Factbox: List of U.S. states that permit gay marriage
(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday let stand a lower-court ruling throwing out California's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, while also striking down a core element of a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex married couples.
Before the rulings, 12 of the 50 U.S. states allowed same-sex marriage. California would become the 13th state.
The first three states to allow gay marriage did so because of court rulings permitting it, rather than through legislative action or putting the issue to voters to decide. Since mid-2009, six states have approved gay marriage laws by passing laws in state legislatures and three states by ballot initiatives.
Here is a look at the states that have approved gay marriage.
* 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 legal briefly in 2008 following a court ruling permitting it. Later that year, voters approved Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 decided that a lower-court ruling that struck down Proposition 8 will remain intact. Continued...