Factbox: List of U.S. states that permit gay marriage

Reuters

(Reuters) - Illinois joined a growing list of U.S. states on Wednesday to allow same-sex couples to wed when Governor Pat Quinn signed a law making it the 16th to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

The Illinois law, which takes effect June 1, is the latest in a series of recent victories for gay rights, coming after Hawaii's governor signed gay marriage into law last week and after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped his legal opposition to the unions in October.

Here is a look at the 16 states and Washington, D.C., where gay marriage has been approved.

COURT ORDERS

* MASSACHUSETTS - In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay marriage after its highest court ruled the state's ban violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples.

* CONNECTICUT - In 2008, the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling and found that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. Soon after, the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

* IOWA - A unanimous ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2009 legalized same-sex marriage. The next year, a recall campaign by opponents of same-sex marriage forced three judges from the bench. A 2012 effort to oust a fourth judge was unsuccessful.

* CALIFORNIA - In California, the most populous state, same-sex marriage was briefly legal in 2008 following a court ruling permitting it. Later that year, voters approved Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2013 that a lower-court ruling that struck down Proposition 8 will remain intact, and same-sex marriage was again legal.

* NEW JERSEY - Shortly after a New Jersey judge ordered state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry in October, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie withdrew his legal opposition to gay marriage. Christie had vetoed a gay marriage bill in 2012 after it was approved by both houses of the state legislature.

LEGISLATIVE ACTION

* VERMONT - Vermont in 2000 had become the first state to allow civil unions for gay couples. In 2009, Vermont became the first state to legalize gay marriage by legislative means.

* NEW HAMPSHIRE - Two years after New Hampshire began allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, the state approved gay marriage in 2009.

* WASHINGTON, D.C. - In 2009, lawmakers in the U.S. capital voted to legalize gay marriage. Because the District of Columbia is not a state, the legislation required congressional approval. In early 2010, efforts to block the law were unsuccessful and it took effect that March.

* NEW YORK - After a gay marriage bill failed in New York's Senate by a margin of 38 to 24 in 2009, advocates retooled their strategy and applied pressure to lawmakers who had voted "no." In 2011, the Republican-controlled state Senate joined the Democratic-led state Assembly and passed the bill by four votes.

* RHODE ISLAND - In 2013, after the state legislature and governor approved a gay marriage bill, Rhode Island became the last of the New England states to legalize same-sex marriage. The law took effect on August 1.

* DELAWARE - In 2013, the Delaware state legislature approved same-sex marriage and the bill was signed into law by the governor. The law took effect on July 1.

* MINNESOTA - After Minnesota voters became the first to reject a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman in 2012, the state legislature proposed a same-sex marriage legalization bill in 2013. The law took effect on August 1.

* HAWAII - Hawaii's governor signed into law on November 13 a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, capping 20 years of legal and political rancor in a state regarded as a pioneer in advancing the cause of gay matrimony. The law will take effect on December 2.

* ILLINOIS - The state Senate approved gay marriage on Valentine's Day in 2013, and the state House passed it with just one vote more than needed on November 5. The law will take effect in June 2014.

REFERENDUMS

* MAINE - When supporters of same-sex marriage put the issue on the ballot in Maine, it marked the first attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in a popular referendum. It was approved by voters in the November 2012 elections.

* MARYLAND, WASHINGTON STATE - After the state legislatures in Washington and Maryland voted in favor of same-sex marriage, the laws were blocked from taking effect until state voters were given an opportunity to decide the matter in ballot initiatives. The issue went to voters in November 2012 and in both states voters sided with legalizing same-sex marriage.

(Reporting by Edith Honan)

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