Same-sex marriage

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Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships


South Africa

Performed in some jurisdictions

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

Recognized, not performed

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

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Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships


South Africa

Performed in some jurisdictions

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

Recognized, not performed

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

LGBT portal

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

Since 2001, eleven countries (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden) and some sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Mexico and the United States) have begun to allow same-sex couples to marry. Introduction of same-sex marriage has varied by jurisdiction, resulting from legislative changes to marriage laws or from court challenges based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or a combination of the two. The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political, social, civil-rights and religious issue in many nations, and debates continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed marriage, be required to hold a different status (a civil union), or not have any such rights.

Same-sex marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. Various religious groups around the world practise same-sex marriages, including Quakers, Episcopalians, Reform Jews, Wiccans, Druids, Unitarian Universalists and Native Americans with a two-spirit tradition.

Studies conducted in several countries indicate that better-educated people are more likely to support the legalization of same-sex marriage than the less-educated, and younger people are more likely to support it than older generations.[2][3]



LGBT flag

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. The recognition of same-sex marriages is a civil rights, equality, human rights, political, social, moral, and religious issue in many nations. Debates 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.[4][5][6]

Eleven countries (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden) allow same-sex couples to marry nationwide. Same-sex marriages are also performed and recognized in Mexico City, Quintana Roo, and parts of the United States. Some jurisdictions that do not perform same-sex marriages but recognize it being performed elsewhere include: Israel, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, parts of the United States, Mexico, and Uruguay.[7] Australia recognizes same-sex marriages only if one partner has had gender reassignment therapy.[8]

Some analysts state 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.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

Some organizations have described same-sex marriage as a universal human rights issue, equality before the law,[18] and of normalizing LGBT relationships.[19][20][21] Several authors attribute opposition to same-sex marriage as coming from homophobia[22][23][24][25] or heterosexism and liken prohibitions on same-sex marriage to past prohibitions on interracial marriage between blacks and whites.[26]


Lesbian married couple in San Francisco

LGBT parenting

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.[13][14][15][27] Scientific research has been generally 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.[14][28][29] According to scientific literature reviews, there is no evidence to the contrary.[30][31][32][33]


Same-sex marriage can remove legal obstacles to the adoption of children by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. Adoption can take the form of a joint adoption by a same-sex couple or adoption by one member of a same-sex couple of the other's biological child (step-parent adoption).

Surrogacy and fertility treatment

A gay man has the option of surrogacy, the process in which a woman bears a child for another person through artificial insemination or carries another woman's surgically implanted fertilized egg to birth. A lesbian has the option of artificial insemination.[34][35]


A same-sex wedding ceremony on June 2006.

The American Psychological Association stated in 2004:[9]

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:[12]

... 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:[14]

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:[17]

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 American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in 2006, in an analysis published in the journal Pediatrics:[30]

There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and any measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment. These data have demonstrated no risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with 1 or more gay parents. Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families.

The United Kingdom's Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated:[36]

... 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 ...


In 2010, a Columbia University 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.[37][38]

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.[39][40] 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.[30][41]

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.[42][43] The study linked the passage of a 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.[44]


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[45] 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.[46]

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.[47]

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.[48]

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.[49]

Studies and polling

Polling and studies on the issue has been conducted throughout the first decade of the 21st century as well as before. These polls and studies have shown a consistent trend of increasing support for same-sex marriage across the world. Many developed countries achieved a majority of people in support of same-sex marriage in the first decade of the 21st century. Support for legalization has increased across every age group, political ideology, religion, gender, race, and region of various developed countries in the world.[50][51][52][53][54]

Various detailed polls and studies about same-sex marriage conducted in several countries generally show that support for same-sex marriage increases with higher levels of education, and that younger people are more likely to support the legalization of it than older generations.[55][56][57][58][59] Polls show the most right-wing religious people are more likely to oppose it.[60] In each U.S. state to hold a voter referendum on the issue, the public has rejected same-sex marriage laws by a small majority.[61] However, recent polls indicate that more than half of Americans support same-sex marriage, approximately 53%.[50][62][63] Several polls and studies have shown that people who personally know a person who is gay are much more likely to support LGBT rights and same-sex marriage than those who do not.[62]



Emperor Nero is reported to have married at least two men on different occasions.

In the southern Chinese province of Fujian, through the Ming dynasty period, females would bind themselves in contracts to younger females in elaborate ceremonies.[64] Males also entered similar arrangements. This type of arrangement was also similar in ancient European history.[65]

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.[66]

The first historical mention of the performance of same-sex marriages occurred during the early Roman Empire.[67] 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.[68] These were usually reported in a critical or satirical manner.[69] 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).[70] 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."[71] 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.[72] 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.[73]

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 16 April 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.[74]


In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriages.[75] Same-sex marriages are also granted and mutually recognized by Belgium (2003),[76] Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010),[77] Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010) and Denmark (2012). In Mexico, same-sex marriage is recognized in all 31 states but only performed in Mexico City and in Quintana Roo State. In Nepal, their recognition has been judicially mandated but not yet legislated.[78] 250 million people (or 4% of the world population) live in areas that recognize same-sex marriage.[79]

Current status

Legal recognition

Same-sex marriage is legally recognized nationwide in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, 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 of the fifty states and one district. In all 28 states where the issue was put to the voters, marriage was restricted to one man and one woman. In Mexico, same-sex marriages are only performed in Mexico City and Quintana Roo, but these marriages are recognized by all Mexican states and by the Mexican federal government.[80] Israel does not recognize same-sex marriages performed on its territory, but recognizes same-sex marriages performed in foreign jurisdictions. Same-sex couples had their civil unions converted into marriage in several Brazil states with the approval of a state judge. If approved, that marriage is recognized in all the national territory.[81]

Homosexual acts legal
  Same-sex marriage
  Marriage recognized but not performed
  Other type of partnership (or unregistered cohabitation)
  Same-sex unions not recognized
Homosexual acts illegal
  De jure penalty, but de facto not enforced
  Minimal penalty
  Heavy penalty
  Up to life in prison
  Up to death

Rings indicate local or case-by-case application.


On 15 July 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.[82] Polls showed that nearly 70% of Argentines supported giving gay people the same marital rights as heterosexuals.[83]


Belgium became the second country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriages on 1 June 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.


Brazil's Supreme Court ruled in May 2011 that same-sex couples are legally entitled to civil unions, stopping short of same-sex marriage.[84] Same-sex couples had their civil unions converted into marriage in several Brazil states with the approval of a state judge. If approved, that marriage is recognized in all the national territory.[81]


A Canadian couple on their wedding day.

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 14 January 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."


On 7 June 2012 the Folketing (Danish parliament) approved new laws regarding same-sex civil and religious marriage. These laws permit gay and lesbians couples to get married in the Church of Denmark. The bills received Royal Assent on 12 June and took effect on 15 June 2012.[85]


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 11 June 2010, and took effect on 27 June 2010, replacing an earlier system of registered partnerships for same-sex couples.[86][87] Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and her partner were among first married same-sex couples in the country.[88]


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. A bill to legalize same-sex and interfaith civil marriages was defeated in the Knesset 39-11, on 16 May 2012.[89]


On 21 December 2009, the Federal District'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.[90] On 10 August 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.[91]

On 28 November 2011, the first two same-sex marriages occurred in Quintana Roo after discovering that Quintana Roo's Civil Code did not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage,[92] but these marriages were later annulled by the governor of Quintana Roo in April 2012.[93] In May 2012, the Secretary of State of Quintana Roo reversed the annulments and allowed for future same-sex marriages to be performed in the state.[94]

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 1 April 2001.[95]

In the Netherlands' Caribbean special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, marriage is presently restricted to heterosexual couples;[96] however, a law enabling same-sex couples to marry has been passed and is planned to come into effect by 10 October 2012.[97] 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 1 January 2009 when a gender neutral marriage bill was enacted after being passed by the Norwegian legislature in June 2008.[98][99] 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 8 January 2010, the parliament approved, with 126 votes in favor, 97 against and 7 abstentions, same-sex marriage. The President promulgated the law on 8 April, same-sex marriage become legal since 5 June 2010, thus Portugal became the eighth country to conduct nationwide same-sex marriage.

South Africa

Same-sex wedding in South Africa, 2007

Legal recognition of same-sex marriages in South Africa came about as a result of the Constitutional Court's decision in the case of Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie. The court ruled on 1 December 2005 that the existing marriage laws violated the equality clause of the Bill of Rights because they discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. The court gave Parliament one year to rectify the inequality. The Civil Union Act was passed by the National Assembly on 14 November 2006, by a vote of 230 to 41, and it came into force on 30 November 2006. South Africa is 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 3 July 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.[100] 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,[101] 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, 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.[102][103]

United States

Although same-sex marriages are not recognized federally in the United States, 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.[104][105] Same-sex marriage laws have also passed in Washington and Maryland, but they are not yet in effect.[106][107] Each will be subject to a voter referendum in each state election, held concurrently with the 2012 general election.[108] The states of New Jersey, Maryland, and Rhode Island do not grant same-sex marriages, but recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, as does California in some cases, particularly those established when the state briefly allowed same-sex marriage in 2008. Also, several states offer civil unions or domestic partnerships, granting all or part of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage.[109][110] Thirty-one states have constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman.[111]

The U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, defining marriage for the first time solely as a union between a man and a woman for all federal purposes, and allowing states to refuse to recognize such marriages created in other states.[112] Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning (2005), holding that prohibiting recognition of same-sex relationships violated the Constitution, was overturned on appeal by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals 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." The Washington Supreme Court, also in 2006, concluded that encouraging procreation within the framework of marriage can be seen as a legitimate government interest furthered by limiting marriage to between opposite-sex couples.[113]

In 2010, the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that 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.[114] Since then, seven federal courts have found that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution in issues including bankruptcy, public employee benefits, estate taxes, and immigration.[115][116][117] Currently, five of those cases are awaiting a response for review in the U.S. Supreme Court.[118]

President Barack Obama announced on 9 May 2012 that he supports same-sex marriage.[119][120] Obama also supports the full repeal of DOMA,[121] and called the state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in California (2008)[122] and North Carolina (2012) unnecessary.[123] In 2011, the Obama Administration concluded that DOMA was unconstitutional and directed the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) to stop defending the law in court.[124] Subsequently, Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, announced that the House would defend DOMA. The law firm hired to represent the House soon withdrew from defending the law, requiring the House to retain replacement counsel.[125] In the past two decades, public support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased,[50] and polls indicate that more than half of Americans support same-sex marriage.[50][62][63]

Subject debated


Australia currently bans recognition of same-sex marriages, although as of 2011 the federal Labor Party government officially changed its position to allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard's opposition to such a vote.[126] The Liberal Party is opposed to same-sex marriage, and its leader Tony Abbott said he will block a conscience vote on the issue.[127]

In February 2010, the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's Marriage Equality Bill was rejected by the Senate.[128] 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.[129] A Greens motion urging federal MPs to gauge community support for same-sex marriage was passed by the House of Representatives on 18 November 2010.[130]

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, Queensland 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.[131]

In September 2010 Tasmania became the first Australian state to recognise same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, though only as de facto status.[132]


The Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China explicitly defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. No other form of civil union is recognized. The attitude of the Chinese government towards homosexuality is believed to be "three nos": "No approval; no disapproval; no promotion." The Ministry of Health officially removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 2001.

Li Yinhe, a sociologist and sexologist well known in the Chinese gay community, has tried to legalize same-sex marriage several times, including during the National People's Congress in 2000 and 2004 (Legalization for Same-Sex Marriage 《中国同性婚姻合法化》 in 2000 and the Same-Sex Marriage Bill 《中国同性婚姻提案》 in 2004). According to Chinese law, 35 delegates' signatures are needed to make an issue a bill to be discussed in the Congress. Her efforts failed due to lack of support from the delegates. A government spokesperson, when asked about Li Yinhe's proposal, said that same-sex marriage was still too "ahead of time" for China. He argued that same-sex marriage was not recognized even in many Western countries, which are considered much more liberal in social issues than China.[133] This statement is understood as an implication that the government may consider recognition of same-sex marriage in the long run, but not in the near future.


On Tuesday 26 July 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 20 June 2013) automatically.[134]


Finland may legalize same-sex marriage after the 2011 parliamentary elections; Minister of Justice Tuija Brax said her Ministry was preparing to amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage by 2012.[135]


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.[136] Also, the French National Assembly voted against same-sex marriage on 15 June 2011.

Following the election of François Hollande as President of France and the subsequent legislative election in which the Socialist party took a majority of seats in the French National Assembly, the new Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated that a same-sex marriage bill would be passed and said that it had already been drafted.[137]


In June, 2011, Germany faced a vote on same-sex marriage. The issue was opened by the senate of the city-state of Hamburg, and would be voted on in the Federal Bundesrat.


The current government of Luxembourg intends to legalize same-sex marriage.[138]


In November 2008, Nepal's highest court issued final judgment on matters related to LGBT rights, which included permitting gay couples to marry. Same-sex marriage and protection for sexual minorities were to be included in the new Nepalese constitution required to be completed by 31 May 2012.[139][140] However, the legislature was unable to agree on the constitution before the deadline and was dissolved after the Supreme Court ruled that the term could not be extended.[141]

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. However the 2005 Civil Union Act allows same-sex and opposite sex couples to have a civil union which under the law is identical to a marriage, with the exception that same-sex couples cannot jointly apply to adopt.


In 2006, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced legislation that prohibits same-sex marriages and criminalizes anyone who "performs, witnesses, aids or abets" such ceremonies.[142] 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.[143]


In the process of rewriting the Turkish constitution, the opposition party BDP, called for the liberalization of the marriage policies, which would include same sex marriage. The biggest opposition party in the Turkish parliament, CHP, supported the idea. The largest party in the parliament, the AKP, is against same sex marriage, although Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the leader of the AKP, supported full equal rights for LGBT citizens in 2002. Same sex marriage will soon be discussed again by members of the parliament, since all political parties gather in committees to establish a new constitution.[144][145]

United Kingdom

Since 2005 same-sex couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships, a separate union which provides the legal consequences of marriage. In 2006 the High Court rejected a legal bid by a British lesbian couple who had married in Canada to have their union recognised as a marriage in the UK and not as a civil partnership. In September 2011, the Coalition government announced its intention to introduce same-sex civil marriage by the next general election.[146] In June 2012 the UK government completed a consultation to allow both religious same-sex ceremonies and civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales with the intention of legalising same-sex marriage at some point by 2015.[147]

The Scottish Government conducted a three month long consultation which ended on 9 December 2011 and the analysis was published in July 2012.[148] Unlike the consultation held in England and Wales, Scotland considered both civil and religious same-sex marriage. Whilst the Scottish Government is in favour of same-sex marriage, it stated that no religious body would be forced to hold such ceremonies once legislation is enacted.[149] The consultation received more than 77,000 responses, and in July the Scottish Cabinet announced plans to introduce legislation to legalise both civil and religious same-sex marriage.[150]

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.[151] 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.[152]

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.[153]

Civil union, civil partnership, domestic partnership, registered partnership, unregistered partnership, and unregistered cohabitation statuses offer varying legal benefits of marriage and are available to same-sex couples in: Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.[154][155]

They are also available in parts of Mexico (Coahuila and Mexico City) and the United States (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Washington, and federal District of Columbia).[156][157] In some countries with these legal recognitions, the actual benefits are minimal. Many people consider civil unions, even those that grant equal rights, inadequate because they create a separate status, and believe they should be replaced by gender-neutral marriage.[158]


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,[159] 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.[160] Some supporters of same-sex marriages take the view that the government should have no role in regulating personal relationships,[161] while others argue that same-sex marriages would provide social benefits to same-sex couples.[162] 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.


Anthropologists have struggled to determine a definition of marriage that absorbs commonalities of the social construct across cultures around the world.[163][164] 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.[164][165][166]

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.[167][168] The Oxford English Dictionary has recognized same-sex marriage since 2000.[169]

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.[170] Jennifer Roback Morse, the president of the anti-same-sex marriage group National Organization for Marriage's Ruth Institute project,[171] claims that the conflation of marriage with contractual agreements is a threat to marriage.[172]

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.[173][174]

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.[175][176][177] Anti-same-sex-marriage activist Maggie Gallagher argues that equating same-sex and opposite-sex marriages changes the meaning of marriage and its traditions.[178]

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.[179] Cliff Kincaid of the conservative 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.[180] Same-sex marriage supporters argue that the use of scare quotes is an editorialization that implies illegitimacy.[181]

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.[182][183]

Same-sex marriage also can be described with the term homogamous marriage,[184] in the scientific tradition of Greek and Latin terms for family type.

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.[185] 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.[186]


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 whether same-sex marriage affects freedom of religion.[159][187][188][189][190][191][192] Some religious organizations (citing their religious beliefs) refuse to provide employment, public accommodations, adoption services and other benefits to same-sex couples.[193][194] Some governments have made special provisions for religious protections within the texts of same-sex marriage laws.[195]

Pope John Paul II, then head of the Roman Catholic church, criticized same-sex marriage[196] 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".[197][198] In Christian circles, the argument about same-sex marriage hinges upon whether homosexuality itself is a sinful act. Some Mosaic arguments against homosexuality are based upon Bible passages that discuss the fate of Sodom,[199] command that one "not lie with mankind, as with womankind",[200][201][202][203] while others are based upon New Testament passages on topics of people going against "natural use" in their lust,[204] the "unrighteous",[205] and the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.[202][203][206] Some Christian groups have been vocal and politically active in opposing same-sex marriage legalization in the United States,[207][208] claiming that marriage, by definition, necessarily involves the uniting of two members of the opposite sex,[209] and that same-gender sexual activity is contrary to God's will,[210][211][212] immoral,[213] and subverts God's creative intent for human sexuality.[214] Christian opponents have based their objections, in part, on citations from the New Testament, including Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9.[207][215]

Christian supporters of same-sex marriage have stated that marriage rights for same-sex couples strengthens the institution of marriage by providing legal protection for children of gay and lesbian parents, and view their support as a Christ-like commitment to the equality and dignity of all persons.[216][217][218] Supporters claim that the word "homosexual", as found in modern versions of the Bible, is an inaccurate translation of the original texts.[219][220] Neither Vine's Expository Dictionary nor Strong's Concordance (two significant Bible reference works) contain the word "homosexual," and there is no direct biblical prohibition of marriage rights for same-sex couples.[221] Some churches, like the Metropolitan Community Church, believe that the biblical texts used to condemn homosexuality and same-sex marriage refer only to specific sex acts and idolatrous worship, and lack any relevance to contemporary same-sex relationships.[222] In 1986 the Dutch progressive protestant church Remonstrant Brotherhood became the first Christian church in the world to bless same-sex marriages.[223] In 2005, the United Church of Christ (UCC) 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 do so.[224] The United Church of Canada states that "human sexual orientations, whether heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual, are a gift from God".[225] Unitarian Universalism, a liberal faith tradition, supports same-sex marriage,[226] and has taken an active role advocating for LGBT rights.[227] The Yearly Meeting of Quakers in the United Kingdom decided to offer same-sex marriages, though national law permits only civil partnerships.[228] In addition to the churches already including 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.[224]

Many Orthodox Jews, including the Rabbinical Council of America[229] maintain the traditional Jewish bans on both sexual acts and marriages amongst members of the same sex,[230][231] but other orthodox rabbis, such as Steven Greenberg, disagree.[232] In the Australian Jewish journal Galus Australis, Rachel Sacks-Davis has criticised Orthodox rabbis who have come out against same-sex civil marriage, stating that these rabbis have failed to grasp the concept of separation between church and state.[233] Some Conservative Jews reject recognition of same-sex unions as marriages, but permit celebration of commitment ceremonies, while others recognize same-sex marriage.[234] 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.[235] The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation leaves the choice to individual rabbis.[236]

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 have not been considered legal within the constraints of Muslim marriage.[237]

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.[238] Many 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.[239][240]

Fictional same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriages and relationships have been a theme in several fictional story arcs, mythology, cult classics, and video games. Same-sex marriage is possible in an increasing number of modern video games including: Fable II,[241] The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,[242] Fallout 2,[243] and The Sims 3.[244]

While there is very little mention of homosexuality in the official works of the Star Trek franchise, the independent fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier featured a same-sex marriage ceremony in the series finale.[245]

Caprica, a spin-off series within the Battlestar Galactica saga and primary setting of the series features Sam Adama, a prominent character who is married to another man.[246]

In issue #51 of the Astonishing X-Men comic series, the superhero Jean-Paul Beaubier married his partner Kyle Jinadu, making him the first character in history to have a same-sex marriage in a mainstream comic book.[247]

See also


U.S. specific


Documentaries and literature


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