Prior to 1996, the United States Federal government had no legislation in place to define marriage. Any marriage that was recognized by any single state was also formally recognized on the federal level. In 1996, the Clinton administration passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which legally defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

Currently, six states formally recognize same-sex marriage and grant marriage licenses: Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Washington state is set to start allowing same sex marriages starting in June of 2012. Washington, DC; Oregon's Coquille tribe; and Washington state's Suquamish Indian tribes also allow same-sex marriage. Maryland formally recognizes same-sex marriage, but does not provide marriage licenses. California did allow same-sex marriage for approximately four months in 2008, after which same-sex marriage was prohibited with the passing of Proposition 8. Like DOMA, Proposition 8 was a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between members of the opposite sex.

DOMA and Proposition 8 have been challenged for their constitutionality and are currently still undergoing legal evaluation.

About the Author:
Dennis Duban, CPA, is managing partner of one of Los Angeles's most successful accounting firms. Duban is also one half of a same-sex couple with a daughter who is outspoken about same-sex marriage rights.