The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Same-sex marriage (also called gay marriage and same-gender marriage) is marriage between two partners of the same sex. This article deals with civil or state marriage, not the religious concept of marriage as espoused by various faiths. For more information on that topic, please see Religion and homosexuality. For other forms of same-sex unions that are different from civil marriages, see the links below.

Table of contents
1 History of same-sex marriage
2 Same-sex marriage around the world
3 Legal recognition of same-sex marriage
4 Opponents of same-sex marriage
5 Proponents of same-sex marriage
6 Other forms of same-sex partnership
7 Terminology
8 Related links

History of same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage has been documented in many societies that were not subject to Christian influence. In North American, among the Native American societies, it has taken the form of two-spirit-type relationships, in which some members of the tribe elect to take on female gender with all its responsibilites. They are prized as wives by the other men in the tribe, who enter into formal marriages with these two-spirit men.

In China, especially in the southern province of Fujian where male love was especially cultivated, men would marry youths in elaborate ceremonies. The marriages would last a number of years, at the end of which the elder partner would help the younger find a (female) wife and settle down to raise a family.

In Africa, among the Azande of the Congo, men would marry youths for whom they had to pay a bride-price to the father. These marriages likewise were understood to be of a temporary nature.

Finally, in Europe during Hellenic times, the relationships between Greek men and youths who had come of age were analogous to marriage in several aspects. The age of the youth was similar to the age at which women married (the mid-teens), and the relationship could only be undertaken with the consent of the father. This consent, just as in the case of a daughter's marriage, was contingent on the suitor's social standing. The relationship, just like a marriage, consisted of very specific social and religious responsibilities, and also had an erotic component.

Same-sex marriage around the world

Same-sex marriages currently are legally performed only in the Netherlands and Belgium. For the time being, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have also legalized same-sex marriage. Recently, the term "same-sex marriage" has been displacing "gay marriage", the term being perceived as less value-laden for the union of two partners of the same sex and also being more inclusive of bisexuals.

Legal recognition of same-sex marriage

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there has been a growing movement in a number of countries to regard marriage as a right which should be extended to gay and lesbian couples. Legal recognition of a marital union opens up a wide range of entitlements, including social security, taxation, inheritance and other benefits unavailable to couples unmarried in the eyes of the law. Restricting legal recognition to heterosexual unions excludes same-sex couples from gaining legal access to these benefits. (While opposite-sex unmarried couples without other legal impediments have the option of marrying in law and so gaining access to these rights, that option is unavailable to same-sex couples.) Lack of legal recognition also makes it more difficult for same-sex couples to adopt children.

Opponents of same-sex marriage

Some opponents object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds, arguing that extending marriage to homosexual couples undercuts the conventional meaning of marriage in various traditions, and does not fulfill any procreational role. In countries with monogamous marriages only, some opponents also claim that allowing same-sex marriage will re-open the door to the legalization of polyamorous marriage, or other forms they find objectionable. They also feel that same-sex couples should not be allowed to have or adopt children, and that same-sex marriage would make those adoptions easier; they hold that same-sex households are not an adequate environment for children to be raised in. Others simply do not recognize any pressing need for same-sex marriages.

Some libertarians object to same-sex civil marriages because they are opposed to any form of state-sanctioned marriage, including opposite-sex unions.

Many other people, while tolerant towards the sexual behaviour of others, see no reason to alter their society or government's traditional attitudes towards marriage and family.

Proponents of same-sex marriage

In response, proponents point out that traditional concepts of marriage have already given way to liberalization in other areas, such as the availability of no-fault divorce and the elimination of anti-miscegenation laws. Some opponents counter that this shouldn't have happened in the first place. They also suggest that many people in modern societies no longer subscribe to the religious beliefs which inform traditional limits upon marriage, and no longer wish these beliefs to constitute the law. In fact, there are some religions that celebrate same-sex weddings or commitment ceremonies already; in Canada, the United Church of Canada, the country's largest Protestant denomination, has striven for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

In the United States, proponents of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples point out that there are over 1,049 federal rights and benefits denied same-sex couples by excluding them from participating in marriage. A legal denial of rights or benefits afforded to others, they say, directly contradicts the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution which provides for equal protection and substantive due process under the law. Meaning that rights conferred to one group cannot be denied to another. In the 2003 case before the Supreme Court titled Lawrence v. Texas, the court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Many proponents of same-sex marriage have noted that this ruling paves the way for a subsequent decision invalidating state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Some conservative proponents of equal marriage argue further that by extending marriage to same-sex couples, marriage is in fact strengthened by involving more people in the U.S. institution and would encourage gay men and women to settle down with one partner and raise a family.

Other forms of same-sex partnership

The movement towards the legal recognition of same-sex marriages has resulted in changes in the law in many jurisdictions, though the extent of the changes have varied:

Even in jurisdictions where they are not legally recognized, many gay and lesbian couples choose to have weddings (also called "commitment ceremonies" in this context) to celebrate and affirm their relationship, fulfilling the social aspect of a marriage. Such ceremonies have no legal validity, however, and as such do not deal with issues such as inheritance, property rights or social security.

Some writers have advanced the idea that the term "marriage" should be restricted to a religious context and that state and federal governments should not be involved in a religious rite. Some regard this as a governmental intrusion into religion; they believe that all statutes involving domestic contracts should replace the word "marriage" with "domestic partnership" and thus bypass the controversy of gender. This would then allow a domestic contract between any two individuals who have attained their majority.


The term "mixed marriage" usually does not refer to sex but to religion, culture or race.

Related links