Same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage
Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships


South Africa

Performed in some jurisdictions

Mexico: Mexico City
United States: CT, DC, IA, MA, NH, NY, VT, Coquille, Suquamish

Recognized, not performed

Aruba (Netherlands only)
Curaçao (Netherlands only)
Mexico: all states (Mexico City only)
Sint Maarten (Netherlands only)
United States: CA (conditional), MD

Civil unions and
registered partnerships

Czech Republic
- New Caledonia
- Wallis and Futuna

Isle of Man
New Zealand
United Kingdom

Performed in some jurisdictions

Australia: ACT, NSW, TAS, VIC
Mexico: COA
United States: CA, CO, DE, HI, IL, ME, NJ, NV, OR, RI, WA, WI

Unregistered cohabitation



Recognized in some jurisdictions

United States: MD

See also

Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage legislation
Timeline of same-sex marriage
Recognition of same-sex unions in Europe
Marriage privatization
Civil union
Domestic partnership
Listings by country

LGBT portal
v · d · e

Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage)[1] is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality.[2]

Since 2001, ten countries have begun allowing same-sex couples to marry nationwide: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden. Same-sex marriages are also performed and recognized in Mexico City and parts of the United States. Some jurisdictions that do not perform same-sex marriages recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere: Israel, the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, parts of the United States, and all states of Mexico.

The introduction of same-sex marriage has varied by jurisdiction, resulting from legislative changes to marriage laws, court challenges based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or a combination of the two. In some countries, allowing same-sex couples to marry replaced a previous system of civil unions or registered partnerships.

The recognition of such marriages is a civil rights, political, social, moral, and religious issue in many nations. The conflicts arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to enter into marriage, be required to use a different status (such as a civil union, which either grant equal rights as marriage or limited rights in comparison to marriage), or not have any such rights. A related issue is whether the term marriage should be applied.[3][4][5]

One argument in support of same-sex marriage is that denying same-sex couples legal access to marriage and all of its attendant benefits represents discrimination based on sexual orientation; several American scientific bodies agree with this assertion.[6][7][8][9] Another argument in support of same-sex marriage is the assertion that financial, psychological and physical well-being are enhanced by marriage, and that children of same-sex couples benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally recognized union supported by society's institutions.[10][11][12] Court documents filed by American scientific associations also state that singling out gay men and women as ineligible for marriage both stigmatizes and invites public discrimination against them.[13] The American Anthropological Association avers that social science research does not support the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon not recognizing same-sex marriage.[14] Other arguments for same-sex marriage are based upon what is regarded as a universal human rights issue, mental and physical health concerns, equality before the law,[15] and the goal of normalizing LGBT relationships.[16][17][18] Al Sharpton and several other authors attribute opposition to same-sex marriage as coming from homophobia[19][20][21][22] or heterosexism and liken prohibitions on same-sex marriage to past prohibitions on interracial marriage.[23]

One argument against same-sex marriage arises from a rejection of the use of the word "marriage" as applied to same-sex couples,[24] as well as objections about the legal and social status of marriage itself being applied to same-sex partners under any terminology. Other stated arguments include direct and indirect social consequences of same-sex marriages, parenting concerns,[25][26] religious grounds,[27][28] and tradition.



Definitions of marriage

Anthropologists have struggled to come up with a definition of marriage that absorbs commonalities of the social construct across cultures.[29][30] Many proposed definitions have been criticized for failing to recognize the existence of same-sex marriage in some cultures, including in more than 30 African cultures, such as the Kikuyu and Nuer.[30][31][32]

With several countries revising their marriage laws to recognize same-sex couples in the 21st century, all major English dictionaries have revised their definition of the word marriage to either drop gender specifications or supplement them with secondary definitions to include gender-neutral language or explicit recognition of same-sex unions.[33][34] The Oxford English Dictionary has recognized same-sex marriage since 2000.[35]

Alan Dershowitz and others have suggested reserving the word marriage for religious contexts as part of privatizing marriage, and in civil and legal contexts using a uniform concept of civil unions, in part to strengthen the separation between church and state.[36] Jennifer Roback Morse, the president of the anti-same-sex marriage group National Organization for Marriage's Ruth Institute project,[37] claims that the conflation of marriage with contractual agreements is a threat to marriage.[38]

Terms for same-sex marriage

Some proponents of legal recognition of same-sex marriage, such as Freedom to Marry and Canadians for Equal Marriage, use the terms marriage equality and equal marriage to indicate that they seek equal benefit of marriage laws as opposed to special rights.[39][40]

Opponents of same-sex marriage such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Southern Baptist Convention use the term traditional marriage to mean marriages between one man and one woman.[41][42][43] Anti-same-sex-marriage activist Maggie Gallagher argues that equating same-sex and opposite-sex marriages changes the meaning of marriage and its traditions.[44]

Some publications that oppose same-sex marriage, such as WorldNetDaily and Baptist Press, have an editorial style policy of placing the word marriage in scare quotes ("marriage") when it is used in reference to same-sex couples. In the United States, the mainstream press has generally abandoned this practice.[45] Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media argues for use of quotation marks on the grounds that marriage is a legal status denied same-sex couples by most state governments.[46] Same-sex marriage supporters argue that the use of scare quotes is an editorialization that implies illegitimacy.[47]

Associated Press style recommends the usages marriage for gays and lesbians or in space-limited headlines gay marriage with no hyphen and no scare quotes. The Associated Press warns that the construct gay marriage can imply that marriages of gay and lesbian couples are somehow legally different from those of opposite-sex couples.[citation needed]



Various types of same-sex marriages have existed,[48] ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.[49]

In the southern Chinese province of Fujian, through the Ming dynasty period, females would bind themselves in contracts to younger females in elaborate ceremonies.[50] Males also entered similar arrangements. This type of arrangement was also similar in ancient European history.[51]

An example of egalitarian male domestic partnership from the early Zhou Dynasty period of China is recorded in the story of Pan Zhang & Wang Zhongxian. While the relationship was clearly approved by the wider community, and was compared to heterosexual marriage, it did not involve a religious ceremony binding the couple.[52]

The first historical mention of the performance of same-sex marriages occurred during the early Roman Empire.[53] For instance, Emperor Nero is reported to have engaged in a marriage ceremony with one of his male slaves. Emperor Elagabalus "married" a Carian slave named Hierocles.[54] It should be noted, however, that conubium existed only between a civis Romanus and a civis Romana (that is, between a male Roman citizen and a female Roman citizen), so that a so-called marriage between two Roman males (or with a slave) would have no legal standing in Roman law (apart, presumably, from the arbitrary will of the emperor in the two aforementioned cases).[55] Furthermore, "matrimonium is an institution involving a mother, mater. The idea implicit in the word is that a man takes a woman in marriage, in matrimonium ducere, so that he may have children by her."[56] Still, the lack of legal validity notwithstanding, there is a consensus among modern historians that same-sex relationships existed in ancient Rome, but the exact frequency and nature of "same-sex unions" during that period is obscure.[57] In 342 AD Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans issued a law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) prohibiting same-sex marriage in Rome and ordering execution for those so married.[58]

A same-sex marriage between the two men Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz in the Galician municipality of Rairiz de Veiga in Spain occurred on April 16, 1061. They were married by a priest at a small chapel. The historic documents about the church wedding were found at Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova.[59]


In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriages.[60] Same-sex marriages are also granted and mutually recognized by Belgium (2003),[61] Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010),[62] Iceland (2010) and Argentina (2010). In Mexico same sex marriage is recognized in all 31 states but only performed in Mexico City. In Nepal, their recognition has been judicially mandated but not yet legislated.[63] 250 million people (or 4% of the world population) live in areas that recognise same-sex marriage.[64]

Current status

Same-sex relationships legal
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership (or unregistered cohabitation)
  Same-sex marriage recognized, but not performed
  Homosexuality legal but same-sex unions not recognized
Same-sex relationships illegal
  Minimal penalty
  Large penalty
  Life in prison
  Death penalty

v · d · e

Legal recognition

Same-sex marriage is legally recognized nationwide in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. In the United States, same-sex marriages are not recognized federally, though same-sex couples can marry in six states and one district. In Mexico, same-sex marriages are only performed in Mexico City, but these marriages are recognized by all Mexican states and by the Mexican federal government.[65] Israel does not recognize same-sex marriages performed on its territory, but recognizes same-sex marriages performed in foreign jurisdictions. In Brazil, a same-sex couple may convert their civil union into marriage with the approval of a state judge, if approved that marriage is recognized in all the national territory.[66]


On July 15, 2010, the Argentine Senate approved a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. It was supported by the Government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and opposed by the Catholic Church.[67] Polls showed that nearly 70 percent of Argentines supported giving gay people the same marital rights as heterosexuals.[68]


Belgium became the second country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriages on June 1, 2003, with the coming into force of a bill passed by the Belgian Federal Parliament. Originally, Belgium allowed the marriages of foreign same-sex couples only if their country of origin also allowed these unions, however legislation enacted in October 2004 permits any couple to marry if at least one of the spouses has lived in the country for a minimum of three months. A 2006 law enabled legal adoption by same-sex spouses.


Legal recognition of same-sex marriage in Canada followed a series of constitutional challenges based on the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the first such case, Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General), same-sex marriage ceremonies performed in Ontario on January 14, 2001 were subsequently validated when the common law, opposite-sex definition of marriage was held to be unconstitutional. Similar rulings had legalized same-sex marriage in eight provinces and one territory when the 2005 Civil Marriage Act defined marriage throughout Canada as "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others."


Same-sex marriage was introduced in Iceland through legislation establishing a gender-neutral definition of marriage introduced by the coalition government of the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green Movement. The legislation was passed unanimously by the Icelandic Althing on June 11, 2010, and took effect on June 27, 2010, replacing an earlier system of registered partnerships for same-sex couples.[69][70] Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and her partner were among first married same-sex couples in the country.[71]


Israel's High Court of Justice ruled to honor same-sex marriages granted in other countries even though Israel does not recognize such marriages performed under its own jurisdiction. A bill was raised in the Knesset (parliament) to rescind the High Court's ruling, but the Knesset has not advanced the bill since December 2006.


On December 21, 2009, Mexico City's Legislative Assembly legalized same-sex marriages and adoption by same-sex couples. The law was enacted eight days later and became effective in early March 2010.[72] On August 10, 2010, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that while not every state must grant same-sex marriages, they must all recognize those performed where they are legal.[73]

The Netherlands

The Netherlands was the first country to extend marriage laws to include same-sex couples, following the recommendation of a special commission appointed to investigate the issue in 1995. A same-sex marriage bill passed the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2000, taking effect on April 1, 2001.[74]

In the Netherlands' Caribbean special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, marriage is presently restricted to heterosexual couples,[75] however a law enabling same-sex couples to marry has been passed and is planned to come into effect by 10 October 2012.[76] The Caribbean countries Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, forming the remainder of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, do not perform same-sex marriages, but must recognize those performed in the European territory of the Netherlands.


Same-sex marriage became legal in Norway on January 1, 2009 when a gender neutral marriage bill was enacted after being passed by the Norwegian legislature in June 2008.[77][78] Norway became the first Scandinavian country and the sixth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Gender neutral marriage replaced Norway's previous system of registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Couples in registered partnerships are able to retain that status or convert their registered partnership to a marriage. No new registered partnerships may be created.


On January 8, 2010, the parliament approved, with 126 votes in favor, 97 against and 7 abstentions, same-sex marriage. The President promulgated the law on April 8, same-sex marriage become legal since June 5, 2010, thus Portugal became the eighth country to conduct nationwide same-sex marriage.

South Africa

In a 2002 landmark decision that paved the way for later legal extensions of same-sex rights, South Africa became the first country in Africa to legally permit adoptions by same-sex couples. The Court (Judge Lewis Skweyiyi) held, "Family life as contemplated in the constitution (of South Africa) can be lived in different ways. The stability, support and affection envisaged by the Child Care Act can be provided by people in permanent same-sex relationships."[79] Same-sex marriage became legal in South Africa on November 30, 2006 when the Civil Unions Bill was enacted after having been passed by the South African Parliament earlier that month. A ruling by the Constitutional Court on December 1, 2005 had imposed a deadline of December 1, 2006 to make same-sex marriage legal. South Africa became the fifth country, the first in Africa, and the second outside Europe, to legalize same-sex marriage.


Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since July 3, 2005. In 2004, the nation's newly elected Socialist government, led by President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, began a campaign for its legalization, including the right of adoption by same-sex couples.[80] After much debate, a law permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the Cortes Generales (Spain's bicameral parliament, composed of the Senate and the Congress of Deputies) on 30 June 2005 and published on 2 July 2005. Same-sex marriage became legal in Spain on Sunday, 3 July 2005,[81] making it the third country in the world to do so, after the Netherlands and Belgium.


Same-sex marriage in Sweden has been legal since 1 May 2009, following the adoption of a new, gender-neutral law on marriage by the Swedish parliament on 1 April 2009,[82] making Sweden the seventh country in the world to open marriage to same sex couples nationwide. Marriage replaced Sweden's registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Existing registered partnerships between same-sex couples remained in force with an option to convert them into marriages.

United States

In the United States, although same-sex marriages are not recognized federally, same-sex couples can legally marry in six states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont) and the District of Columbia and receive state-level benefits.[83] The states of New Jersey, Maryland, and Rhode Island do not facilitate same-sex marriages, but do recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, as does California in some cases, in particular those established when the state briefly allowed same-sex marriage in 2008. Additionally, several states offer civil unions or domestic partnerships, granting all or part of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage.[84][85] Thirty-one states have constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one woman and one man.[86]

In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defining marriage solely as a union between a couple of the opposite sex for all federal purposes and allowing for the non-recognition amongst the states.[87]

A 2005 federal district court decision, Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, holding that prohibiting recognition of same-sex relationships violated the Constitution was overturned on appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in 2006, which ruled that "laws limiting the state-recognized institution of marriage to heterosexual couples ... do not violate the Constitution of the United States."

In 2006, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington concluded that encouraging procreation within the framework of marriage can be seen as a legitimate government interest furthered by limiting marriage between opposite-sex couples.[88]

In 2010, United States District Court for the Northern District of California stated the evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. Proponents of excluding same-sex couples from marriage were unable to reply how permitting same-sex marriage impairs or adversely affects the assumption that the state's interest in marriage is procreative. When asked to identify the evidence at trial that supported the contention responsible procreation is really at the heart of society's interest in regulating marriage, proponents' counsel replied he did not have evidence of this point.[89]

In July 2010, a federal court held key provisions of DOMA unconstitutional;[90][91] the Department of Justice entered an appeal on October 12, 2010.[92] President Barack Obama is officially opposed to same-sex marriage,[93] although he "supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples",[94] a full repeal of DOMA,[95] and called California's Proposition 8 outlawing same-sex marriage in 2008 "unnecessary".[96] In February 2011, President Obama concluded that DOMA was unconstitutional and directed the US Justice Department to stop defending the law in court.[97] Subsequently, Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the US House of Representatives announced that the House would defend DOMA; however, the law firm hired to represent the House soon withdrew from the representation, requiring the House to retain replacement counsel.[98]

In August 2010, Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional under the United States Constitution in a federal court case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, but the ruling has been stayed pending appeal by a higher court; the judge found the ban unconstitutional, ruling that "Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification".[99] Proponents of Proposition 8 appealed the District Court's ruling, and licensing of marriage ceremonies has been delayed by the 9th Circuit Court issuing a stay until the appeal process is completed; in addition, the 9th Circuit also assured a speedy trial.[100]

Subject debated


Australia bans recognition of same-sex marriages. The ban is somewhat supported by the Catholic Church[101] and the two largest political parties. The current Gillard federal Labor Party government is reluctant to progress toward same sex marriage asserting that marriage remains the preserve of heterosexual couples only.[102] In February 2010, the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's Marriage Equality Bill was rejected by the Senate.[103] Senator Hanson-Young re-introduced the bill to the Senate in September 2010. The bill will sit on a notice paper until the major parties agree to a conscience vote on it.[104] A Greens motion urging federal MPs to gauge community support for gay marriage was passed by the House of Representatives on 18 November 2010.[105]

The Australian Capital Territory is the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalise civil partnerships ceremonies for gay couples. However, they are not recognised in Australian jurisdictions outside of that territory. Registered partnerships are available in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. From 1 July 2009 Centrelink recognised same-sex couples equally regarding social security – under the common-law marriage, de facto status or unregistered cohabitation.[106] There is a bill before the Tasmanian Legislative Council to recognise same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.[107]


On Tuesday July 26 2011, The Constitutional Court of Colombia ordered the Colombian Congress to legislate on the matter of same-sex marriage and that if they fail to, same-sex couples will be granted all marriage rights in two years (on June 20th 2013) automatically. [108]


The current government of Luxembourg intends to legalize same-sex marriage.[109] As of June, 2011, Germany will face a vote on same-sex marriage. The issue was opened by the senate of the city-state of Hamburg, and will be voted on in the Federal Bundesrat.

In France in 2006, a 30-member non-quorum parliamentary commission of the French National Assembly published a 453-page Report on the Family and the Rights of Children, which rejected same-sex marriages.[110] Also, the French National Assembly voted against same-sex marriage on June 15, 2011. Finland may legalize same-sex marriage after the 2011 parliamentary elections; then-Minister of Justice Tuija Brax said her Ministry was preparing a reform to amend the Marriage Act towards gay marriage by 2012.[111] The United Kingdom will introduce Same-Sex Civil Marriage by 2015.[112]


In November 2008, Nepal's highest court issued final judgment on matters related to LGBT rights, which included approving gay marriage. Based on the court recommendation the government announced its intention to introduce a same-sex marriage bill by 2010.[113][114][115][116][117] Same-sex marriage and protection for sexual minorities will be included in the new Nepalese constitution currently being drafted.[118][119]

New Zealand

New Zealand's Marriage Act 1955 recognizes marriage rights only for opposite-sex couples. New Zealand's Parliament rejected a bill that would have prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriage in New Zealand in December 2005. The marriage laws consider transsexuals who have undergone reassignment surgery as having changed sex for legal purposes, following Family Court and High Court of New Zealand decisions in 1995.


In 2006, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced legislation that prohibits same-sex marriages and criminalizes anyone who "performs, witnesses, aids or abets" such ceremonies.[120] Among the Igbo people of Nigeria, there are circumstances where a marriage between two women is allowed, such as when a woman has no child and the husband dies.[121]

International organizations

The terms of employment of the staff of international organizations (not commercial) in most cases are not governed by the laws of the country where their offices are located. Agreements with the host country safeguard these organizations' impartiality.

Despite their relative independence, few organizations recognize same-sex partnerships without condition. The agencies of the United Nations recognize same-sex marriages if and only if the country of citizenship of the employees in question recognizes the marriage.[122] In some cases, these organizations do offer a limited selection of the benefits normally provided to opposite-sex married couples to de facto partners or domestic partners of their staff, but even individuals who have entered into an opposite-sex civil union in their home country are not guaranteed full recognition of this union in all organizations. However, the World Bank does recognize domestic partners.[123]

Other legally recognized same-sex unions

Many advocates, such as this protester at a demonstration in New York City against California Proposition 8, reject the notion of civil unions.[124] U.S. Same-sex marriage movement activist Evan Wolfson does not feel civil unions are a replacement for full marriage equality.[125]

Civil unions, civil partnerships, domestic partnerships, registered partnerships, or unregistered partnership/unregistered co-habitation legal status offer varying portions of the legal benefits of marriage and are available to same-sex couples in: Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. They are also available in parts of Mexico (Coahuila and the Federal District) and the United States (California, Hawai'i, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Washington and the federal District of Columbia).[126]

In some countries with legal recognition the actual benefits are minimal. Many people consider civil unions, even those that grant equal rights, inadequate, as they create a separate status, and think they should be replaced by gender-neutral marriage.[127]

Transgender and intersex persons

When sex is defined legally, it may be defined by any one of several criteria: the XY sex-determination system, the type of gonads, the type of external sexual features, or the person's social identification. Consequently, both transsexuals and intersexed individuals may be legally categorized into confusing gray areas, and could be prohibited from marrying partners of the "opposite" sex or permitted to marry partners of the "same" sex due to legal distinctions. This could result in long-term marriages, as well as recent same-sex marriages, being overturned.

The problems of defining gender by the existence/non-existence of gonads or certain sexual features is complicated by the existence of surgical methods to alter these features. Estimates[128] run as high as 1 percent of live births exhibiting some degree of sexual ambiguity, and between 0.1% and 0.2% of live births being ambiguous enough to become the subject of specialist medical attention, including sometimes involuntary surgery to address their sexual ambiguity.[129]

In any legal jurisdiction where marriages are defined without distinction of a requirement of a male and female, these complications do not occur. In addition, some legal jurisdictions recognize a legal and official change of gender, which would allow a transsexual to be legally married in accordance with an adopted gender identity.[130]

In the United Kingdom, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows a person who has lived in their chosen gender for at least two years to receive a gender recognition certificate officially recognizing their new gender. Because in the UK marriages are for mixed-sex couples and civil partnerships are for same-sex couples, a person must dissolve his/her marriage or civil partnership before obtaining a gender recognition certificate. Such persons are then free to enter or re-enter civil partnerships or marriages in accordance with their newly recognized gender identity. In Austria, a similar provision requiring transsexual persons to divorce before having their legal sex marker corrected was found to be unconstitutional in 2006.[131]

In Quebec prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, only unmarried persons could apply for legal change of gender. With the advent of same-sex marriage, this restriction was dropped.

In the United States, transsexual and intersexual marriages typically run into the complications detailed above. As definitions and enforcement of marriage are defined by the states, these complications vary from state to state.[132]


While few societies have recognized same-sex unions as marriages, the historical and anthropological record reveals a large range of attitudes towards same-sex unions ranging from praise, to sympathetic toleration, to indifference, to prohibition. Opponents of same-sex marriages have argued that recognition of same-sex marriages would erode religious freedoms,[133] and that same-sex marriage, while doing good for the couples that participate in them and the children they are raising, undermines a right of children to be raised by their biological mother and father.[134]

Some supporters of same-sex marriages take the view that the government should have no role in regulating personal relationships,[135] while others argue that same-sex marriages would provide social benefits to same-sex couples.[136]

The debate regarding same-sex marriages includes debate based upon social viewpoints as well as debate based on majority rules, religious convictions, economic arguments, health-related concerns, and a variety of other issues.

Judicial and legislative

There are differing positions regarding the manner in which same-sex marriage has been introduced into democratic jurisdictions. A "majority rules" position holds that same-sex marriage is valid, or void and illegal, based upon whether it has been accepted by a simple majority of voters or of their elected representatives.[137] In contrast, a "civil rights" view holds that the institution can be validly created through the ruling of an impartial judiciary carefully examining the questioning and finding that the right to marry regardless of the gender of the participants is guaranteed under the civil rights laws of the jurisdiction.[138]


Arguments on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate are still often made on religious grounds and/or formulated in terms of religious doctrine. One source of controversy is how same-sex marriage affects freedom of religion.[133][139][140][141][142][143][144] Some religious organizations (citing their religious beliefs) refuse to provide employment, public accommodations, adoption services and other benefits to same-sex couples.[145][146] Some governments have made special provisions for religious protections within the texts of same-sex marriage laws.[147]

Pope John Paul II, then head of the Roman Catholic church, criticized same-sex marriage[148] when it was introduced in the Netherlands in 2001. His successor Pope Benedict XVI has maintained opposition to the institution, considering it amongst "the most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good today".[149][150]

Some Christian groups have been vocal and politically active in opposing same-sex marriage legalization in the United States.[151][152] Roman Catholic advocates of monogamous heterosexual marriages contend that same-sex relationships cannot be considered marriages because marriage, by definition, necessarily involves the uniting of two members of the opposite sex.[153][24] Other religious arguments for an opposite-sex definition of marriage hold that same-sex relationships should not be recognized as marriages because same-gender sexual activity is contrary to God's will,[154][155][156] is immoral,[157] and subverts God's creative intent for human sexuality.[28] Christian opposition to same-sex marriage also comes from the belief that same-sex marriage normalizes homosexual behavior and would encourage it, instead of encouraging resistance to same-sex attraction.[28]

Some Abrahamic religious arguments against same-sex marriage are based upon Old Testament passages that discuss the fate of Sodom (Genesis 19:4–19:11), command that one "not lie with mankind, as with womankind" (Leviticus 18:22), and state that those that do "shall surely be put to death",[158][159][160][161] while others are based upon New Testament passages on topics of people going against "natural use" in their lust (Romans 1), the "unrighteous" (1 Corinthians 6:8–6:10), and the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 1:7).[161][159] Christian groups that have been vocal and or active in their opposition to same-sex marriages include the Assemblies of God,[162] Church of God in Christ,[163] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons),[164] the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference,[165] the Conservative Mennonite Conference,[166] the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the Hutterite Brethren,[167] the Orthodox Church in America,[168] the Brethren in Christ,[169] the Mennonite Church USA,[170] the Roman Catholic Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church,[171] the Southern Baptist Convention,[172] the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU),[173] and the United Pentecostal Church International. In 2009, a group of Christian leaders from various denominations issued the Manhattan Declaration, an "influential statement that united evangelicals and Catholic leaders in fighting abortion and gay marriage"; as of November 2010, the Declaration had been signed by over 475,000 individuals.[174][175]

Christian supporters of same-sex marriage have stated that marriage rights for same-sex couples strengthens the institution of marriage and provides legal protection for children of gay and lesbian parents.[citation needed] Bible-based arguments for same-sex marriage rights include that the word "homosexual", as found in modern versions of the Bible, is an inaccurate translation of the original texts.[176][177] The word "Homosexual" as used in modern translations of the Holy Bible may be a transliteration and not a direct translation of the original text; Neither Vine's Expository Dictionary nor Strong's Concordance (two significant bible reference works) contain the word "homosexual,". There is no direct biblical prohibition of marriage rights for same-sex couples.[178] The Christian Bible does not define the institution of marriage. Biblical texts used by non-affirming Christian organizations to condemn homosexuality, and by extension same-sex marriage, may refer only to specific sex acts and idolatrous worship lacking any relevance to contemporary same-sex relationships.[179] Supporting marriage rights for gays and lesbians is viewed by many affirming Christians as a Christ-like commitment to the equality and dignity of all persons.[180][181][182] The United Church of Canada asserts that "human sexual orientations, whether heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual, are a gift from God",[183] whilst the Yearly Meeting of Quakers in the United Kingdom decided to offer same-sex marriages, though national law permits only civil partnerships.[citation needed]

On July 4, 2005 the United Church of Christ (UCC), at their 25th General Synod, voted to support full legal and religious marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples making it the first mainline Christian denomination in the United States to support and promote same sex marriage equality.[citation needed] The UCC is a liberal Christian denomination with a long history of supporting gay rights, women's rights, African-American civil rights and other issues of social justice.[citation needed]

Unitarian Universalism, a liberal faith tradition, supports same-sex marriage.[184] It has taken an active role advocating for LGBT rights and same-sex marriages are often performed in UU congregations.[citation needed]

In addition to the churches that have already included gays and lesbians in their marriage tradition, others including the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Church of Scotland are discussing the issue among their members.

Judaism, like Christianity, contains varying views on the issue of marriage rights, both politically and religiously, for same-sex couples.[citation needed] Some Orthodox Jews maintain the traditional Jewish bans on both sexual acts and marriages amongst members of the same sex,[185] but other orthodox rabbis, such as Steven Greenberg, disagree.[citation needed] Some Conservative Jews reject recognition of same-sex unions as marriages, but permit celebration of commitment ceremonies, while others recognize same-sex marriage.[186] The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) supports the inclusion of same-sex unions within the definition of marriage.[187] The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation leaves the choice to individual rabbis.[188]

From the Islamic perspective, a majority of Muslim legal scholars cite the rulings of the prophet Muhammad and the story of Lot in Sodom as condemnation of homosexuality. Given that Islam views marriage as an exchange between two parties where the man offers protection and security in return for exclusive sexual and reproductive rights to the woman, same-sex marriages cannot be considered legal within the constraints of a Muslim marriage.[189]

Buddhist scripture and teachings do not take a consistent stance against homosexuality, and do not specifically proscribe nor endorse same-sex marriage; thus, there is no unified stance for or against the practice.[190]

Some Wiccan communities are supportive of same-sex marriages, but as Wicca is a non-dogmatic and non-monolithic religious movement, there is no unity of opinion or official position on the subject.[191][192]

Children and the family

Literature indicates that parents' financial, psychological and physical well-being is enhanced by marriage and that children benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally recognized union.[10][12][193][194] Scientific research has been consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.[195][196][197] According to scientific literature reviews, there is no evidence to the contrary.[198][199][200][10][201]

Maggie Gallagher and Margaret Somerville argue that a child has a right to be raised by a father and a mother, and that legalizing same-sex marriage undermines that right.[25][202]

Education controversy

The subject of how the legalization of same-sex marriage affects public education is a source of controversy.[203][204] An argument sometimes used by supporters is that teaching about same-sex marriage in schools will help children to be more open minded by exposing them to different types of families.[205] There is concern from opponents of same-sex marriage that it will undermine parental rights over their children's education.[206][207]

Same-sex marriage opponents express concern that the information being presented in schools might not be accurate,[208][209] might omit medical, psychological and legal impacts of homosexuality,[210] and might be age-inappropriate.[211] There has also been concern that educators who disagree with same-sex marriage curricula could be punished.[210][212][213]

Effects of same-sex marriage

The American Psychological Association stated in 2004:[6]

The institution of civil marriage confers a social status and important legal benefits, rights, and privileges. ... Same-sex couples are denied equal access to civil marriage. ... Same-sex couples who enter into a civil union are denied equal access to all the benefits, rights, and privileges provided by federal law to married couples ... The benefits, rights, and privileges associated with domestic partnerships are not universally available, are not equal to those associated with marriage, and are rarely portable ... Denial of access to marriage to same-sex couples may especially harm people who also experience discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender and gender identity, religion, and socioeconomic status ... the APA believes that it is unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage and to all its attendant benefits, rights, and privileges.

The American Sociological Association stated in 2004:[9]

... a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman intentionally discriminates against lesbians and gay men as well as their children and other dependents by denying access to the protections, benefits, and responsibilities extended automatically to married couples ... we believe that the official justification for the proposed constitutional amendment is based on prejudice rather than empirical research ... the American Sociological Association strongly opposes the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Canadian Psychological Association stated in 2006:[11]

The literature (including the literature on which opponents to marriage of same-sex couples appear to rely) indicates that parents' financial, psychological and physical well-being is enhanced by marriage and that children benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally-recognized union. As the CPA stated in 2003, the stressors encountered by gay and lesbian parents and their children are more likely the result of the way society treats them than because of any deficiencies in fitness to parent. The CPA recognizes and appreciates that persons and institutions are entitled to their opinions and positions on this issue. However, CPA is concerned that some are mis-interpreting the findings of psychological research to support their positions, when their positions are more accurately based on other systems of belief or values. CPA asserts that children stand to benefit from the well-being that results when their parents' relationship is recognized and supported by society's institutions.

The American Anthropological Association stated in 2005:[14]

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

The United Kingdom's Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated the following. The statement uses the term "civil partnership" and not gay marriage.[214]

... lesbian, gay and bisexual people are and should be regarded as valued members of society who have exactly similar [sic] rights and responsibilities as all other citizens. This includes ... the rights and responsibilities involved in a civil partnership ...

Health issues

Recently, several psychological studies[215][216][217] have shown that an increase in exposure to negative conversations and media messages about same-sex marriage creates a harmful environment for the LGBT population that may affect their health and well-being.

In 2010, a Mailman School of Public Health study examining the effects of institutional discrimination on the psychiatric health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals found an increase in psychiatric disorders, including a more than doubling of anxiety disorders, among the LGB population living in states that instituted bans on same-sex marriage. According to the author the study highlighted the importance of abolishing institutional forms of discrimination, including those leading to disparities in the mental health and well-being of LGB individuals. Institutional discrimination is characterized by societal-level conditions that limit the opportunities and access to resources by socially disadvantaged groups.[218][219]

Gay activist Jonathan Rauch has argued that marriage is good for all men, whether homosexual or heterosexual, because engaging in its social roles reduces men's aggression and promiscuity.[220][221] The data of current psychological and other social science studies on same-sex marriage in comparison to opposite-sex marriage indicate that same-sex and opposite-sex relationships do not differ in their essential psychosocial dimensions; that a parent's sexual orientation is unrelated to their ability to provide a healthy and nurturing family environment; and that marriage bestows substantial psychological, social, and health benefits. Same-sex couples and their children are likely to benefit in numerous ways from legal recognition of their families, and providing such recognition through marriage will bestow greater benefit than civil unions or domestic partnerships.[222][198]

In 2009, a pair of economists at Emory University tied the passage of state bans on same-sex marriage in the US to an increase in the rates of HIV infection.[223][224] The study linked the passage of same-sex marriage ban in a state to an increase in the annual HIV rate within that state of roughly 4 cases per 100,000 population.[225]

Legal issues

Fictional same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriages and relationships have been a theme in several fictional story arcs, mythology, cult classics, and video games. In the video games Fable II[226] and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim[227] same-sex marriage is possible.

There has been some debate as to whether same-sex marriage is legal in the Star Trek universe, as there is very little mention of homosexuality in Star Trek, but during The Next Generation[228] and the Voyager[229] series, rumors often circulated around the topic. The independent fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier actually had a same-sex marriage ceremony in the series finale, but this is completely non-canon.[230]

Caprica, a spin-off series within the Battlestar Galactica saga and primary setting of the series is fairly liberal in regards to homosexual relationships and polygamy. Sam Adama, a prominent character in the series is married to another man.[231] Clarice Willow, another major character has several wives, as well as husbands, in her polygamous marriage.

See also


U.S. specific


Documentaries and literature


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