A brief history of the ‘brief windows’ of gay marriage legality

For a few days this week, same-sex couples in Arkansas were allowed to legally marry. Then, Wednesday evening, the state Supreme Court effectively halted the process. That decision has been rendered useless, thanks to the sort of legal gymnastics that have been the signature of the stop-and-start movement.

But the window earlier this week, that brief window when same-sex marriages in Arkansas were legal, is another common feature of the expansion of same-sex marriage throughout the country. By our count, there have been six such periods. Six times, a "brief window" (as the hoary expression goes) has opened in six different states for different lengths of time. So we made this graphic, showing how long each window was open (the width of the red rectangle) and how many people per day were issued marriage licenses or were married (the height of each rectangle).

Windows2

The first was in New Mexico, in 2004. The Pew Charitable Trusts created a nice history of how the window opened and shut, during which time 64 couples got married.

The briefest was in Iowa, in 2007. During the four windows that same-sex marriage was legal at that point (it became fully legal shortly afterward), it seems as though only one Des Moines couple was able to wed.

And the longest was California's, in 2008. For months, from June to November, the state allowed thousands of couples to marry. In early November, the window slammed shut — because California voters passed Prop 8.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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