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|Legal recognition of|
*Not yet in effect
|Legal recognition of|
*Not yet in effect
Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage) is marriage between two people of the same biological sex and/or gender identity. Legal recognition of same-sex marriage or the possibility to perform a same-sex marriage is sometimes referred to as marriage equality or equal marriage, particularly by supporters. The legalization of same-sex marriage is characterized as "redefining marriage" by many opponents.
The first laws enabling same-sex marriage in modern times were enacted during the first decade of the 21st century. As of 28 June 2014[update], sixteen countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark,[nb 1] France, Iceland, Netherlands,[nb 2] New Zealand,[nb 3] Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom,[nb 4] Uruguay) and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Mexico and the United States) allow same-sex couples to marry. The law in Luxembourg will come into force on 1 January 2015. Polls in various countries show that there is rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage across race, ethnicity, age, religion, political affiliation, and socioeconomic status.
Introduction of same-sex marriage laws has varied by jurisdiction, being variously accomplished through a legislative change to marriage laws, a court ruling based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or by direct popular vote (via a ballot initiative or a referendum). The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political, social, human rights and civil rights issue, as well as a religious issue in many nations and around the world, and debates continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed marriage, or instead be allowed to hold a different status (a civil union), or be denied such rights. Same-sex marriage can provide same-sex couples who pay their taxes with government services and make financial demands on them comparable to those afforded to and required of opposite-sex married couples. Same-sex marriage also gives them legal protections such as inheritance and hospital visitation rights.
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. 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. 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.
Same-sex marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. Various faith communities around the world support allowing same-sex couples to marry or conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies; for example: Buddhism in Australia, Church of Sweden, Conservative Judaism, U.S. Episcopalians, Humanistic Judaism, Native American religions with a two-spirit tradition, Druids, the Metropolitan Community Church, Quakers, Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, and Wiccans, as well as various other progressive and modern Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish groups and various minor religions and other denominations.
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.
... 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 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 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.
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.
... 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.
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. The data of current psychological and other social science studies on same-sex marriage in comparison to mixed-sex marriage indicate that same-sex and mixed-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.
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. 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.
Numerous polls and studies on the issue have been conducted, including those that were completed throughout the first decade of the 21st century. A consistent trend of increasing support for same-sex marriage has been revealed across the world. Much of the research that was conducted in developed countries in the first decade of the 21st century shows a majority of people in support of same-sex marriage. Support for legal same-sex marriage has increased across every age group, political ideology, religion, gender, race and region of various developed countries in the world.
Recent polling in the United States has shown a further increase in public support for same-sex marriage. When adults were asked in 2005 if they thought "marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages", 28 percent replied in the affirmative, while 68 percent replied in the negative (the remaining 4 percent stated that they were unsure). When adults were asked in March 2013 if they supported or opposed same-sex marriage, 50 percent said they supported same-sex marriage, while 41 percent were opposed, and the remaining 9 percent stated that they were unsure. Various detailed polls and studies on same-sex marriage that were conducted in several countries show that support for same-sex marriage generally increases with higher levels of education, and that younger people are more likely to support legalization than older generations.
The first historical mention of the performance of same-sex marriages occurred during the early Roman Empire according to controversial historian John Boswell. These were usually reported in a critical or satirical manner. Child emperor Elagabalus referred to his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria named Hierocles, as his husband. He also married an athlete named Zoticus in a lavish public ceremony in Rome amidst the rejoicings of the citizens.
The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who is reported to have married two other males on different occasions. His first marriage was with one of his freedmen, Pythagoras, with whom Nero took the role of the bride. Later, as a groom, Nero married Sporus, a young boy, to replace the teenage female concubine he had killed  and married him in a very public ceremony with all the solemnities of matrimony, after which Sporus was forced to pretend to be the female concubine that Nero had killed and act as though they were really married. A friend gave the "bride" away as required by law. The marriage was celebrated in both Greece and Rome in extravagant public ceremonies.
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 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). Furthermore, according to Susan Treggiari, "matrimonium was then an institution involving a mother, mater. The idea implicit in the word is that a man took a woman in marriage, in matrimonium ducere, so that he might have children by her." Still, the lack of legal validity notwithstanding, there is a consensus among modern historians that same-sex relationships existed in ancient Rome, but the frequency and nature of "same-sex unions" during that period are obscure.
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.
Denmark was the first state to recognize a legal relationship for same-sex couples, establishing "registered partnerships" very much like marriage in 1989. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriages are also granted and mutually recognized by Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Brazil (2013), France (2013), Uruguay (2013), New Zealand (2013) and England & Wales (2014). In Mexico, same-sex marriage is recognized in all 31 states but only performed in Mexico City, Quintana Roo and Chihuahua. In Nepal, their recognition has been judicially mandated but not yet legislated. In the United States, nineteen states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage, beginning with Massachusetts in 2004. Additionally, per the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Windsor (2013), the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages performed in U.S. states where it is legal.
|2001||Netherlands (1 April)|
|2003||Belgium (1 June), Ontario (10 June), British Columbia (8 July)|
|2004||Sandoval County, New Mexico (20 February; discontinued, reinstated by statewide legalization 19 December 2013), Quebec (19 March), Massachusetts (17 May), Yukon (14 July), Manitoba (16 September), Nova Scotia (24 September), Saskatchewan (5 November), Newfoundland (21 December)|
|2005||New Brunswick (23 June), Spain (3 July), Canada [national] (20 July)|
|2006||South Africa (30 November)|
|2008||California (16 June, discontinued 5 November; reinstated 28 June 2013), Connecticut (12 November)|
|2009||Norway (1 January), Iowa (27 April), Sweden (1 May), Coquille Indian Tribe (Oregon) (May), Vermont (1 September)|
|2010||New Hampshire (1 January), District of Columbia (3 March), Mexican Federal District (4 March), Portugal (5 June), Iceland (27 June), Argentina (22 July)|
|2011||New York (24 July), Suquamish tribe (Washington) (1 August)|
|2012||Alagoas (6 January), Quintana Roo (May), Denmark (15 June), Santa Rita do Sapucaí, Minas Gerais (11 July), Sergipe (15 July), Espírito Santo (15 August), Caribbean Netherlands (10 October), Bahia (26 November), Brazilian Federal District (1 December), Washington (6 December), Piauí (15 December), Maine (29 December)|
|2013||Maryland (1 January), São Paulo (16 February), Ceará & Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians [Michigan] (15 March), Paraná (26 March), Mato Grosso do Sul (2 April), Rondônia (26 April), Santa Catarina & Paraíba (29 April), Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians [Michigan] (8 May), Brazil [national] (16 May), France (18 May), Santa Ysabel Tribe [California] (24 June), California (28 June), Delaware (1 July), Minnesota & Rhode Island (1 August), Uruguay (5 August), New Zealand (19 August), Doña Ana County, New Mexico (21 August), Santa Fe County, New Mexico (23 August), Bernalillo County, New Mexico (26 August), San Miguel County, New Mexico & Valencia County, New Mexico (27 August), Taos County, New Mexico (28 August), Los Alamos County, New Mexico (4 September), Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation [Washington] (5 September), Grant County, New Mexico (9 September), Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes [Oklahoma] (18 October), New Jersey (21 October), Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe [Minnesota] (15 November), Hawaii (2 December), |
|2014||Cook County, Illinois (21 February), England and Wales (13 March), Michigan (21 March, discontinued 22 March), Arkansas (9 May, discontinued 16 May), Oregon (19 May), Pennsylvania (20 May), Illinois [Statewide] (1 June), Wisconsin (6 June, discontinued 13 June), Indiana (25 June, discontinued 27 June), Colorado (25 August), The Fourth Circuit i.e. Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia (28 August)|
|Unspecified Date||Scotland [Expected date: late 2014], Luxembourg [Expected date: 1 January 2015]|
In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Schalk and Kopf v Austria, a case involving an Austrian same-sex couple who were denied the right to marry. The court found that their human rights had not been violated, with a result of 3 votes for and 4 votes against.
British judge Sir Nicolas Bratza, then head of the European Court of Human Rights, delivered a speech in 2012 that signalled the court was ready to declare same-sex marriage a 'human right', as soon as enough countries fell into line.
Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that: "Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right", not limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
Same-sex marriage is legally recognized nationwide in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark,[nb 1] France, Iceland, the Netherlands,[nb 2] New Zealand,[nb 3] Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay and the United Kingdom.[nb 4] The law in Luxembourg will come into force on 1 January 2015. In the United States, same-sex marriages are recognized on the federal level, though same-sex couples can only marry in nineteen of the fifty states and Washington D.C. In Mexico, same-sex marriages are only performed regularly in Mexico City and Quintana Roo, but these marriages are recognized by all Mexican states and by the Mexican federal government. Israel does not recognize same-sex marriages performed on their territory, but recognize same-sex marriages performed in foreign jurisdictions.
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. Polls showed that nearly 70% of Argentines supported giving gay people the same marital rights as heterosexuals. The law came into effect on 22 July 2010.
Belgium became the second country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriages when a bill passed by the Belgian Federal Parliament took effect on 1 June 2003. 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 statute legalized adoption by same-sex spouses.
Brazil's Supreme Court ruled in May 2011 that same-sex couples are legally entitled to legal recognition of cohabitation (known as união estável, one of the two possible family entities in Brazilian legislation, it includes all family and married couple rights in Brazil – besides automatic opt-in for one of four systems of property share and automatic right to inheritance –, and was available for all same-sex couples since the same date), turning same-sex marriage legally possible as a consequence, and just stopping short of equalization of same-sex marriage (potentially confusing, a civil marriage or casamento civil is often rendered as união civil in legal Brazilian Portuguese; a same-sex marriage is a casamento civil homoafetivo or a união civil homoafetiva).
Between mid-2011 and May 2013, same-sex couples had their cohabitation issues converted into marriage in several Brazil states with the approval of a state judge. All legal Brazilian marriages were always recognized all over Brazil.
In November 2012, the Court of Bahia equalized marriage in the state of Bahia. In December 2012, the state of São Paulo likewise had same-sex marriage allowed in demand by Court order. Same-sex marriages also became equalized in relation to mixed-sex ones between January 2012 and April 2013 by Court order in Alagoas, Ceará, Espírito Santo, the Federal District, Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraíba, Paraná, Piauí, Rondônia, Santa Catarina and Sergipe, and in Santa Rita do Sapucaí, a municipality in Minas Gerais; in Rio de Janeiro, the State Court facilitated its realization by district judges in agreement with the equalization (instead of ordering notaries to accept same-sex marriages in demand as all others).
On 14 May 2013, The Justice's National Council of Brazil issues a ruling requiring all civil registers of the country to perform same-sex marriages by a 14-1 vote, thus legalizing same-sex marriage in the entire country. The resolution came into effect on 16 May 2013.
In March 2013, polls suggested that 47% of Brazilians supported marriage equalization and 57% supported adoption equalization for same-sex couples. Polls in June 2013 also supported the conclusion that the division of opinion between acceptance and rejection of same-sex marriage is in about equal halves. When the distinction between same-sex unions that are not termed marriages in relation to same-sex marriage is made, the difference in the numbers of approval and disapproval is still insignificant, below 1%; the most frequent reason for disapproval is a supposed 'unnaturalness' of same-sex relationships, followed by religious beliefs.
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, mixed-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 same-sex couples to get married in the Church of Denmark. The bills received Royal Assent on 12 June and took effect on 15 June 2012. Denmark was previously the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex couples through registered partnerships in 1989.
Following the election of François Hollande as President of France in May 2012 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 had been drafted and would be passed. The government introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, Bill 344, in the National Assembly on 17 November 2012. Article 1 of the bill defining marriage as an agreement between two people was passed on 2 February 2013 in its first reading by a 249–97 vote. On 12 February 2013, the National Assembly approved the entire bill in a 329–229 vote.
On 12 April 2013, the upper house of the French parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage. On 23 April 2013 the law was approved by the National Assembly in a 331–225 vote. Law No.2013-404 grants same-sex couples living in France, including foreigners provided at least one of the partners has their domicile or residence in France, the legal right to get married. The law also allows the recognition in France of same-sex couples’ marriages that occurred abroad before the bill's enactment.
Following the announcement of the French parliament's vote results, those in opposition to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in France participated in public protests. In both Paris and Lyon, violence erupted as protesters clashed with police; the issue has mobilised right-wing forces in the country, including neo-Nazis.
The main right-wing opposition party UMP challenged the law in the Constitutional Council, which had one month to rule on whether the law conformed to the Constitution. The Constitutional Council had previously ruled that the issue of same-sex marriage was one for the legislature to decide  and there was only little hope for UMP to overturn the parliament's vote.
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. Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and her partner were among the first married same-sex couples in the country.
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. 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.
On 28 November 2011, the first two same-sex marriages occurred in Quintana Roo after it was discovered that Quintana Roo's Civil Code did not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, but these marriages were later annulled by the governor of Quintana Roo in April 2012. 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.
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.
In the Dutch Caribbean special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, marriage is open to same-sex couples. A law enabling same-sex couples to marry in these municipalities passed and came into effect on 10 October 2012. 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 Netherlands proper.
On 14 May 2012, Labour Party MP Louisa Wall stated that she would introduce a private member's bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, allowing same-sex couples to marry. The bill was submitted to the members' bill ballot on 30 May 2012. It was drawn from the ballot and passed the first and second readings on 29 August 2012 and 13 March 2013, respectively. The final reading passed on 17 April 2013 by 77 votes to 44. The bill received Royal Assent from the Governor-General on 19 April and took effect on 19 August 2013.
New Zealand marriage law only applies to New Zealand proper and the Ross Dependency in Antarctica. Other New Zealand territories, including Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, have their own marriage law and do not perform nor recognise same-sex marriage.
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. 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.
Portugal created de facto unions (união de facto in legal European Portuguese) similar to common-law marriage for cohabiting opposite-sex partners in 1999, and extended these unions to same-sex couples in 2001. However, the 2001 extension did not allow for same-sex adoption, either jointly or of stepchildren.
On 8 January 2010, the parliament approved—126 votes in favor, 97 against and 7 abstentions—same-sex marriage. The Portuguese president promulgated the law on 8 April 2010 and the law was effective on 5 June 2010, making Portugal the eighth country to legalize nationwide same-sex marriage; however, adoption was still denied for same-sex couples.
On 24 February 2012, the parliament rejected two bills allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. However, on 17 May 2013, the Portuguese parliament passed a law allowing same-sex married couples to adopt their partner's children (i.e. stepchild adoption). A law allowing full joint adoption was defeated with a 104-77 vote.
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. It became law on 30 November 2006. South Africa is the fifth country, the first in Africa, and the second outside Europe, to legalize same-sex marriage.
Spain was the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, which has been legal since 3 July 2005, and was supported by the majority of the Spanish people. 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. After much debate, the law permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the Cortes Generales (Spain's bicameral parliament) on 30 June 2005. King Juan Carlos, who by law has up to 30 days to decide whether to grant Royal Assent to laws, indirectly showed his approval by signing it on 1 July 2005, the same day it reached his desk. The law was published on 2 July 2005.
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.
Since 2005 same-sex couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships, a separate union providing 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 rather than a civil partnership. In September 2011, the Coalition government announced its intention to introduce same-sex civil marriage in England and Wales by the next general election in May 2015. However, unlike the Scottish Government's Consultation, the UK Government's Consultation for England and Wales did not include provision for religious ceremonies. In May 2012, three religious groups (Quakers, Liberal Judaism and Unitarians) sent a letter to David Cameron, asking that they be allowed to solemnise same-sex weddings.
In June 2012 the UK Government completed the Consultation to allow civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales In its response to the Consultation, the Government said that it also intended "...to enable those religious organisations that wish to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies to do so, on a permissive basis only." In December 2012, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that, whilst he favoured allowing same-sex marriage within a religious context, provision would be made guaranteeing no religious institution would be required to perform such ceremonies. On 5 February 2013, the House of Commons debated the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, approving it in a 400–175 vote at the second reading. The third reading took place on 21 May 2013, and was approved by 366 votes to 161. On 4 June 2013 the Bill received its second reading in the House of Lords, after a blocking amendment was defeated by 390 votes to 148. On 15 July 2013, the Bill was given a third reading by the House of Lords, meaning that it had been passed, and so it was then returned to Commons for the consideration of Lords' amendments. On 16 July 2013 the Commons accepted all of the Lords' amendments. On 17 July 2013 the bill received Royal Assent becoming the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The first same-sex marriages took place on 29 March 2014.
The Scottish Government conducted a three-month-long consultation which ended on 9 December 2011 and the analysis was published in July 2012. 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. The Scottish Consultation received more than 77,000 responses, and on 27 June 2013 the Government published the Bill. In order to preserve the freedom of both religious groups and individual clergy, the Scottish Government believes it necessary for changes to be made to the Equality Act 2010 and is in communication with the UK Government on this matter; thus, the first same-sex marriages in Scotland are not expected to occur until this has taken place. Although the Scottish bill concerning same-sex marriage had been published, the 'Australian' reported that LGBT rights campaigners, celebrating outside the UK parliament on 15 July 2013 for the clearance of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the House of Lords, declared that they would continue the campaign to extend same-sex marriage rights to both Scotland and Northern Ireland, rather than solely Northern Ireland, where there are no plans to introduce such legislation. On 4 February 2014 the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly passed legislation legalising same-sex marriage in that country. The bill received Royal Assent as the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 on 12 March 2014 and the first same-sex marriages are expected to occur in autumn 2014.
On 26 June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for the federal government of the United States to deny federal benefits of marriage to married same-sex couples, if it is recognized or performed in a state that allows same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples can legally marry in twenty states as well as a few other jurisdictions (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, and the District of Columbia, and several Native American tribes), and receive state-level benefits. Several states offer civil unions or domestic partnerships, granting all or part of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage. Twenty-eight states have constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
The U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, attempting to define 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. 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." However this decision no longer has precedential effect after Windsor v. United States, where the Supreme Court, stated that "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment". 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 mixed-sex couples.
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. Since then, eight federal courts have found that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution in issues including bankruptcy, public employee benefits, estate taxes, and immigration. Striking down Section 3 of DOMA in Windsor v. United States (2012), the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals became the first court to hold sexual orientation to be a quasi-suspect classification, and determined that laws that classify people on such basis should be subject to intermediate scrutiny.
President Barack Obama announced on 9 May 2012 that "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married" Obama also supports the full repeal of DOMA, and called the state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in California (2008) and North Carolina (2012) unnecessary. 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. 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. In the past two decades, public support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased, and polls indicate that more than half of Americans support same-sex marriage. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage by referendum on 6 November 2012.
In August 2010, Proposition 8 was found unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. That ruling was appealed and later upheld by a federal appeals court in February 2012. Proposition 8 proponents then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and same-sex couples in California were not allowed to legally marry until the Supreme Court issued an opinion. On 26 June 2013, the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry issued an opinion that the appellants did not have standing, and upheld the district court's order overturning Proposition 8.
On 26 June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court also issued an opinion finding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional.
A poll conducted in 2014 showed a record high of 59% of the American people supporting legal recognition for same-sex marriage.
Uruguay's Chamber of Deputies passed a bill on 12 December 2012, to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. The Senate passed the bill on 2 April 2013, but with minor amendments. On 10 April 2013, the Chamber of Deputies passed the amended bill by a two-thirds majority (71–22). The president promulgated the law on 3 May 2013 and it took effect on 5 August.
Australian federal law currently bans recognition of same-sex marriages. On 22 October 2013, a bill was passed by the Parliament of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) legalising same-sex marriage in the ACT. However, the High Court claims that the legal change was never valid and an official reversal of the bill was announced on 12 December 2013. The High Court established that such a change to ACT legislation could not operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act.
The federal Labor Party government officially changed its position to allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in 2011, despite then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard's opposition to such a vote. The Liberal Party is opposed to same-sex marriage, and its leader Tony Abbott said he will block a conscience vote on the issue.
In February 2010, the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's Marriage Equality Bill was rejected by the Senate. 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. 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.
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.
In September 2010 Tasmania became the first Australian state to recognise same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, though only as de facto status.
In June 2013, as one of his first speeches as new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd made it clear that he was proud to be the first ever Australian PM to support same-sex marriage, declaring he would consider a plebiscite or referendum on the issue, although he was defeated before he could take this action.
On 20 November 2013, the opposition party The Greens introduced a bill in Parliament that would legalise same-sex marriage. It was sent to the Judiciary Committee on 17 December 2013. The bill will be debated in Autumn 2014.
Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile, who was elected to a second term in March 2014, has promised to work for the implementation of same-sex marriage and has a majority in both houses. Previously, she said, "Marriage equality, I believe we have to make it happen." Polling shows majority support for same-sex marriage among Chileans.
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 its 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. 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 26 July 2011, the Constitutional Court of Colombia ordered the Congress to pass the legislation giving same-sex couples similar rights to marriage by 20 June 2013. If such a law is not passed by then, same-sex couples will be granted these rights automatically.
In October 2012 Senator Armando Benedetti introduced a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. It initially only allowed for civil unions, but he amended the text. The Senate's First Committee approved the bill on 4 December 2012. On 24 April 2013, the bill was defeated in the full Senate on a 51–17 vote.
On 24 July 2013, a judge sanctioned a legal domestic partnership between two gay men. The union has been variously described as a "civil union" and a "marriage", although a former top judge suggested it is "an unnamed contract that is not matrimony".
In 2010, Minister of Justice Tuija Brax said her Ministry was preparing to amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage by 2012. On 27 February 2013, the bill was rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament by 9 to 8. A citizens' initiative was launched on 19 March to put the issue before Parliament. The initiative gathered the required 50,000 signatures of Finnish citizens in one day and exceeded 107,000 signatures by the time the media reported the figures. The campaign collected 166,000 signatures and the initiative was presented to the Parliament in December 2013. The initiative went to introductory debate on 20 February 2014 and was sent again to the Legal Affairs Committee. On 25 June, the bill was rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee on a vote of 10-6. It will now face a final vote in full Parliament some time in Autumn 2014.
Since 1 August 2001, Germany has registered partnerships (Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft) for same-sex couples, providing most but not all rights of marriage. In 2004, this act was amended to include adoption rights (stepchild adoption only) and to reform previously cumbersome dissolution procedures with regard to division of property and alimony. Attempts to give equal rights to registered partners or to legalize same-sex marriage have generally been blocked by the CDU/CSU, the main party in government since 2005. All other main parties (SPD, The Greens, The Left and FDP) support full LGBT equality. The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany has however issued various rulings in favor of equal rights for same-sex registered partners (such as joint tax filing benefits), requiring the governing coalition to change the law.
Same-sex marriage is not explicitly prohibited under Indian law and at least one couple has had their marriage recognised by the courts. In April 2014 Medha Patkar of the Aam Aadmi Party stated that her party supports the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
Ireland made civil partnerships for same-sex couples legal in January 2011. The present Government of Ireland established a Constitutional Convention in December 2012 tasked with considering wide-ranging changes to the Irish constitution, and one of the issues the Convention will address and make recommendations to the Government on is same-sex marriage. On 14 April 2013 the Convention voted in favour of same-sex marriage by a margin of 79 percent. The Government has pledged to respond publicly to recommendations arising from the Convention and will indicate a date for referendum where it is considered necessary.
A 2012 poll revealed that nearly three-quarters of the Irish public favour amending the Irish constitution to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. On 5 November 2013, it was announced that a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage will be held in the first half of 2015.
Israel's High Court of Justice ruled to honor same-sex marriages granted in other countries, in line with its recognition of other civil marriages; Israel does not recognize civil 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.
Malta has recognized same-sex unions since April 2014, following the enactment of the Civil Unions Bill, first introduced in September 2013. It established civil unions with same rights, responsibilities, and obligations as marriage, including the right of joint adoption and recognition of foreign same sex marriage. Parliament gave final approval to the legislation on 14 April 2014 by a vote of 37 in favour and 30 abstentions. President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca signed it into law on 16 April. The first foreign same sex marriage was registered on 29 April 2014 and the first Civil Unions began on 14 June 2014.
In November 2008, Nepal's highest court issued final judgment on matters related to LGBT rights, which included permitting same-sex 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. 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.
A same-sex marriage bill is pending in Parliament after the Green Liberal Party of Switzerland, in December 2013, opposed a Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland's initiative banning same-sex marriage. In a poll in June 2013 for ifop, 63% approved same-sex marriage.
A same-sex-marriage bill before the parliament has bipartisan support, but as of April 2014 has been stalled due to the political crisis in the country.
In the process of rewriting the Turkish constitution, the opposition party BDP called for the liberalization of marriage policies to include same-sex marriage. The largest opposition party in the Turkish parliament, CHP, supported the idea. The largest party in the parliament, the AKP, opposes same-sex marriage, although Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the leader of the AKP, supported full equal rights for LGBT citizens in 2002, the year he launched his party. In response to a request from BDP, a parliamentary discussion of same-sex marriage is anticipated when all political parties gather in committees to establish a new constitution. In a poll of Turkish attitudes towards sexuality, 3.6% of Turks supported same-sex marriages.
In Vietnam, currently only a marriage between a man and a woman is recognized. Vietnam's Ministry of Justice began seeking advice on legalizing same-sex marriage from other governmental and non-governmental organizations in April and May 2012, and planned to further discuss the issue at the National Assembly in Spring 2013. However, in February 2013, the Ministry of Justice requested that the National Assembly avoid action until 2014. At a hearing to discuss marriage law reforms in April 2013, deputy minister of health Nguyen Viet Tien proposed that same-sex marriage be made legal immediately.
The Vietnamese government abolished an administrative fine imposed on same-sex weddings in 2013. The policy will be enacted on 11 Nov 2013. The 100,000–500,000 VND ($24USD) fine will be abolished. Although same-sex marriages are not permitted in Vietnam, the policy will decriminalize the relationship, habitual privileges such as household registry, property, child raising, and co-habitual partnerships are recognized.
In June 2013, the National Assembly began formal debate on a proposal to establish legal recognition for same-sex marriage. On 24 September 2013, the Government issued the decree abolishing the fines on same-sex marriages. The decree took effect on 11 November 2013. On 27 May 2014, the National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs removed the provision giving legal status and some rights to cohabiting same-sex couples from the government's bill to amend the Law on Marriage and Family. The bill was approved by the National Assembly on 19 June 2014. The law is re-examined every ten years and supporters hope by then same-sex marriage will become available.
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. In some cases, these organizations do offer a limited selection of the benefits normally provided to mixed-sex married couples to de facto partners or domestic partners of their staff, but even individuals who have entered into a mixed-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.
Several traditional societies in Africa have traditionally allowed non-sexual marriage between two women. These arrangements usually involve one woman taking the role of a man and marrying another woman to secure her inheritance, and are not seen as homosexual.
Female same-sex marriage is practiced among the Gikuyu, Nandi, Kamba, Kipsigis, and to a lesser extent neighboring peoples. Approximately 5–10% of women are in such marriages. However, this is not seen as homosexual, but is instead a way for families without sons to keep their inheritance within the family. The laws criminalizing homosexuality are generally specific to men, though in 2010 the prime minister called for women to be arrested as well.
In Nigeria, homosexual activity between men, but not between women, is illegal. In 2006, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced legislation that prohibits same-sex marriages and criminalizes anyone who "performs, witnesses, aids or abets" such ceremonies. Among the Igbo people and probably other peoples in the south of the country, there are circumstances where a marriage between women is considered appropriate, such as when a woman has no child and her husband dies, and she takes a wife to perpetuate her inheritance and family lineage.
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, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Malta has established civil unions with the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, differing only in name.
They are also available in parts of Mexico (Coahuila and Mexico City) and the United States (California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin). 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.
Scientific 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 (either a mixed-sex or same-sex union). As a result, professional scientific associations have argued for same-sex marriage to be legally recognized as it will be beneficial to the children of same-sex couples.
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. According to scientific literature reviews, there is no evidence to the contrary.
Most same-sex-marriage states allow the joint adoption of children by same-sex couples, while Portugal is a long-standing exception to this rule. In addition, several states which do not recognize same-sex marriage nonetheless permit joint adoption by unmarried same-sex couples: The United Kingdom, Western Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania within Australia, Coahuilla and Chihuahua in Mexico, a number of US states (Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Arkansas), and in at least a few cases, Israel. Several additional states allow second-parent ('step-child' or 'step-parent') adoption by unmarried same-sex couples.
A gay or bisexual 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 or bisexual woman has the option of artificial insemination.
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 run as high as one 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.
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.
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 people 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 people to divorce before having their legal sex marker corrected was found to be unconstitutional in 2006.
In Quebec prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, only unmarried people could apply for legal change of gender. With the advent of same-sex marriage, this restriction was dropped. A similar provision including sterilization also existed in Sweden, but was phased out in 2013.
In the United States, transsexual and intersexual marriages typically run into similar complications. As definitions and enforcement of marriage are defined by the states, these complications vary from state to state.
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, through full acceptance and integration, sympathetic toleration, indifference, prohibition and discrimination, to persecution and physical annihilation. Opponents of same-sex marriages have argued that recognition of same-sex marriages would erode religious freedoms, 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. Some supporters of same-sex marriages take the view that the government should have no role in regulating personal relationships, while others argue that same-sex marriages would provide social benefits to same-sex couples. 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.
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. Some religious organizations may refuse to provide employment, public accommodations, adoption services, and other benefits to same-sex couples. Some governments include freedom of religion provisions in marriage equality laws.
The world's largest religions vary widely in their views on same-sex marriage. For example, among larger Christian denominations the Roman Catholic Church's official position is to oppose same-sex marriage, as does the Orthodox Church, some Protestant churches, a majority of Muslims, Hindu nationalists, and Orthodox Jews. Buddhism is considered to be ambivalent on the subject as a whole. On the other hand, many churches and denominations, including a number of progressive and liberal Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus, as well as modern Hindu communities and Buddhism in Australia support same-sex marriage. Some smaller religions, as well as groups (religious or not) who embrace humanism, are also considered to be supportive.
Anthropologists have struggled to determine a definition of marriage that absorbs commonalities of the social construct across cultures around the world. 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.
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. The Oxford English Dictionary has recognized same-sex marriage since 2000.
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. Jennifer Roback Morse, the president of the anti-same-sex marriage group National Organization for Marriage's Ruth Institute project, claims that the conflation of marriage with contractual agreements is a threat to 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.
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. Anti-same-sex-marriage activist Maggie Gallagher argues that equating same-sex and mixed-sex marriages changes the meaning of marriage and its traditions.
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. 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. Same-sex marriage supporters argue that the use of scare quotes is an editorialization that implies illegitimacy.
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 same-sex couples are somehow legally different from those of mixed-sex couples.
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. 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.
Same-sex marriages and relationships have been a theme in several fictional story arcs, mythology, cult classics, and video games.
In issue #51 of the Astonishing X-Men comic series, the superhero Jean-Paul Beaubier marries his partner Kyle Jinadu, making him the first superhero in a mainstream comic book to have a same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriages have also been depicted, usually in a positive light in modern times, in US television shows including The Simpsons, Family Guy, Modern Family, Queer as Folk, Glee, and The New Normal.
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