Jan. 3, 2000: California starts registering domestic partners. While groundbreaking, the law affords same-sex couples only two benefits: hospital visitation rights and health insurance coverage for the dependents of government employees covered by CalPERS, the state retirement system.
Mar. 7, 2000: More than 61% of Californians approve a ballot measure declaring that marriage should remain reserved for couples of the opposite sex. Just 14 words long, Proposition 22 was one of the shortest initiatives ever placed on a California ballot. Yet it ignited an emotional $16-million campaign that set church against church, neighbor against neighbor and relative against relative.
Oct. 14, 2001: Gov. Gray Davis signs a bill that substantially expands the rights granted domestic partners. The bill adds about a dozen legal benefits, including the right to make medical decisions for a partner in the hospital, use sick leave to care for an ill or incapacitated partner and relocate with a partner without losing unemployment benefits.
Sept. 19, 2003: Gov. Gray Davis signs a bill that gives state-registered domestic partners many of the legal rights and obligations of married couples in matters involving children, money and property. While stopping short of recognizing gay marriage, the law gives a partner the right to financial support and child custody after a partnership is dissolved and gives a survivor the right to collect his or her partner's government benefits.
Feb. 12, 2004: Mayor Gavin Newsom instructs city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the first action of its kind in the nation. Dozens of couples are married as city offices stay open late to accommodate long lines.
Mar. 3, 2004: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council pass resolutions opposing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
Mar. 11, 2004: The California Supreme Court unanimously orders San Francisco to stop marrying gay couples and announces that it will rule on the legality of the city's actions within the next few months. In four weeks, nearly 4,000 gay couples received licenses.
Aug. 12, 2004: The California Supreme Court rules unanimously that San Francisco's mayor overstepped his authority by issuing same-sex marriage licenses this spring. By a 5-2 vote, the court also declares the roughly 4,000 marriages of gay and lesbian couples that had been sanctioned by the city "void from their inception and a legal nullity."
Dec. 21, 2004: San Francisco judge hears arguments on same-sex marriages. At the heart of the consolidated lawsuits -- brought by the city of San Francisco and a dozen gay and lesbian couples -- is the contention that current law defining marriage as "between a man and a woman" violates the state Constitution by denying homosexuals the "fundamental right" to marry the person of their choosing.
June 29, 2005: The California Supreme Court declines to hear a challenge to the state's sweeping domestic partners benefits law. Critics of the law thought such benefits would be prohibited by Proposition 22.
Aug. 22, 2005: The California Supreme Court rules that children born to gay couples have two legally recognized parents -- the first such ruling in the nation.
Sept. 29, 2005 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes a same-sex marriage bill after it passed the Senate and Assembly. Schwarzenegger says the bill would wrongly reverse Proposition 22, which declares that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
June 5, 2007: A measure to legalize marriage for gay couples easily passes the California Assembly after a respectful debate. As he did in 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to veto the measure.
Sept. 19, 2007: An emotional Mayor Jerry Sanders abruptly reverses his public opposition to same-sex marriage. Sanders, tears welling and voice breaking, says he realizes that he can not tell his daughter Lisa, who is gay, that her relationship with a partner is not as important as that of a straight couple.
Oct. 12, 2007 California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes a bill approved by state lawmakers that would legalize gay marriage. He says the courts need to rule on the legality of Proposition 22, the gay marriage ban passed by voters.
Mar. 4, 2008: The California Supreme Court considers four lawsuits brought by same-sex couples after San Francisco issued marriage licenses in 2004. Three of the court's seven justices indicate they will uphold state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Ruling expected within 90 days.
May 15, 2008: The California Supreme Court rules that the state Constitution protects a fundamental "right to marry" that extends equally to same-sex couples. The three dissenting justices argue that it is up to the electorate or the Legislature to decide whether gays should marry.