a marriage license. The case, Baker v. Nelson, goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
1971: While Baker and McConnell await the results of their lawsuit, a courthouse clerk in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, grants them a marriage license.
1975: Angelenos Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams are among six same-sex couples to be legally wed in Boulder, Colorado. The legality of their licenses is immediately challenged in court.
1985: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, then a federal judge in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, rules against the Colorado couples, and Sullivan, an Australian citizen, is deported.
1993: The Hawaii Supreme Court rules that absent a “compelling state interest,” barring gay couples from marrying is a form of sexual discrimination. The case is sent back to the lower courts.
1996: A Hawaii circuit court rules that barring same-sex marriage violates the state constitution's equal protection clause. The case is appealed.
1996: Bill Clinton, on January 3, signs into law the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even if the unions are lawfully conducted by a state.
1998: As the Hawaii Supreme Court considers arguments over the legality of denying same-sex couples the right to marry, Hawaii voters pass a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, nullifying the lawsuit, which is dismissed in 1999.
2000: California voters, on March 7, pass the 14-word Proposition 22, which explicitly states: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
2003: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that same-sex couples should have equal rights to marry under the state constitution.
2004: On February 12, Robin Tyler, Diane Olson, Troy Perry and Phillip De Bliek announce their intention to sue Los Angeles County for the right to marry their gay partners. Hours later, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom legalizes same-sex marriage within his city.
2004: On March 13, the California Supreme Court orders a halt to same-sex marriages in San Francisco.
2005: Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. vetoes a bill by the tribal legislature to ban same-sex marriage on the reservation.
2005: California Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer rules, on March 14, that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and cites the 1948 case Perez v. Sharp, which struck down California's anti-miscegenation laws.
2005: The California Legislature passes AB 849, the first bill legalizing same-sex marriage without a court order. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately vetoes the legislation.
2006: A California appeals court reverses Judge Kramer's ruling in a 2-1 decision.
2007: On August 31, Polk County, Iowa, Judge Robert B. Hanson rules that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. For the next four hours, gay marriage is legalized in Iowa, until Hanson halts further same-sex marriage licensing, pending the results of an appeal to the state Supreme Court.
2008: The California Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments over the constitutionality of the state's same-sex marriage ban. A hearing is scheduled for March 4.