Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage) is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex and/or gender identity. Legal recognition of same-sex marriage or the possibility to perform a same-sex marriage is sometimes referred to as marriage equality or equal marriage, particularly by supporters.
The first laws in modern times enabling same-sex marriage were enacted during the first decade of the 21st century. As of May 2013, thirteen countries (Argentina, Belgium,Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden), and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Mexico and the United States), allow same-sex couples to marry. Uruguay and New Zealand have both enacted laws to legalize same-sex marriage which will come into force in August 2013. Bills allowing legal recognition of same-sex marriage have been proposed, are pending, or have passed at least one legislative house in Andorra, England and Wales, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Nepal, Scotland, and Taiwan, as well as in parts of Australia, Mexico, and the United States.
Introduction of same-sex marriage laws has varied by jurisdiction, being variously accomplished through a legislative change to marriage laws, a court ruling based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or by direct popular vote (via a ballot initiative or a referendum). The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political, social, human rights and civil rights issue, as well as a religious issue in many nations and around the world, and debates continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed marriage, be required to hold a different status (a civil union), or be denied recognition of such rights. Allowing same-gender couples to legally marry is considered to be one of the most important of all LGBT rights.
Same-sex marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. Various faith communities around the world support allowing same-sex couples to marry or conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies; for example: Church of Sweden, Quakers, U.S. Episcopalians, the Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, Buddhism in Australia, Reform and Conservative Jews, Wiccans, Druids, Unitarian Universalists, and Native American religions with a two-spirit tradition, as well as various progressive and modern Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish groups and various minor religions and other denominations.
Studies conducted in several countries indicate that support for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage increases with higher levels of education and that support is strong among younger people. Additionally, polls in various countries show that there is rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage across race, ethnicity, age, religion, political affiliation, and socioeconomic status.
During the Ancient Civilization, there was already a record of a same-sex relationship but theykept it secretly. Even now, they still prefer to keep it secret. In our modern world, this kind of relationship still exist and continuous spreading around the globe. Recently some of the countries,known to be liberated, they already accepted the same-sex relationship and implemented a law wherein they give permission to same-sex marriage as known as the civil union.
The movement to open civil marriage to same-sex couples achieved its first temporary success in 1993 with the decision of the Hawaii Supreme Court that the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples would be presumed unconstitutional unless the state could demonstrate that it furthered a compelling state interest. In response to this decision the state constitution was amended to allow the legislature to preserve that restriction.
A similar court decision in Alaska in 1998 led to an even stronger constitutional amendment, itself defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In further reaction to the Hawaii case, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (1996) provided that no state would be required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state, and also defined marriage for federal-law purposes as opposite-sex. The majority of the states also passed their own “marriage protection acts.” (In November 2004, eleven more U.S. states amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage.)
In Vermont, after that state’s Supreme Court held in 1999 that the state must extend to same- sex couples the same benefits that married couples receive, the legislature in 2000 created the status of “civil union” to fulfill that mandate. Connecticut adopted a similar civil union law in 2005. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to open civil marriage to same-sex couples. Belgium became the second in 2003. In 2002 through 2004, courts in six Canadian provinces held that the opposite-sex definition of marriage was contrary to Canada’s Charter of Rights, and in 2005 federal legislation extended same-sex marriage to all of Canada. Same-sex marriage was also legalized in Spain in 2005 , in South Africa in 2006, in Norway and Sweden effective in 2009, and in Portugal, Iceland, and Argentina effective in 2010.
In November 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that excluding same-sex couples from the benefits of civil marriage violated the state constitution, and in February 2004 that court further held that a “civil union” law would not be sufficient, and on May 17, 2004 Massachusetts became the first state in the United States where same-sex marriage per se is legal.
In July 2006, opposite-sex definitions of marriage were upheld by the highest courts of both New York and Washington; likewise in Maryland in 2007.
In October 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that same-sex couples were entitled to the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The Legislature complied with that decision by enacting a civil union act in December 2006.
In May 2008, California became the second state to legalize same-sex marriage
when the California Supreme Court held that laws restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples were unconstitutional. Connecticut followed suit in October 2008. In California, the Supreme Court decision was overturned by voter initiative in the November 2008 election, but that initiative was held unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in February 2012.
In 2009, same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa by decision of its Supreme Court, and in Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia by legislation. New York’s Marriage Equality Act was enacted in June 2011. The states of Maryland and Washington legalized same-sex marriage by statute in 2012.