Marriage: Overview

NCLR was at the forefront of the historic fight to secure marriage equality nationwide.  We represented the Tennessee plaintiffs in the Supreme Court of the United States’ landmark case affirming the freedom to marry. NCLR battled tirelessly to get to this day, winning cases that brought marriage equality to Alabama, California, Florida, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. NCLR also assisted and filed friend-of-the court briefs in numerous other state and federal cases seeking the freedom to marry.

NCLR is committed to full equality for LGBT people and their families. Over the past three decades, we have partnered with talented attorneys across the nation to advance the rights of and protections for LGBT parents and families. In 2003, NCLR convened a group of experienced family law and estate planning attorneys from around the country to discuss family formation and protection issues, evaluating national trends and cases in each state. The meeting proved invaluable to both NCLR and the private practitioners involved in addressing the ever-evolving legal challenges LGBT families face. The group continued to meet and to grow, and in 2006, was formally formed as NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council.

With marriage equality now the law of the land, same-sex couples gained not only many legal rights but also equal respect and dignity under the law.  Marriage equality alone, however, does not fully protect the legal rights of LGBT people and their families. LGBT people who are not married or only married recently may be denied any rights to each other in many states, leaving surviving partners without needed government benefits and separated partners unable to divide their property. And couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships may still be denied government benefits, or may be unable to divorce when they break up. And many different family formations, including co-parenting partners, polyamorous families, and single parents, lack basic legal protections. NCLR launched the #Equality4Families campaign in 2015 to raise awareness about the need to reform state laws to fully protect LGBT parents and their children.