The status of same-sex marriage changes frequently as legislation and legal action takes place around the world. Summarized in this article are the current trends and consensus of political authorities and religions throughout the world.
- 1 Civil recognition
- 1.1 Africa
- 1.2 Asia
- 1.3 Europe
- 1.4 North America
- 1.4.1 Canada
- 1.4.2 Costa Rica
- 1.4.3 Mexico
- 1.4.4 United States
- 22.214.171.124 Federal recognition
- 126.96.36.199 Legal recognition of same-sex unions without marriage
- 188.8.131.52 States with constitutional or statutory bans on same-sex marriage or union recognition
- 184.108.40.206 Coquille
- 220.127.116.11 Cherokee
- 18.104.22.168 Cheyenne and Arapaho
- 22.214.171.124 Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
- 126.96.36.199 Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
- 188.8.131.52 Saint Ysabel Tribe
- 1.5 Oceania
- 1.6 South America
- 2 Religious recognition
- 3 See also
- 4 References
The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriages, with the first marriages performed in the Amsterdam city hall on 1 April 2001. Since then, same-sex marriages have been performed legally by Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2003 – in some provinces; 2005 – nationally), 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 the United Kingdom (2014, excluding Northern Ireland), and Luxembourg (from 1 January 2015).
In the United States, same-sex marriages are performed in the federal district, the District of Columbia (2010), and in thirty-five states: Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2010), New York (2011), Washington (2012), Maine (2012), Maryland (2013), California (briefly in 2008, then in 2013), Delaware (2013), Minnesota (2013), Rhode Island (2013), New Jersey (2013), Hawaii (2013), New Mexico (2013), Oregon (2014), Pennsylvania (2014), Illinois (2014), Indiana (2014), Wisconsin (2014), Oklahoma (2014), Utah (2014), Virginia (2014), Colorado (2014), West Virginia (2014), Nevada (2014), Idaho (2014), North Carolina (2014), Alaska (2014), Arizona (2014), Wyoming (2014), Kansas (2014), Montana (2014) and South Carolina (2014). Same-sex marriages are also performed in St. Louis, Saint Louis County and Jackson County in Missouri (2014) and in eleven Native American tribes. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed by states that allow same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage has been legalized only in South Africa.
In December 2005, in the case of Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled unanimously that it was unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from marrying when marriage was permitted for opposite-sex couples, and gave Parliament one year to "correct the defect" in the law. If Parliament did not act, words would be "read in" to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriages. In November 2006 Parliament passed the Civil Union Act, under which same-sex and opposite-sex couples may contract unions. A union under the Civil Union Act may, at the choice of the spouses, be called either a marriage or a civil partnership; whichever name is chosen, the legal effect is identical to that of a traditional marriage under the Marriage Act.
No country in Asia currently performs same-sex marriages, nor recognizes it, while it's being performed all over the world. Although there have been several legislative initiatives over the past years, no country in Asia has changed its decision. Israel is the only country in Asia to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Cambodian law prohibits same-sex marriage.
Then King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk, announced in 2004 that he supports legislation extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. However, since his proclamation no effort has been made to legislate for them.
In an exceptional case, a marriage between a lesbian couple was legally and religiously solemnized in 1995 in Kandal Province.
Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. Article 2 of the Marriage Law declares "one husband and one wife" as one of the principles guiding marriages. The principle, first codified in 1950, was intended to outlaw polygamy, but is now also interpreted to disallow same-sex marriages. Many other articles of the same law also assumes the marriage is a heterosexual union.
Before 1997, same-sex couples found in sexual activity were prosecuted under a provision in the penal code against "hooliganism" or "indecency" (Chinese: 流氓罪). The provision was repealed in 1997.
The National People's Congress, legislature of the People's Republic of China (PRC), proposed legislation allowing same-sex marriages in 2003. During the course of the debate, the proposal failed to garner the 30 votes needed for a placement on the agenda. Li Yinhe has made numerous proposals to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to allow same-sex marriages, but none has succeeded.
Hong Kong and Macau
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.
Marriages in Israel are performed under the authority of the religious authorities to which the couple belong. For Jewish couples the responsible religious authority is the orthodox Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The Rabbinate does not permit same-sex marriages. However, on 21 November 2006 the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that five same-sex Israeli couples who had married in Canada were entitled to have their marriages registered in Israel.
Article 24 of the Japanese constitution states that "Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis." The purpose of the clause was to counter previous feudal arrangement where the father or husband was legally recognized as the head of the household. However, the new constitution had the unintended consequence of defining the marriage as union of "both sexes", i.e. man and woman. However, on 27 March 2009, it was reported that Japan has given the green light for its nationals to marry same-sex foreign partners in countries where same-sex marriage is legal, a justice ministry official said. Japan does not allow same-sex marriages domestically and has so far also refused to issue a key document required for citizens to wed overseas if the applicant's intended spouse was of the same gender. Under the change, the justice ministry has told local authorities to issue the key certificate—which states a person is single and of legal age—for those who want to enter same-sex marriages.
Nepal's highest court, in November 2008, issued final judgment on matters related to LGBT rights. Based on its ruling, the government will introduce a same-sex marriage bill. Same-sex marriage and protection for sexual minorities will be included in the new Nepalese constitution currently being drafted.
The New People's Army of the Philippines conducted the country’s first same-sex marriage in 2005. However it was not recognized by the government. Within the government there has been some debate on the issue of same-sex unions. The Roman Catholic Church stands in fierce opposition to any such unions. But since 1991 the Metropolitan Community Church Philippines has been conducting Same Sex Holy Unions in the Philippines. As of 2010, the issue of same-sex marriage is not "under consideration" in the Philippines. The only thing under consideration is a possible ban on same-sex marriage, including refusal to recognize marriages performed overseas. political parties such as the Gabriela Women's Partylist are actively lobbying and advocating for lesbian and gay rights and to insist that society not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.
On 30 July 2004, the Democratic Labor Party of South Korea filed a formal complaint against the Incheon District Court's decision to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages. The complaint was filed on the grounds that the decision is unconstitutional, because neither the Constitution nor civil law define marriage as being between a man and a woman (the only mentioned requisite is age of majority) and that the Constitution explicitly forbids discrimination "pertaining to all political, economic, social, or cultural aspects of life of an individual." The Committee also claimed that refusal to recognize same-sex marriages constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation and a refusal to provide equal protection under the law.
In 2003, the government of the Taiwan, led by the Presidential office, proposed legislation granting marriages to same-sex couples under the Human Rights Basic Law. However, it has not proceeded. The country does not have any form of same-sex unions.
Same-sex civil marriages are legally recognized nationwide in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, France and the United Kingdom (in effect from 2014, excluding Northern Ireland). In a number of other European countries, same-sex civil unions give similar rights to marriage.
A poll conducted by EOS Gallup Europe in 2003 found that 57 percent of the population in the then 15-member European Union support same-sex marriage. The support among the member states who joined in 2004 is lower (around 28 percent), meaning that 53 percent of citizens in the 25-member EU support legalizing same-sex marriage.
Albania's government announced its intention to propose a bill allowing same-sex marriage in 2009. However, the bill had not been presented.
On 1 June 2003, Belgium became the second country in the world to legally recognise same-sex marriage.
On 15 March 2006, the parliament of the Czech Republic voted to override a presidential veto and allow same-sex partnerships to be recognised by law, effective 1 July 2006, granting registered couples inheritance and health care rights similar to married couples. The legislation did not grant adoption rights. The parliament had previously rejected similar legislation four times.
On 15 June 2012, Denmark became the eleventh country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
Since 1999, same-sex civil unions (PACS) have been allowed and legal in France. In June 2011, an Ifop poll found that 63% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage. France legalised same-sex marriage on April 23, 2013. The bill was confirmed in the Constitutional Court of France on May 17, 2013 and signed by the French President on May 18, 2013.
In Germany there is a legal recognition of same-sex couples. Registered life partnerships (Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft) (effectively, a form of civil union) have been instituted since 2001, giving same-sex couples most of the rights and obligations 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.
Greek law on civil marriage does not explicitly specify that the couple should be a female and a male. In spring 2008, the Minister of Justice announced that a bill was to be introduced to Parliament in order to regulate civil partnerships, but refused to include provisions for same-sex couples in the bill. On 3 June 2008 the mayor of Tilos Island performed two same-sex civil weddings, one of a female and one of a male couple. This created a flurry of reactions, both positive and negative. The chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court declared that the weddings have no basis in law and initiated judicial action against the mayor, the Minister of Justice concurring. Many clerics declared their opposition, but the spokesman of the Primate of the Church of Greece said that people who marry "outside the church … can do what they want". Most opposition parties declared their support both for same-sex civil marriage or partnership and for the mayor's actions. The newlyweds pursued the matter in the European Court of Human Rights after unsuccessful attempts to get vindicated in the Greek courts. The case is now awaiting the court's decision.
Unregistered cohabitation has been recognized since 1996. It applies to any couple living together in an economic and sexual relationship (common-law marriage), including same-sex couples. No official registration is required. The law gives some specified rights and benefits to two persons living together. These rights and benefits are not automatically given – they must be applied for to the social department of the local government in each case. An amendment was made to the Civil Code: "Partners – if not stipulated otherwise by law – are two people living in an emotional and economic community in the same household without being married." Widow-pension is possible, partners cannot be heirs by law (without the need for a will), but can be designated as testamentary heirs.
The Hungarian Parliament on 21 April 2009 passed legislation by a vote of 199–159, called the Registered Partnership Act 2009 which allows same-sex couples to register their relationships so they can access the same rights, benefits and entitlements as opposite-sex couples (except for the right to marriage, adoption, IVF, surrogacy, taking a surname or become the legal guardian of their partner's child). The legislation does not allow opposite-sex couples to register their relationships (out of fear that there might be duplication under the law). The law came into force on 1 July 2009. Since January 1, 2012 the Hungarian Constitution bans same-sex marriage.
On 11 June 2010, a law was passed to make same-sex marriage legal in Iceland. The law took effect on 27 June 2010.
The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 was first debated in Dáil Éireann on 3 December 2009. It passed in Dáil Éireann without a vote on 1 July 2010 due to all parties supporting the bill. The bill passed in Seanad Éireann on 8 July 2010 with a vote of 48–4. It was signed by the President of Ireland on 19 July 2010.
The law took effect on 1 January 2011. It grants many rights to same-sex couples through civil partnerships but does not recognise both civil partners as the guardians of a child being raised by the couple. Irish law allows married couples and individuals to apply to adopt and allows gay couples to foster. The Act also gives new protections to cohabitating couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex. The Irish Government is to hold a referendum in May 2015 to vote on the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
In December 2005, the Latvian Parliament passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga signed the amendment shortly afterward.
On 14 April 2014, the Maltese parliament voted in favour of civil unions at par with marriage (equal to marriage in all but the name) with all rights and obligations, including the right to adoption and recognition of same-sex marriage contracted abroad. The first foreign same-sex marriage was registered on 29 April 2014 and the first Civil Unions began on 14 June 2014.
The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages on 1 April 2001. The possibility exists in its European territory as well as the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) while those marriages can be registered in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
Same-sex marriage is legally performed in Norway. The Norwegian government proposed a gender-neutral marriage law on 14 March 2008, that would give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexuals, including church weddings, adoption and assisted pregnancies. On 29 May 2008, the Associated Press reported that two Norwegian Opposition parties came out in favor of the new bill, assuring the bill's passage when the vote was held on 11 June. Prior to this, there were some disagreements with members of the three-party governing coalition on whether the bill had enough votes to pass. With this, it became almost certain that the bill would pass.
The first hearings and the vote were held, and passed, on 11 June 2008. 84 votes for and 41 against. This also specified that when a woman who is married to another woman becomes pregnant through artificial insemination, the partner would have all the rights of parenthood "from the moment of conception". The law became effective from 1 January 2009.
Norway was also the second country to legalize registered partnerships, doing so in 1993. Since 1 January 2009, all registered partnerships from 1993–2008 were upon request by the couples upgraded to marriage status.
On March 2001, the Socialist government of then Prime Minister António Guterres introduced legislation that would extend to same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples living in a de facto union for more than two years.
Same-sex marriage became a source of debate in February 2006 when a lesbian couple was denied a marriage license. They took their case to court alleging violation of the 1976 constitution which prohibits discrimination based on one's sexual orientation. Prime Minister José Sócrates of the Socialist Party was reelected on September 2009 and included same-sex marriage in his party's program. A bill recognizing same-sex marriage was proposed by the government and approved by parliament on 8 January 2010. However, Portugal's parliament rejected alternative proposals that included a provision to allow homosexual couples to adopt as a couple (single homosexuals can legally adopt). Although personally against it, the Portuguese President ratified the bill on 17 May 2010. The law became effective on 5 June 2010, after publication in the official gazette, on 31 May. The first marriage was celebrated on 7 June 2010 between Teresa Pires and Helena Paixão, the same lesbian couple that was denied a marriage licence in 2006.
In July 2006, Slovenia became the first former Yugoslav country to introduce domestic partnerships nationwide. In December 2009 the Slovenian government approved a new Family Code, which includes same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. The bill has been sent to Parliament to vote on the matter.
Spain became the third country in the world (after the Netherlands and Belgium) to legalize same-sex marriage. After being elected in June 2004, Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero restated his pre-election pledge to push for legalization of same-sex marriage. On 1 October 2004, the Spanish Government approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, including adoption rights. The bill received full parliamentary approval on 30 June 2005 and passed into law on 2 July, becoming fully legal on 3 July. Polls suggest that 62% to 66% of Spain supports same-sex marriage.
Following a bill introduced jointly by six of the seven parties in the Riksdag, a gender-neutral marriage law was adopted on 1 April 2009. It came into force on 1 May, replacing the old legislation on registered partnerships. On 22 October, the assembly of the Church of Sweden (which is no longer officially the national church but whose assent was needed for the new practice to work smoothly within its ranks) voted strongly in favor of giving its blessing.
On 18 November 2004 the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Civil Partnership Act, which came into force in December 2005 and allows same-sex couples in England and Wales to register their partnership. The government stressed during the passage of the bill that it is not same-sex marriage, and some same-sex rights activists have criticized the act for not using the terminology of marriage. However, the rights and duties of partners under this legislation are exactly the same as for married couples. An amendment proposing similar rights for family members living together was rejected. The press widely referred to these unions as "gay marriage."  During and following the 2010 election, all parties stated they were in favor of allowing same-sex marriage in the UK. Following a public consultation, as of 2013 a bill allowing same-sex marriage in England and Wales, and also providing an exemption for conducting of same-sex marriage ceremonies for religious bodies whose doctrines oppose such relationships, passed its second reading on 5 February 2013 in a 400–175 vote. The bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords on 15 July 2013 and the Commons accepted all of the Lords' amendments on the following day, with Royal Assent granted on 17 July 2013.
In Scotland, which is a separate legal jurisdiction, the devolved Scottish Parliament also introduced Civil Partnerships, and performed also a consultation on the issue of same-sex marriage. On 25 July 2012 the Scottish Government announced it would bring forward legislation to legalise both civil and religious same-sex marriage in Scotland. The Government reiterated its intention to ensure that no religious group or individual member of the clergy would be forced to conduct such ceremonies; it also stated its intention to work with Westminster to make necessary changes to the Equality Act to ensure that this would be guaranteed. No legislative plans have currently been announced for a similar law in Northern Ireland.
On 4 February 2014, Scotland passed Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill 105 to 18 legalizing same-sex marriage.
In Canada between 2003 and 2005, court rulings in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Yukon ruled the prohibition of same-sex marriage to be contrary to the Charter of Rights, thus legalizing it in those jurisdictions (which covered 90% of the population). In response to these rulings, the governing Liberal party minority government introduced legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry. On 20 July 2005, the Canadian Parliament passed the Civil Marriage Act, defining marriage nationwide as "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others." This was challenged on 7 December 2006 by a motion tabled by the newly elected Conservative party, asking the government to introduce amendments to the Marriage Act to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples; it was defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 175 to 123.
Canada does not have a residency requirement for marriage; consequently, many foreign couples have gone to Canada to marry, regardless of whether that marriage will be recognized in their home country. In fact, in some cases, a Canadian marriage has provided the basis for a challenge to the laws of another country, with cases in Ireland and Israel. Notably, the plaintiff in the United States v. Windsor, which challenged the Defense of Marriage Act wed her wife in Ontario.
As of 11 November 2004, the Canadian federal government's immigration department, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), considers same-sex marriages performed in Canada valid for the purposes of sponsoring a spouse to immigrate. Canadian immigration authorities previously considered long-term, same-sex relationships to be equivalent to similar heterosexual relationships as grounds for sponsorship.
In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5–2 decision that it was not required by the constitution to recognize same-sex couples in family law. Legal recognition of same-sex unions has been considered by the Legislative Assembly.
On 9 November 2006, Mexico City's unicameral Legislative Assembly passed and approved (43–17) a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions, under the name Ley de Sociedades de Convivencia (Law for Co-existence Partnerships), which became effective in 16 March 2007. The law recognizes property and inheritance rights to same-sex couples. On 11 January 2007, the northern state of Coahuila, which borders Texas, passed a similar bill (20–13), under the name Pacto Civil de Solidaridad (Civil Pact of Solidarity). Unlike Mexico City's law, once same-sex couples have registered in Coahuila, the state protects their rights no matter where they live in the country. Twenty days after the law had passed, the country's first same-sex civil union took place in Saltillo, Coahuila.
On 21 December 2009, Mexico City's Legislative Assembly legalized (39–20) same-sex marriages and adoption by same-sex couples. Eight days later, the law was enacted and became effective in March 2010.
On 28 November 2011, the first two same-sex marriages occurred in Quintana Roo after discovering that Quintana Roo's Civil Code did not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, 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.
On April 30, 2013, a male same-sex couple asked the Civil Registrar of Chihuahua to marry. The Civil Registar rejected because the State Constitution defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. On May 7, 2013, the couple appealed the decision of the Civil Registar and on August 19, judge, José Juan Múzquiz Gómez, of the Tenth District Court of the Chihuahua State recognized that they have the right to marry. The Civil Registar had up to September 3 to appeal the decision. The government of the state did not appeal the decision and allowed the deadline to pass. On September 4, 2013, Chihuahua became the third state in Mexico to allow same-sex couples to marry.
In January 2010, in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora, a same-sex marriage bill has been proposed. In southeastern Tabasco, the state's largest political parties, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), have announced their support for same-sex marriage in the 2010 agenda. In the western state of Michoacán, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has announced it will propose bills concerning civil unions, same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in 2010. In neighboring Colima, governor Mario Anguiano Moreno has agreed to discuss the legalization of civil unions and adoption by same-sex couples.
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Marriage laws in the United States are governed by the fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Consequently, recognition of same-sex marriages differs from state to state. As of November 2014, slightly more than 60% of Americans live in jurisdictions that recognize and perform same-sex marriages.
Thirty-five U.S. states and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) now perform legal same-sex marriages: Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2010), Washington D.C. (2010), New York (2011), Washington (2012), Maine (2012), Maryland (2013), California (briefly in 2008, then in 2013), Delaware (2013), Minnesota (2013), Rhode Island (2013), New Jersey (2013), Hawaii (2013), New Mexico (2013), Oregon (2014), Pennsylvania (2014), Illinois (2014), Utah (briefly in 2013, then in 2014), Oklahoma (2014), Indiana (2014), Wisconsin (2014), Virginia (2014), Colorado (2014), West Virginia (2014), Nevada (2014), Idaho (2014), North Carolina (2014), Alaska (2014), Arizona (2014), Wyoming (2014), Kansas (2014), Montana (2014) and South Carolina (2014). Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Texas have had court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage stayed pending appeal.
In 2005, California became the first state to pass a bill authorizing same-sex marriages without a court order, but this bill was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2008, the Supreme Court of California overturned a law banning same-sex marriages that had been passed by a voter initiative in 2000 (Proposition 22). The legal effect of the court ruling was curtailed by another voter initiative called Proposition 8 later that year. Proposition 8 was upheld by the California Supreme Court in 2009, holding that same-sex couples have all the rights of heterosexual couples, except the right to the "designation" of marriage. But the court also ruled that marriages performed after its 2008 decision and before the passage of Proposition 8 remained legally valid. Attempts to overturn Proposition 8 by another voter initiative immediately followed the court's ruling.
The case was eventually appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On 7 February 2012, in a 2–1 decision, the court affirmed Judge Walker's decision declaring the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional (see Prop 8 Ruling). The panel continued a stay on the ruling, however, barring any marriages from taking place pending further appeals. The case was granted review Supreme Court certiorari as Hollingsworth v. Perry, and was decided on June 26, 2013. That decision rejected an attempt to nullify a California Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. As a result, gay marriage is now legal in California.
Although marriage laws are the province of state law in the U.S., after the Hawaii State Supreme Court became the first U.S. state supreme court to rule that the denial of marriage to same-sex couples was discriminatory in 1993, the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. (Hawaii passed a constitutional amendment in 1998 that allowed the legislature to overturn the court's 1993 decision.)
Section 3 of DOMA defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and its purpose was to enable states to deny recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Under DOMA, same-sex couples who married in states that granted legal marriages were denied federal rights that attached to marriage.
On 26 June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor. The court said that the provision was "a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." With this ruling the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed by states that allow same-sex marriage and affects several federal rights, including enabling a U.S. citizen to petition a same-sex spouse for immigration.
The Court in the United States v. Windsor case did not, however, address the constitutionality of DOMA Section 2, which allows a state to deny recognition of a same-sex marriages granted in other states. Legal observers predict the constitutionality of Section 2 will come under scrutiny next.
Legal recognition of same-sex unions without marriage
Several other states offered alternative legal certifications that recognized same-sex relationships. Before states enacted these laws, U.S. cities began offering recognition of these unions. These laws bestow marriage-like rights to these couples, and are referred to as civil unions, domestic partnerships, or reciprocal beneficiaries depending on the state. The extent to which these unions resembled marriage varied by state, and several states had enhanced the rights afforded to them over time. The U.S. jurisdictions that used these forms of same-sex union recognition instead of marriage are:Colorado (2009), Wisconsin (2009), and Nevada (2009). Same sex marriage however, is now legal in all these states.
States with constitutional or statutory bans on same-sex marriage or union recognition
Constitutional amendments in 29 states explicitly bar the recognition of same-sex marriages, and 18 of these states prohibit the legal recognition of any same-sex union. Another 3 states (namely Indiana, West Virginia and Wyoming) have legal statutes that define "marriage" as a union of two persons of the opposite sex.
An attempt to ban same-sex marriages and any other legal recognition of same-sex couples in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico failed in 2008. Puerto Rico already banned same-sex marriage by statute.
In 2008, the Native American Coquille Nation passed a law recognizing same-sex marriage; it is believed to be the first tribal nation to do so. Although the Oregon voters approved an amendment to the Oregon Constitution in 2004 to prohibit such marriages, the Coquille are not bound by the Oregon Constitution, because they are a federally recognized sovereign nation.
After a Cherokee lesbian couple applied for a marriage license, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council unanimously approved a Constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The couple appealed to the judicial court on grounds that their union predated the amendment, and on 22 December 2005 the Judicial Appeals Tribunal of the Cherokee Nation dismissed an injunction against the lesbian couple filed by members of the Tribal Council to stop the marriage. The couple would still need to file the marriage certificate for the marriage to become legal.
Cheyenne and Arapaho
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes granted a marriage license to a same-sex couple, both of American Indian descent, on October 10, 2013 in Oklahoma. There was no preceding government announcement or official act.
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Saint Ysabel Tribe
Since August 2004, same-sex marriage became banned under an amended federal law Marriage Act 1961 (Amendment) Act 2004 so that neither a foreign same-sex marriage can be performed or recognised in the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. This effectively banned same-sex marriage in Australia. The law, which prior to 2004, had not defined marriage specifically, appropriated marriage as the "voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others." In 1874 under the Hyde vs. Hyde case marriage was defined in the common law as a "voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others." Neither Civil partnerships nor civil unions are recognised by the Commonwealth Government, either. The Federal Opposition, namely the Australian Labor Party under the leadership of Mark Latham, joined with the Government to support the ban, amid strong objection from the Australian Democrats and The Greens. It was passed on 13 August 2004 as effective from the day of assent. In June 2009, polling showed that 60 percent of Australians support same-gender marriage (Galaxy).
The states and territories of New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have civil partnerships or relationship registration schemes that are available for all couples. These state-level registered relationships are recognised on both the state and Commonwealth Government levels. Local governments such as Sydney, Melbourne and Yarra also provide relationship registers for symbolic recognition, but these do not provide any legal rights. Furthermore, all states and the Commonwealth Government provide recognition to same-sex couples (and unmarried opposite-sex couples) as "de facto" couples, providing them with most of the rights of married couples.
However, in 2011, Labor voted 218 to 184 in favor of same-sex marriage on a conscience vote. If passed, it would legalise same sex marriage in Australia. Following this, the bill was voted against by the Opposition and therefore same-sex marriage remains banned in Australia.
On 26 March 2013, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama expressed opposition to the idea of same-sex marriage. Answering a question raised by a caller on a radio talk-back programme, he stated that same-sex marriage "will not be allowed because it is against religious beliefs".
Originally, in New Zealand, civil unions, which impart all of the same rights and privileges as marriage, (except for adoption) are allowed. The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a member's bill sponsored by openly lesbian Labour MP Louisa Wall that would legalise same sex marriage was passed by Parliament on 17 April 2013, 77 votes to 44. The bill received Royal Assent from the Governor-General on 19 April and took effect on 19 August 2013.
Samoa is a deeply conservative Christian nation. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in 2012 reportedly "scoffed" at the idea of same-sex marriage being adopted in Samoa, and indicated that he would not support it. He reiterated this position, on explicitly religious grounds, in March 2013.
Same-sex marriage is possible in Argentina since 2010, Brazil (2013) and Uruguay (2013).
On 22 July 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage. The law also allows same-sex couples to adopt. And in many jurisdictions, including the city of Buenos Aires, it is also legal for non-residents and tourists.
On 25 October 2011, Brazil's Supreme Court of Justice ruled that two women can enter into civil marriage under the current law, thus overturning the decision of two lower court’s ruling against the women. Following this ruling, a growing number of courts of Brazilian states, such as the most populous state of São Paulo, implemented directives which allowed for same-sex civil marriages in the same manner as other marriages.
Same-sex couples can currently have registered partnerships and full rights to adopt children in all states, and same-sex marriages based on court orders have occurred in several states in individual cases.
On May 14, 2013, Brazil's National Justice Council (CNJ) ruled in favor of recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
The Colombian Constitutional Court ruled in February 2007 that same-sex couples are entitled to the same inheritance rights as heterosexuals in common-law marriages. This ruling made Colombia the first South American nation to legally recognize gay couples. In January 2009, the Court ruled that same-sex couples must be extended all of the rights offered to cohabitating heterosexual couples. On July 26, 2011, the Court ordered the Congress to pass the legislation giving same-sex couples similar rights to marriage in two years (by June 20, 2013). If such a law is not passed until then, same-sex couples will be granted these rights automatically.
The 2008 new constitution made Ecuador the first country in South America where same sex civil union couples are legally recognized as a family and share all the same rights of married heterosexual couples (except for adoption).
On April 2014, legislator Carlos Bruce received a petition signed by 10 thousand people in favor of allowing civil unions for gay couples. Bruce, who put forward the change in the law in September last year, hopes that it will alleviate the discrimination faced by gay Peruvians.
The bill was scheduled to be debated on April 7 in front of the Commission of Justice and Human Rights, but ultimately was postponed until after Easter. While the country has a history of rejecting bills that protect gay people, supporters and allies are hopeful that the Peruvian Congress will move forward with the bill.
In June 2014, bills taking on different forms of recognition, some with more rights than others, were discussed in Congress. After a dramatic debate, it was decided by politician Carlos Bruce, who had earlier announced to the public that he was gay, that the original Civil Union bill he submitted with more rights should be voted on separately from other proposals. More than one bill allowing for recognition of same-sex relationships will be discussed in the next parliamentary session which begins in August.
Uruguay became the first country in South America to allow civil unions (for both opposite sex and same-sex couples) in a national platform on 1 January 2008.
Children can be adopted by same-sex couples since 2009. A same-sex marriage bill passed in the Chamber of Deputies in December 2012, as well as in the Senate in April 2013 but with minor amendments. The amended bill was approved by the Chamber of Deputies in a 71–21 vote on April 10 and then on May 3, 2013 got the signature from the President. The law took effect on August 5, 2013.
The religious status of same-sex marriage has been changing since the late 20th century and varies greatly. Reformed traditions in mainly Protestant (Liberal Christian denominations and Unitarian churches) and Reformed Jewish societies tend to be more receptive to the idea than orthodox or conservative ones, but many others, particularly some Protestant churches are deeply divided over the issue.
Many religious institutions that do recognize same-sex marriage avoid using the terms "marriages" or "weddings", and instead call them "blessings" or "unions." How and to what degree these institutions embrace the idea varies, often by congregation. These institutions have recognized same-sex marriage or encourage it in their congregations in some fashion, either simply as marriage or some kind blessing or union:
The following denominations accept same-sex unions to some degree:
- The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow same-gender marriages on 19 June 2014 during its 221st General Assembly, making it one of the largest Christian denominations in the world to condone same-sex unions. This vote effectively lifted a previous ban and allows pastors to perform marriages in jurisdictions where it is legal. Additionally, the Assembly voted to send out a proposed amendment to the Book of Order that would change the description of marriage from "between a man and a woman" to "between two people, traditionally between a man and a woman." This amendment will need to be approved by a majority of the 171 Presbyteries to take effect.
- The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia (which includes Greater Vancouver) decided to allow the blessing of same-sex unions in 2002. In response bishops from Africa, Asia and Latin America representing more than one-third of the Anglican Communion cut their relations with the diocese.
- As of June 2011, 8 of the 29 Dioceses have the discretion to bless same-gender civil marriages in consultation with the bishop.
- The Episcopal Church (United States) blesses same-sex unions
- British Quakers, some American Quaker meetings (see Homosexuality and Quakerism).
- The Old Catholic Church of Germany blesses same sex unions
- Lutheran (Europe)
- In the Netherlands and Switzerland the reformed church allows blessings of married same-sex couples.
- The Danish Church of Argentina marries same-sex couples.
- In Germany some Lutheran and reformed churches in the EKD permit their priests blessings of same-sex couples.
- On 22 October 2009, the governing board of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden voted 176–62 in favour of allowing its priests to wed same-sex couples in new gender-neutral church ceremonies, including the use of the term marriage. Same-sex marriages in the church will be available starting 1 November 2009.
- Metropolitan Community Church perform same-sex marriages,
- United Church of Canada variously bless same-sex unions or allow same-sex marriages in the church—several Canadian religious groups joined in an interfaith coalition in support of equal marriage rights, and issued a joint statement: http://www.religious-coalition.org/
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (2009) – During its 2009 Churchwide Assembly the ELCA passed a resolution by a vote of 619–402 reading "Resolved, that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships."
- United Church of Christ (2005) – the specifics of the resolution did not change any church's religious marriage policies, but urged UCC congregations to advocate for civil marriage equality. In keeping with the polity of that denomination, doctrinal matters like wedding policies remain under the authority of each local congregation.
- Union for Reform Judaism (Reform Judaism)
- Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist Judaism) – Left up to the individual rabbi.
Rabbis will also perform blessings of same sex relationships where one partner is Jewish and the other is not so long as a (legal) Civil Partnership is in force for the couple.
- Unitarian Universalist
- Japanese Buddhism – although there is no same-sex marriage in Japan itself, authorities in Buddhist sects based in Japan recognise Buddhist same-sex unions performed elsewhere.
- Ethical Society
- Religious humanism
Debated or divided
In many religious traditions, the adherents are deeply divided over the issue, often alongside other contentious issues, such as having women in leadership positions or legalizing abortions. The institutions within the following traditions are either debating the issue or have policies that vary according to congregation:
- Baptists, other than the Southern Baptist Convention
- Lutherans, ELCA
- Presbyterians - PC(USA), not the more conservative PCA, OPC, ARP, EPC and others
- Individual interpretation
- Afro-Brazilian religions – individual interpretation. They historically tend to have, nevertheless, an openly LGBT-positive instance even among variants heavily influenced by Christianity and Allan Kardec's Spiritism, such as Umbanda, that includes many of the relatively few religious bodies in Brazil to issue religious marriage certificates with civil validity for same-sex couples.
- Spiritism – individual interpretation. Heterosexist instances common, but not to the point of supporting discrimination.
- Many Japanese new religions – individual interpretation in spite of some commonly-held heterosexist instances in many, such as for example seicho-no-ie.
The religious traditions or institutions that do not recognize same-sex marriage tend to view homosexuality as immoral. These traditions or institutions do not recognize same-sex unions in any form or in any congregation:
- Roman Catholic Church—On 3 June 2003, the Congregation for the Faith issued a document concerning marital rights to same sex couples. It reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that regards homosexual acts as being intrinsically disordered because they cannot result in children. The international organisation We are Church states that it is "committed to change the Church's official and theological approach to homosexual people".
- Eastern Orthodox Church
- Oriental Orthodoxy
- Southern Baptists
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Evangelical Free Church
- Numerous non-denominational churches
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Same-sex marriage.|
- LGBT adoption
- Blessing of same-sex unions in Christian churches
- Marriage, unions and partnerships by country
- Religion and sexuality
- Same-sex controversy in the U.S. Census 2000
- Same-sex marriage
- Societal attitudes toward homosexuality
- Timeline of same-sex marriage
- Uniting American Families Act
- Marriage privatization
- Divorce of same-sex couples – legal aspects, divorce rates
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