Nearly five years after the [Massachusetts] Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, the vitriolic battle that brought international attention and apocalyptic fears to Massachusetts is all but dead. Since the first marriages on May 17, 2004, more than 11,000 couples have tied the knot. They're busy mowing lawns and hauling kids to soccer practice, and the sky has not fallen.
Polls have shown consistent public support for gay couples. And with overwhelming support for gay marriage in the state legislature — the last effort to put it on the ballot failed 151-45 — the opposition has, for the most part, packed its bags and gone home.
While same-sex marriage is firmly entrenched in Massachusetts, gay activists in the Bay State say the future of the movement nationally could depend on what happens in California. In May, the California Supreme Court made the state the second to legalize gay marriage. But voters will get the final say in November, when they decide whether to back Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage. A Field Poll released last month showed that 51 percent of likely voters would oppose the initiative, while 42 percent would support it. ...
Thirty-nine states have passed laws defining marriage as an act between a man and a woman. As a result, gays and lesbians don't have the same rights that heterosexual couples are afforded in those states, such as visiting a spouse in a hospital or making health-care decisions.
In addition, Congress has passed a Defense of Marriage law, which forbids federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages. While gay state employees in Massachusetts can put their spouses on their health insurance plans, gay federal employees who live in the state cannot.