Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage) is the marriage of two people of the same sex or gender, entered into in a civil or religious ceremony. There are records of same-sex marriage dating back to the first century. In the modern era, same-sex marriage started being legalized at the beginning of the 21st century. Today, it is available in 28 countries.
Same-sex marriage is legally performed and recognized (nationwide or in some jurisdictions) in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico,[a] the Netherlands,[b] New Zealand,[c] Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom,[d] the United States,[e] and Uruguay. Same-sex marriage is also due to become legal in Costa Rica.[f] Israel recognizes same-sex marriages entered into abroad as full marriages. Furthermore, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has issued a ruling that is expected to facilitate recognition in several countries in the Americas.[g]
The introduction of same-sex marriage (also called marriage equality) has varied by jurisdiction, and came about through legislative change to marriage law, court rulings based on constitutional guarantees of equality, recognition that it is allowed by existing marriage law, or by direct popular vote (via referendums and initiatives). The recognition of same-sex marriage is considered to be a human right and a civil right as well as a political, social, and religious issue. The most prominent supporters of same-sex marriage are human rights and civil rights organizations as well as the medical and scientific communities, while the most prominent opponents are religious fundamentalist groups. Polls consistently show continually rising support for the recognition of same-sex marriage in all developed democracies and in some developing democracies.
Scientific studies show that the financial, psychological, and physical well-being of gay people are enhanced by marriage, and that the children of same-sex parents benefit from being raised by married same-sex couples within a marital union that is recognized by law and supported by societal institutions. Social science research indicates that the exclusion of homosexuals from marriage stigmatizes and invites public discrimination against them, with research also repudiating the notion that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon restricting marriage to heterosexuals. Same-sex marriage can provide those in committed same-sex relationships with relevant government services and make financial demands on them comparable to that required of those in opposite-sex marriages, and also gives them legal protections such as inheritance and hospital visitation rights. Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on claims such as that homosexuality is unnatural and abnormal, that the recognition of same-sex unions will promote homosexuality in society, and that children are better off when raised by opposite-sex couples. These claims are refuted by scientific studies, which show that homosexuality is a natural and normal variation in human sexuality, and that sexual orientation is not a choice. Many studies have shown that children of same-sex couples fare just as well as the children of opposite-sex couples; some studies have shown benefits to being raised by same-sex couples.
A study of nationwide data from across the United States from January 1999 to December 2015 revealed that the establishment of same-sex marriage is associated with a significant reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among children, with the effect being concentrated among children of a minority sexual orientation, resulting in about 134,000 fewer children attempting suicide each year in the United States.
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 the recognition of same-sex marriage on equal ground with opposite-sex marriage as opposed to special rights.
The AP Stylebook recommends the usage of the phrase marriage for gays and lesbians or the term gay marriage in space-limited headlines. The Associated Press warns that the construct gay marriage can imply that the marriages of same-sex couples are somehow different from the marriages of opposite-sex couples.
Use of the term marriage
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.
Opponents of same-sex marriage who want marriage to be restricted to pairings of a man and a woman, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention, use the term traditional marriage to mean opposite-sex marriage.