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Same-sex marriage

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Same-sex marriage
Performed nationwide in:
Performed in some regions in:
Canada: BC, MB, NL, NS, ON,
United States: MA
Other countries and regions:
Canada: AB, NB, NT, NU, PE
South Africa
United States: CA NY
See also
Civil union
Domestic partnership
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Same-sex marriage (also called gay marriage, marriage equality, and often just marriage by its proponents, and—usually by its opponents—homosexual marriage) refers to a marriage between two individuals of the same gender (for other forms of same-sex unions distinct from marriage, see the articles linked in that section).

Table of contents


The terms "gay marriage" and "homosexual marriage" may not be strictly accurate, in that one or both partners may not identify as gay or homosexual. Rather, depending on the couple and the jurisdiction, such same-sex marriages may include persons of different orientations, including bisexuals, transexuals, and transgendered persons. Therefore, in the context of same-sex marriages and throughout this article, same-sex refers strictly to two people of the same sex, and is not synonymous with gay or homosexual.

The term "same-sex marriage" has recently been displacing "gay marriage," both to be free of any possible negative connotations carried by "homosexual", and to be more inclusive of groups such as bisexuals and transsexual people – who in some states of the US and in other countries, are not allowed to change their assigned gender on their birth certificates following sex reassignment surgery.

Supporters of same-sex marriage argue that the correct term is simply "marriage," though such usage often confuses others in coversation or debate. In this article, the inclusive term "same-sex marriage" is used throughout. Where necessary for clarity, the terms "gay", "lesbian", "bisexual," and "transsexual" are used (there are a number of reasons for this; please see the talk page for more details).

The term "mixed marriage" usually does not refer to marriage of two persons of different genders, but to marriage of two persons of different religions, cultures or races.

History of same-sex unions

For detailed information, see History of homosexuality.


Same-gender romantic love or sexual desire has been recorded from ancient times in the east. Such desire often took the form of same-sex unions, usually between men, and often included some difference in age (there is far less information available on relationships among women in ancient times. There are a number of possible reasons for this: an attitude that women were not important enough to write about; or that same-sex attraction between women was not valued as it was between men; or that women were not afforded equal status with men, so that, while men were free to pursue sexual and romantic pleasure both within and without marriage, women often were not).

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.

See also:


Saints Sergius and Bacchus. 7th Century icon. Officers of the Roman Army in Syria who were tortured to death for their refusal to worship Roman gods. Bacchus is thought to have died from severe torture while Sergius survived the original torture to be beheaded. They are the protectors of the Byzantine Army with a feast day of October 7th. Yale historian John Boswell considers the saints to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union reflective of tolerant early Christians attitudes toward homosexuality based on this icon depicting what some claim is a religious wedding with Jesus as best man and still surviving writings [1] [2] [3] [4] [5].

There has been a long history of same-sex unions in the western world. That many early western societies tolerated, and even celebrated, same-sex relationships is well-known. Evidence of same-sex marriage, however, is less clear, but there exists some evidence, often controversial, of same-sex marriages in ancient Rome and Greece, and even in medieval Europe.

In ancient Rome, for example, the Emperor Nero is reported to have married, at different times, two other men in wedding ceremonies. Other Roman Emperors are reported to have done the same thing. The increasing influence of Christianity, which promoted marriage for procreative purposes, is linked with the increasing intolerance of homosexuality in Rome.

Finally, in Europe during Hellenic times, pederastic relationships between Greek men (erastes) and youths (eromenos) 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 has been documented in many societies that were not subject to Christian influence. In North America, among the Native American societies, it has taken the form of two-spirit-type relationships, in which some members of the tribe, from an early age, heed a calling to take on female gender with all its responsibilities. They are prized as wives by the other men in the tribe, who enter into formal marriages with these two-spirit men. They are also respected as being especially powerful shamans.

In the United States during the nineteenth century, there was recognition of the relationship of two women making a long-term commitment to each other and cohabitating, referred to at the time as a Boston marriage; however, the general public at the time likely assumed that sexual activities were not part of the relationship.

In Canada the issue of same-sex marriage has split the religious community with the United Church of Canada and some elements of the Anglican Church of Canada being supportive while Roman Catholics and most conservative denominations in opposition.

In 2002, the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia (which includes Greater Vancouver) began allowing its churches to bless same sex unions in marriage-like ceremonies. In response, bishops from Africa, Asia and Latin America, representing more than one-third of Anglican Communion members worldwide, cut their relations with the diocese.

Reform Judaism, the largest branch of Judaism outside Israel allows religious weddings for same-sex couples within their synagogues provided they are both adherents of the Jewish faith.


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.

Current status of same-sex civil marriage

World homosexuality laws

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there has been a growing movement in a number of countries to regard civil-marriages as a right which should be extended to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation. Civil-marriages entail a wide range of entitlements, including social security, health insurance, taxation, inheritance and other benefits unavailable to couples unmarried in the eyes of the law. Restricting legal recognition to opposite-sex couples excludes same-sex couples from gaining legal access to these benefits, and 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. Similarly, though certain rights extending from marriage can be replicated by legal means (for example, by drawing up contracts), many cannot; thus, despite the presence of legal contracts, same-sex couples may still face insecurity in areas such as inheritance, hospital visitation and immigration. Lack of legal recognition also makes it more difficult for same-sex couples to adopt children.

At present, same-sex marriages are legal in only a few countries (see table, right). In Belgium and the Netherlands, same-sex marriage is fully legal. In Canada, same-sex marriage is currently legal in over half of the provinces and territories, covering approximately eighty-five percent of the population, and Bill C-38, a federal bill to formally legalize same-sex marriage across Canada, is before Parliament. (see Same-sex marriage in Canada).

In the United States as of April 2005, only the state of Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriages, while the states of Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia offer same-sex partners benefits similar to those of legally married couples. Eighteen other States have constitutional provisions that limit marriages to one man and one woman, while twenty-five States have statutes containing similar definitions. In the United States, the debate over whether or not to make same sex marriages legally binding remains one of the most polarizing and divisive political debates of the early 21st century and it is discussed with great passion all over the world. During 2004, 13 US States amended their constitutions to define marriage as being only between one man and one woman. Some people, including many gay rights advocates and some heterosexual same-sex marriage advocates, view restrictions such as these as being an example of the tyranny of the majority in action.


Status of legal recognition in Europe.

Same-sex civil marriages currently are legally recognized nationwide only in the Netherlands and Belgium.

In late January 2005, the Swedish government put together a committee of the major political parties to study whether or not the country should allow same-sex marriages. [6].

Shortly after his election in June 2004, Spanish prime minister Zapatero confirmed his intention to push for legalization of same-sex marriage [7]. On 1 October 2004, the Spanish Government approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill also allows same-sex couples to officially adopt children, a provision not found in similar bills passed in other countries. The bill now needs parliamentary approval, and is expected to come into force in 2005. For more information see Same-sex marriage in Spain.

On 18 November 2004 the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Civil Partnership Act, which will come into force during 2005 and will allow same-sex couples to register their partnership. The Government stressed during the passage of the Bill that it is not same-sex marriage, and some gay activists have criticised the Act for not using the terminology of marriage. However, the rights and duties of partners under this legislation will be almost exactly the same as for married couples. An amendment proposing similar rights for family members living together was rejected. See Civil Union.

In May 2004, the largest opposition party in France, the French Socialist Party, announced its support for same-sex marriage. A poll by ELLE found that 64% of France supports same-sex marriage. [8]

North America

Status of legal recognition in North America.


Main article: Same-sex marriage in Canada

In Canada, court rulings in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Yukon Territory, have found the prohibition of same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, thus legalizing it in those jurisdictions. According to Statistics Canada this amounts to roughly 87% of the country by population. Canada is also the only country without a residency requirement for same-sex marriage. The Canadian federal government has introduced amendments to the Canadian Marriage Act that would legalize same-sex marriage nationally. This bill Bill C-38 is presently before the Canadian House of Commons (as of February 1, 2005.)

Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf become the first same-sex couple to marry in Quebec, April 1, 2004.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled, on a reference question (Re: Same-Sex Marriage, 2004) that the government has the authority to amend the definition of marriage, but did not rule on whether or not such a change is required by the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court stated that such a ruling is not necessary because the federal government had accepted the rulings of lower courts. The Court also ruled that religious institutions could not be required to perform same-sex marriages.

As of November 11th, 2004 the Canadian federal government's immigration department considers same-sex marriages valid for the purposes of sponsoring a spouse to immigrate. See also CIC and Same-sex marriage in Canada Immigration authorities there had previously considered long-term same-sex relationships to be equivalent to similar heterosexual relationships as grounds for sponsorship.

United States

Main article: Same-sex marriage in the United States

Rosie O'Donnell and wife Kelli Carpenter speaking after their wedding on February 26, 2004 in San Francisco.

Same-sex marriage is legal in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, following the November 18, 2003 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (.pdf version). The court stayed its ruling until May 17, 2004. Beginning on that date, hundreds of same-sex couples were legally married in Massachusetts. In the state of Washington, a Superior Court declared banning same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional; that case, Andersen v. Sims, is currently before the state Supreme Court[9] . On April 20, 2005, Connecticut became the first state in the Union that legalized same-sex civil unions without a court order. Several local government bodies in the United States are also performing same-sex marriages, on various degrees of legal footing. However, in 2004, 13 states passed referendums prohibiting same-sex marriage. On February 4, 2005, a New York state judge ruled that New York had to allow same sex couples to wed. This ruling, which is stayed pending an appeal by New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, would only apply to New York City, although a ruling unfavorable to the state's position by an appellate court would apply to a larger geographic area. See Same-sex marriage in New York. Most recently, on March 15, 2005, the San Francisco County Superior Court ruled that California's state constitution forbids discrimination against same-sex couples wishing to be married, stating that there is "no rational purpose" for the ban and comparing it to racial segregation. As in New York, this ruling is stayed pending appeal. See Same-sex marriage in California.

Given the federal system in the United States, issues could arise if a same-sex couple legally married in one state were to move to a state where same-sex marriage is illegal. In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, meant to prevent the courts from using the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit clause to bring same-sex marriage to states that have rejected it. In Loving v. Virginia (1967), the Supreme Court cited the Fourteenth Amendment's "due process" and "equal protection" clauses to strike down laws prohibiting interracial marriage, and in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) cited the same passages to strike down anti-sodomy laws.

On Feb. 24, 2004 President George W. Bush called for a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages at the federal level. The Senate dealt with this issue in 2004, and at that time, only a minority of senators supported this amendment, while a 2/3 majority was required for passage by the Senate. Bush acknowledged that it was not likely that the Senate would pass this amendment, though he continues to support it.

On May 12, 2005, a federal judge in Omaha struck down Nebraska's sweeping ban on same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other same-sex relationships. U.S. Distict Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled that the ban, known as Initiative 416, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This is the first state constitutional provision banning same-sex marriage to be ruled unconstitutional.


King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia announced in February 2004 that he believed his country ought to legalize same-sex marriage.

It should be noted that most non-Muslim Asian countries would be unlikely to consider homosexual marriage an issue in the near future. Since homosexuality is currently much more of a cultural issue in the West than the East, there has been no strong debate either for or against the issue.

Muslim-dominated countries, on the whole, have illegalised homosexual relations, with varying degrees of punishment enforced.

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.

Conservative critics like National Review's Jennifer Morse respond that the conflation of marriage with contractual agreements is itself a threat to marriage that "has undermined more heterosexual marriages than anything, with the possible exception of adultery."[10]


The moral legitimacy of marriage between two people of the same sex hinges on how the authoritative definition of marriage is derived. If marriage is to have a religious foundation, the interpretation of religious texts and traditions will be key; if marriage is a social institution, legal agreement, or even a purely economic coupling, then pragmatic arguments will have more force (though moral issues will no doubt still arise). Gay rights advocates assert that marriage is a right since it is a legal agreement on the governmental level which should not be restricted to opposite-sex couples. Their opponents assert that same-sex marriage cannot be allowed on moral and/or religious grounds, or on the grounds that it will lead to a breakdown of society.

The debate is often perceived as being same sex marriage advocates vs. religious (especially fundamentalist) or moral opponents. However, corporations and other fiscally concerned parties sometimes oppose same-sex marriages not on any religious or moral grounds but instead with the aim of preserving the status quo to avoid extending benefits, such as insurance coverage, to the same-sex spouses of their employees. Many religious groups facilitate religious same-sex marriages. Those in favour of same-sex marriage argue that gays and lesbians contribute as much as heterosexual people to the funding for private and public family coverage even when they have no access to it, and that discrimination decreases productivity.

Competing definitions of "marriage"

Nearly all people at all times before marriage was a legal agreement have defined it in such a way that at least one man and one woman were involved. Some societies have from ancient times permitted a man to have multiple wives, but those wives had congress only with the man — not each other. But some rare variations have existed, such as polyandry (one woman with multiple husbands) and "group marriage".

Though religions perform marriages based on their own doctrinal definitions, these may or may not be recognized by the government depending on local laws. Governments will often provide opportunity for state-sanctioned legal marriages that are entirely secular and without religious influence (commonly called "civil marriages"). They may or may not be recognized by certain religions. Some countries require all marriages to be civil, and any religious ceremony is purely symbolic. Generally, it is the government's definition of marriage that the same-sex marriage debate centers around (see marriage).

A typical definition of marriage proposed by those who support same-sex marriage is as follows:

A socially sanctioned, voluntary, committed, legally contracted union, of two adult people, which the government and/or society recognizes by conferring certain rights, privileges and responsibilities, such as finances, taxes, and inheritance, child-raising, adoption, visitation, and medical decision-making.

For same-sex marriage proponents, the above achieves equalization of male-male, female-female, and male-female relationships. Being able to marry whomever one chooses is seen as a civil right that should not be abridged by the government.

Some countries and states/provinces have judicial rulings that set precedence for the above definition. However, popular majorities in some places continue to assert that the traditional concept of marriage cannot exist outside of a heterosexual relationship. To them, the male-female relationship has unique capacities and qualities that marriage was meant to recognize and foster that are not adequately acknowledged by the above definition.

Defenders of so-called "traditional marriage", that is, the union of one man and one woman, argue that only a heterosexual union can provide the procreative foundation of the family unit that they see as the chief social building block of civilization. They argue that the definition proposed by same-sex marriage advocates changes the social importance of marriage from morality to custom. As any customary relationship may be considered "marriage" some argue that this then leads to undue legislative burden and an affront to the social value and responsibility of parenting one's own children.

Some same-sex marriage proponents, such as Andrew Sullivan, argue that their definition retains enough moral underpinning to support the familial role marriage plays in society despite the absence of a direct (that is, unassisted by medical or social agencies) procreative element. Others argue that marriage is no longer retains a procreative function of the government since many governments offer child tax-credits and assistance regradless of martial status.

The fact that changes in the customs and protocols of marriage often occur gives rise to the argument that marriage is dynamic, and same-gender acceptance is only the latest evolution of the institution. Some societies have from ancient times permitted spouses to have multiple concurrent marriages (polygamy) while many societies discourage this practice today. When a man legally takes more than one wife, it is called polygyny; when a woman marries multiple men, it is called polyandry. In polygynous and polyandrous marriages one person, a man or a woman, takes many spouses; these spouses are not married to each other, but are all married to the same person. Bigamy is the unlawful concurrent taking of more than one spouse. Marriages in which three or more people all marry each other are called "group marriages", and are very rare.

There have been many ritual homosexual unions practiced historically that provide many of the same benefits entitled traditionally to marriages. Some cultures have considered a set of strictly defined and regulated homosexual qualities to denote a gender that transcended both male and female. As possesors of a third gender, such people could marry either men or women. Some people in the position to write the law for their country indulged themselves in calling some of their same-gender relationships a marriage, though they assumed no familial attachment. Calling a heterosexual union the same legal term as a homosexual union for a whole state or society is only a recent occurrence.

One fundamental problem for any law banning same-sex marriage is defining the terms "man" and "woman". If defined genetically, both transsexuals and intersexed individuals would be prohibited from marrying partners of the "opposite" sex and therefore from heterosexual marriage. Just as recent same-sex marriages have been quickly overturned as null and void, so too could extant, long term marriages. More than one in one hundred newborns are to some degree physically aberrant from their genetic sex, with most of them undergoing some degree of surgical alteration. Making allowances for "medical circumstances" would prove difficult, as homosexuality is certainly to some extent biological and probably genetically influenced. In the United Kingdom, recent legislation allows transsexual persons to be officially recognized in their new gender, but this has the effect of annulling any previous marriage. However the couple will now be able to register a civil partnership, to come into force immediately on the dissolution of their marriage.

Arguments in opposition to same-sex marriage

Some opponents object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds, arguing that extending marriage to same-sex couples undercuts the conventional meaning of marriage in various traditions or goes against the word of God, does not fulfill any procreational role, or sanctions a partnership centered around "aberrant" or "immoral" sexual acts. Many religious conservatives also believe that gays and lesbians are sinners who are undeserving of certain rights including legal recognition of their unions.

Since most nations have monogamous marriages only, some opponents also claim that allowing same-sex marriage will blur other common law precedents and lead to the legalization of polyamorous marriage, or to marriage between family members (incest), marriages of convenience contracted for tax or other reasons, or marriages between humans and non-humans. Some object on the grounds that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt or raise children or to have access to reproductive technologies, and that same-sex marriage would make such adoptions easier. Others simply do not recognize any pressing need for same-sex marriages.

A fundamental concern is that the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to a direct attack via lawsuits against religions to force them to perform marriage ceremonies of which they do not approve, and additionally that established churches could be bankrupted by these types of lawsuits. This is a realistic fear only in jurisdictions which fail to recognise freedom of religion.

While supporters argue same-sex marriage is a human rights issue, opponents point towards the fact that no national or international court has ruled it to be so.

Some other people object to same-sex marriage on the grounds that the purpose of marriage is a procreative partnership and that the same-sex partnership is inherently sterile. Some who hold this view see marriage as the social codification of an evolved long-term mating strategy, with economic and legal benefits to facilitate family growth and stability. These people generally do not carry over their objections to sterile heterosexual couples.

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. This could be considered an application of the precautionary principle.

Arguments in support of same-sex marriage

Some churches, such as the Unitarian Universalist Association, advocate marriage rights for gays as well as straights.

Proponents of same-sex marriage point out that so-called "traditional" concepts of marriage in actuality have already undergone significant change (see History of Civil Marriage in the U.S.). In most modern societies, for example, married women are no longer considered the property of their husbands (see the legal rights of women), divorce is legal, contraception within wedlock is allowed (Griswold v. Connecticut in U.S.), and anti-miscegenation laws forbidding interracial marriage have been eliminated.

Proponents suggest that, under the principles of religious pluralism and the separation of church and state, conservative religious arguments should not be used to constitute the law. Religious same-sex marriages are already performed in Unitarian Universalist churches, some Reform synagogues, Quaker (Friends General Conference) congregations, and by the Metropolitan Community Church. In Canada, for example, the United Church of Canada, the country's largest Protestant denomination, has supported the legalization of same-sex marriage.

In the United States, proponents of marriage equality point out that there are over 1,049 federal laws in which "rights, benefits, and privileges are contingent on marital status" (States General Accounting Office pdf). Some of the rights conferred in marriage include:

  • family visitation rights for the spouse and non-biological children, such as to visit a spouse in a hospital
  • next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions or filing wrongful death claims
  • survivor benefits, social security, and bereavement leave after a spouse's death
  • spousal health insurance, life insurance, and veteran's benefits
  • marital tax breaks and the tax-free transfer of property between spouses
  • custodial rights to children, shared property, child support, and alimony after divorce
  • joint parenting rights, such as access to children's school records
  • adoption rights
  • domestic violence intervention
  • immigration and residency priority for spouses from other countries
  • access to "family only" services, such as reduced rate memberships to clubs & organizations or residency in certain neighborhoods

A legal denial of rights or benefits without substantive due process, proponents of marriage equality say, directly contradicts the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution which provides for equal protection of all citizen across classes.

In the 2003 case before the Supreme Court titled Lawrence v. Texas, the court held that the right to private consensual sexual conduct was protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. Both supporters and detractors of same-sex marriage have noted that this ruling paved the way for subsequent decisions (ie. Goodridge v. Department of Health) invalidating state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted as much in his dissenting opinion to Lawrence.

Some conservative proponents of equal marriage like Andrew Sullivan also say that the institution of marriage would be strengthened by making it available to more people, and argue further that same-sex marriage would encourage gays and lesbians to settle down with one partner and raise families.

Supporters of same-sex marriage counter slippery slope arguments that allowing such marriages will not alter the legalization of other, perceived undesirable marriages that are currently not allowed including:

  • incestuous marriages, because allowing same-sex couples to marry does not alter the restriction on consanguinous relationships.
  • marriages of convenience as these are already legal (between people of the opposite sex).
  • marriages between humans and non-humans (Note: this argument is not taken seriously by most commentators), since non-humans do not have the legal standing to consent into a marriage contract.
  • polygamous/group marriages, because allowing same-sex couples to marry does not change the restriction on the number of people who may contract a marriage. Furthermore, because of the reciprocal nature of many spousal rights and responsibilities, it would not be possible to give three-person groups equal rights and responsibilities as two-person groups. For example, if a government gives medical coverage to spouses of service members, then a service member with thirty spouses would either receive benefits far more valuable than one with only one spouse would or not all that service member's spouses would receive coverage.

Finally, supporters state that, in the jurisdictions that have afforded legal recognition of same-sex unions, the dire consequences foretold by opponents have not come to pass.

It should be noted that not all religious people are opponents of gay marriage. Reverend F. Russell Baker, of the United Church of Christ, who personally experienced discrimination because of his interracial marriage with an African-American woman shortly after the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S., argues that

[J]ust as people were worked up by unscrupulous politicians about interracial marriage in the 1960s—politicians whose only contribution was spreading fear and mistrust and hatred so that they could solidify their political base—we had something similar occurring during this last campaign [in 2004]... numerous religious leaders noted for their narrow legalistic religious traditions and their judgments on the behaviors of others, vehemently criticizing those who they could not understand. Some of the same segregationists of the past are now the enthusiastic proponents of these new anti–gay marriage laws... [I]f one listens carefully to the gay and lesbian community, one discovers that often after much turmoil, a person comes to the conclusion that they were created this way... No one ever said understanding God’s will for us would be easy... Jesus said we need to accept others, care for others, and love others just as God accepts, cares for, and loves

He concludes "There will come a time when we will look back upon [banning gay marriage in eleven states] for the shame it is. I hope it will be soon."[11]

Arguments that gays and lesbians are sinners and thus are undeserving of recognition of their unions, proposed by conservatives, neglects the consideration that very rarely is anyone completely without sin, which is reinforced in Christian theology "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and thus by extension, no one should deserve the right of legal recognition of their unions. Moreover, in many places, it is legal for mixed-sex criminals to be married (see Turner v. Safley).

Arguments in opposition to state-sanction of marriage

Some libertarians object to same-sex marriage because they are opposed to any form of state-sanctioned marriage, including opposite-sex unions. They are not necessarily opposed to the idea of a same-sex wedding itself, only that the government should not have any role in the event, nor for that matter should government approval be sought for opposite-sex marriages.

Same-sex Marriage & Gay Families

With the advent of recent medical breakthroughs that have opened a wide array of choices available to same-sex couples to have biological children or adopt, the denial of marriages to same-sex couples can have detrimental effects not only on the adults within these families but children as well. Hospital visitation issues, end-of-life decision making and access/barriers to health care can all be attributed to the denial of marriage.

Gay men in long-term relationships are now increasingly opting to raise families. Many methods have been devised to allow them to have biological children. Some couples elect to have a close relative (sometimes a sister), good friend, or contract an individual to either obtain an egg for a surrogate or give birth through in vitro fertilization. In the cases of a good friend or a contracted entity the child is only biologically related to one partner. However in the cases of a blood relative such as a sister of one partner who donates an egg that is fertilized with the other partner's sperm and placed into a surrogate the child is biologically related to both partners.

Lesbian couples can also produce biological children through similar means. Some elect to have one partner donate an egg which is fertilized with a blood relative of the other partner, sometimes a brother. The egg is then placed into the partner who did not donate the egg. In essence one partner gives birth to her partner's and sometimes brother's biological child. This is not to be confused with incest since the child is not a biological offspring of a brother and sister, rather it is a biological offspring of the brother and the sister's partner. The sister only acts as a vehicle of the birth.

These procedures can be costly. And many same-sex couples choose adoption instead. However adoption does not produce a child that is biologically related in any manner.

Publicly noted same-sex unions





Notable events timeline

A timeline of significant steps towards legal recognition of same-sex couples worldwide


  • May 12: United States: A federal judge in Omaha strikes down Nebraska's sweeping ban on same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other same-sex relationships. U.S. Distict Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled that the ban, known as Initiative 416, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This is the first state constitutional provision banning same-sex marriage to be ruled unconstitutional.
  • April 21: marriage bill passed by Spain's lower house of parliament; the senate still must pass it before it becomes law (expected for summer).
  • April 7: United States: The Connecticut State Senate passes legislation that legalizes same-sex civil unions. On April 13, the bill is passed through the Connecticut House of Representatives with the added "marriage is between a man and a woman" definition. The bill is sent back to the Senate for approval. Finally, on April 20, the State Senate approved the amended bill by a vote of 26–8 and Republican Governor Jodi Rell signed the same-sex civil union bill into law.
  • April 7: United States: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg orders city agencies to recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states and countries. This order will give same-sex couples who married in places such as Massachusetts or Canada rights that couples recognized under the city's existing domestic partnership law do not have, including the power to make life-or-death medical decisions. Same-sex spouses will also be able to collect worker's compensation if a partner dies.
  • March 14: United States: Judge Richard Kramer of San Francisco County Superior Court said California's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
  • February 22: United Kingdom: The British government announces December 5, 2005 as the implementation date for the Civil Partnership Act. Ceremonies can begin from December 21, 2005, after the mandatory waiting period.
  • February 1: Canada: Bill_C-38, which would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples across all of Canada, introduced.
  • January 27: Sweden: The Swedish government announces the launching of a report into whether same-sex marriage should be legalized.


  • December 9: Canada: Acting on a reference from Parliament, the Canadian Supreme Court states that a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Canada would be constitutional. Prime Minister Paul Martin says his government will introduce same-sex marriage legislation in January.
  • December 8: Israel: The Israeli government indicates that it will recognize same-sex partnerships for certain benefits, and will introduce legislation formalizing this status.
  • December 8: New Zealand: Parliament passes civil union legislation by 65 votes to 55. The new law provides a way for de facto couples, including same-sex couples, to gain legal recognition of their relationships, but stops short of same-sex marriage.
  • November 30: South Africa: A South African court rules that the common law concept of marriage must be extended to include same-sex couples. Although the ruling does not immediately permit same-sex marriage in South Africa, it is considered a major step in that direction.
  • November 26: Canada: In one of Canada's largest class-action lawsuits, the Ontario Court of Appeal upholds a lower court ruling whereby Canadians whose same-sex partners died after April 1985 are entitled to Canada Pension Plan survivors' benefits.
  • November 17: United Kingdom: The British House of Lords passes the Civil Partnership Act to allow same-sex couples to obtain civil partnerships. This is the final legislative hurdle for the bill, which becomes law on receiving Royal Assent on November 18. It is expected that couples will be able to register parternships from autumn or winter 2005, the delay being necessary to allow administrative changes.
  • November 9: Ireland: An Irish High Court judge rules that a lesbian couple who married in Canada may proceed with their case seeking to have their marriage recognized for the purposes of Irish tax law.
  • November 5: Canada: A judge in Saskatchewan rules that same-sex couples must enjoy the right to equal marriage in that province.
  • November 4: Canada: Two lesbian couples denied marriage licences file a lawsuit against the governments of Canada and of Newfoundland and Labrador, asking for the legalization of same-sex marriage in that province.
  • November 3: United States Results of November 2 vote confirms that state constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage are passed in eleven states: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah. The measures in Oregon, Mississippi, and Montana bar same-sex marriage only; those in the other states bar civil unions and domestic partnerships as well; and Ohio bars granting any benefits whatsoever to same-sex couples
  • May 17: United States: Massachusetts – first legal same-sex marriages in the US performed


  • November 18: United States: Massachusetts: decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health
  • June 17: Canada: The Canadian government announces that it will not appeal the Ontario appeals court ruling that permitted same-sex marriage. Instead, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien indicates that his government will introduce legislation to change the definition of marriage.
  • June 10: Canada: The Ontario Appeals Court rules that the law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples contravenes the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court does not permit the province any grace time to bring its law in conformity with the ruling. Thus Ontario has become the first jurisdiction in North America to recognize same-sex marriages. Toronto announces that its city clerk will begin to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples, and two same-sex couples who filed suit have their marriages retroactively recognized. On June 11 the attorney general of Ontario announces that his government will conform to the court ruling.
  • May 1: Canada: The British Columbia Supreme Court becomes the third provincial supreme court to rule that the Canadian government must legally recognize same-sex marriage.
  • January 30: Belgium: Belgium extends civil marriage to same-sex couples.


  • June 5: Sweden: Law passed allowing same-sex couples apply for adoption


  • April 1: The Netherlands: Laws that open up marriage for same-sex couples and grant same-sex couples adoption rights come into effect. Four same-sex couples are married at the stroke of midnight by the Mayor of Amsterdam.
  • March 15: Portugal: The existing União de Facto law (non-registred civil partnership) is changed to include same-sex partners. Child adoption is only allowed for oposite-sex partners.




Some people with friends who are in a same-sex marriage are unsure as to how to address them, since in English and other languages, married people may use a different form of address from single ones. Etiquette writer Judith Martin (Miss Manners) counsels that where the spouses have taken one name, they may be addressed as The Messrs. John and Richard Doe or Mmes. Alice and Carol Roe; otherwise, they may be addressed individually, as is done for other married couples with different surnames. [12]

See also


  • Why Marriage?: The History Shaping Today's Debate Over Gay Equality by George Chauncey (Basic Books, 2004).
  • Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle by Dr. James Dobson (Multnomah, 2004)
  • "Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe" by John Boswell (Villard, 1995)
  • US case law finding no right to same-sex marriage:
    • Adams v. Howerton, 673 F.2d 1036 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 458 U.S. 1111 (1982)
    • Baker v. Nelson, 191 NW2d 185 (Minn. 1971)
    • Jones v. Hallahan, 501 SW2d 588 (Ky. 1973)
    • Singer v. Hara, 522 P.2d 1187 (Wash. App. 1974)
    • De Santo v. Barnsley, 476 A.2d 952 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1984)
    • In re Estate of Cooper, 564 N.Y.S.2d 684 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 1990)
    • Dean v. District of Columbia, 653 A.2d 307 (DC 1995)
    • Jennings v. Jennings, 315 A.2d 816, 820 n.7 (Md. Ct. App. 1974) ("marriage is between only one man and one woman.")
    • Storrs v. Holcomb, 645 N.Y.S.2d 286 (N.Y. App. Div. 1996) (New York does not recognize or authorize same-sex marriage)
    • In re Estate of Hall, 707 N.E.2d 201, 206 (Ill. App. 1998) (no same sex marriage will be recognized; petitoner claiming existing same-sex marriage was not in a marriage recognized by law)
    • Burns v. Burns, 560 S.E.2d 47 (Ga. App. 2002) (state will only recognize marriage between one man and one woman)
    • In re Estate of Gardiner, 42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002) (a post-op male-to-female transgendered person may not marry a male, because this person is still a male in the eyes of the law, and marriage in Kansas is recognized only between a man and a woman)
    • Rosengarten v. Downes, 806 A.2d 1066 (Conn. 2002) (Marriage in this state is only between one man and one woman; state will not recognize Vermont civil union in any way)
    • Frandsen v. County of Brevard, 828 So. 2d 386 (Fla. 2002) (State constitution will not be construed to recognize same-sex marriage; sex classifications not subject to strict scrutiny under Florida constitution)
    • Standhardt v. Superior Court ex rel County of Maricopa, 77 P.3d 451 (Ariz. App. 2003) (no state constitution right to same-sex marriage)
    • Lewis v. Harris, 2003 WL 23191114 (N.J. Sup. Ct. 2003) (unpublished)(New Jersey is not requried to allow same-sex marriage)
    • Morrison v. Sadler, 2003 WL 23119998 (Ind. Super. Ct. 2003) (Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act is found valid, marriage may only be between one man and one woman)

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