Homosexuality and bisexuality
Same-sex marriages (SSM), civil unions,
domestic partnerships & other human
issues affecting same-sex couples.
Currently, the most active U.S. religious conflict.
We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage."
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
Disclaimer: Please read.
We recommend that visitors to this web site not make any personal decisions based on the following information -- including other essays linked to this menu -- without first checking accuracy with independent sources. The status of same-sex marriage in the 50 states is in extreme flux and sometimes changes daily.
A quotation concerning marriage:
Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980): A passage from his ruling for the majority in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut, dated 1965-JUN. This was the first ruling that guaranteed individual right to privacy, at least for married couples. It overturned a state law that criminalized the use of contraceptives. The law had been passed in 1879 and almost never enforced. This quotation is often incorporated into same-sex wedding ceremonies:
"We deal with a right to privacy older than the Bill of Rights — older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions."
Some current really "hot topics" about same-sex marriage (SSM):
SSM appears to be the most prominent religious conflict in the U.S. today, surpassing even abortion access.
Worldwide SSM status as of 2013-APR:
Marriage equality -- creating the right for loving, committed same-sex couples to marry -- has become established in a growing number of U.S. States and in many other countries.
Among major English speaking countries, only Australia, Ireland, and Northern Ireland have not taken this step. Public support for SSM is quite high in these countries and debate is active there.
The countries that do not yet allow same-sex marriages are outlined shown in gray, but are missing in some browsers. Sorry about that.
Since this map was made:
As of 2015-MAY-24:
- The following countries have legalized marriage by same-sex couples. In chronological order they are: The Netherlands in the year 2000, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Argentina, Iceland, Portugal, Denmark, Brazil, England and Wales, France, New Zealand, Uruguay, Luxembouorg, Scotland, Finland, and Ireland in 2015. 14
- The media cannot quite agree exactly how many countries have attained marriage equality. This is because England and Wales are sometimes counted as one country and sometimes as two. Finland's marriage law was changed in 2015 but does not become effective until 2017. Finally, there are a few routine steps for the Irish government to go through before couples can go apply for their marriage licenses.
Other aspects of same-sex marriage (SSM) discussed in this section:
SSM is very controversial. The central government in almost every other country is responsible for defining marriage eligibility. However, in the U.S., marriage is defined at the state level. This means a total of 52 separate battles -- one in each of 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government. The current status is shown below.
Prohibiting same-sex marriage seems to have assumed greater importance recently among religious and social conservatives than even restricting women's access to abortion. Part of the opposition is due to beliefs promoted by some conservative faith groups about the nature of sexual orientation. Some common beliefs are:
- That everyone is born heterosexual but that some people choose to become gay or lesbian later in life;
- That homosexuality is an addiction similar to drug dependence or alcoholism. Once some people try same-gender sexual activity, they become "hooked"on it.
- That children who are sexually abused by adults of the same gender are much more likely to become gay or lesbian during their teen or early adult years.
- That adults who engage in same-gender sexual activity can become heterosexual through prayer and therapy;
- That abusive pedophilia -- adults sexually molesting pre-pubertal children -- is much more common among gays and lesbians than among heterosexuals.
- That children raised in families headed by a same-sex couple do not thrive as well as children raised by an opposite-sex couple.
All of the above are denied by numerous professional mental health organizations like the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, etc. and by human sexuality researchers. Unfortunately, little or no dialogue is occurring among these associations and faith groups to resolve their differences. They remain far apart on fundamental understanding of sexual orientation.
Additional religious beliefs commonly found among conservative faith groups are:
- That all persons who engage in same-gender sexual activity will spend eternity after death in Hell. This belief often causes great emotional pain to the LGBT community as well as parents of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals.
- That homosexual behavior is hated by God.
- That if same-sex marriage becomes more common in the U.S. that God will retaliate at some point by causing one or more horrendous natural disasters as he did at Sodom and Gomorrah, and later during the time of Noah, with great loss of life. 2 Fear of God's punishment is a main motivator among many religious conservatives which causes them to strongly oppose SSM.
Many recent court rulings have determined that those states that have banned same-sex marriage through legislation and/or by amending their constitution have violated the equal protection and/or the due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. These states can expect to have same-sex marriage eventually legalized by rulings of one of their federal District Courts because of these violations.
Since 2011, national polls have regularly showed that most Americans favor legalizing SSM. Support is increasing, and opposition is dropping, each by 1 to 2 percentage points/year.
Previous to 2012, referendums in two states terminated SSMs: California in 2008 and Maine in 2009. These votes temporarily prevented new SSMs. They were passed with about a 6 percentage point margin. The most recent referendums on SSM were held on 2012-NOV-06 to restore SSM in Maine, and legalize SSM in Maryland, and Washington State. All three states legalized SSM with about a 5 percentage point margin. Overall gain in margin over four years was about 11 percentage points.
The movement towards equal rights and benefits for same-sex couples appears to be accelerating. It is at least partly caused by a generational shift: The vast majority of teens support marriage equality. Most senior citizens still oppose marriage equality, but are leaving the voter pool because of disability or death.
A large and growing percentage of the adult population believes that marriage equality is inevitable.
An increasing number of religious and social conservatives are diverting their energy away from preventing same-sex marriage. They are working harder to establish the right of individuals, companies and churches to actively discriminate against the LGBT community without running afoul of state human rights legislation. They promote this in the name of religious freedom. But it is not religious freedom in the historical meaning of the term, which includes the freedom of belief, freedom to assemble, freedom of religious speech, freedom to proselytize, etc. It is a recently emerged meaning for religious freedom: the religiously-based freedom to oppress and discriminate against others. Few seem to realize that the ethic of reciprocity -- a.k.a. Golden Rule -- requires Christians and followers of other religions to do the exact opposite.
One of many points of view:
Other topics covered in greater detail:
Background material: <<< Please read some of these essays first!
History and current status of SSM and civil unions:
||Harms resulting from:
||Health benefits resulting from SSM
||Quotations showing the diversity of beliefs
||Affects of Religion and race on attitudes towards SSM:
||Laws in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world:
||Public opinion polls:
||Legal developments affecting SSM, civil unions, etc. in the U.S.:
||LGBT news items 1996 to 2010
||The status of governments' recognition of same-sex relationships as of mid-2005 with links to later developments
Recognition that same-sex relationship seems to have reached a tipping point on 2011-FEB-23
||Within Native American Nations:
Inter-faith, interracial, inter-ethnic marriages are recognized everywhere in the U.S. However, same-sex marriages are treated very differently. As a result of voter plebiscites, legislative activities, and/or court rulings same-sex marriages are legal in some states and not in others. Same-sex marriage had been approved by recent court decisions in some additional states, but many had been stayed pending appeals to higher courts. See below.
On 2014-OCT-06, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to not review four rulings that dealt with marriage equality that were issued by three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal . This quickly added five new states to the places where marriage licenses are available to same-sex couples. It also set up six additional states where marriages should have been made available. These are states that are under the jurisdiction of these same three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. Kansas and South Carolina are in this group. They initially resisted this precedent but were forced to comply by late November.
In those states where same-sex marriage is not allowed, there are many lawsuits active -- including at least one in every state -- attempting to attain marriage equality. Unless same-sex marriage becomes available everywhere in the U.S., married same-sex couples have to be very careful where they live and to where they travel. A medical emergency can become a life-or-death matter very quickly if they are in one of the states shown below as other than dark blue.
The second latest state to attain marriage equality was Alabama on 2015-FEB-09. However, marriage licenses are, at least temporarily, not available there because of a dispute between state and federal courts. The most recent was Nebraska on 2015-MAR-02, shown in bright blue.
As of 2015-MAR-03, the most recent changes in marriage status have involved three states that have changed from red (SSM banned) to black (SSM legal):
- Kansas was 34th state to attain marriage equality on 2014-NOV-13. However, only some counties allow same-sex marriage.
- Montana was 35th state on 2014-NOV-19.
- South Carolina was 36th state 2014-NOV-20.
- Florida was the 37th state on 2015-JAN-05.
- Alabama was the 38th state on 2015-FEB-09.
- Nebraska was the 39th state on 2015-MAR-02 (Shown in blue). A decision of a District Court has been appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who might enforce a stay.
That leaves 12 states that still have not attained marriage equality.
Past history and current status of same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions in the U.S.:
As of 2015-MAR-03 marriage equality has been attained in 40 locations, including 39 states and the District of Columbia. They are:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming).
- The status of same-sex marriage in Missouri is in a state of flux. It is currently available only in St. Louis and Kansas City, MO.
- In Nebraska, the state has appealed the ruling of a federal District Court to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who might place a stay on the lower court ruling.
At least one lawsuit seeking marriage equality is active in each of the remaining 11 states which currently ban same-sex marriage as shown above.
The current state of same-sex marriage in the U.S. is very similar to to the situation regarding interracial marriages prior to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize such marriages in across the entire U.S. in 1967.
The vast majority of Americans now believe that marriage equality is inevitable across the U.S. in the near future. There are signs that:
- Non-profit groups who have been promoting marriage equality are beginning to shift their emphasis towards protecting the LGBT community from discrimination in employment, accommodation, etc.
- Non profits who have been resisting marriage equality are now beginning to emphasize changes in local and state human rights legislation so that individuals and public accommodations will have the religious freedom to actively discriminate against same-sex couples. Such discrimination violates one of the main tenets of their faith -- the Golden Rule. However, this conflict is generally ignored and rarely discussed.
Status of same-sex marriage by U.S. state, district and territory:
* As of 2015-MAR-03, same-sex couple can marry in 39 states and Washington DC.
Over 70% of Americans live in a location that has attained marriage equality.
In all but one state this appears to be settled for the future. However, Nebraska's ruling by a U.S. District Court has been appealed to the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals who might put a stay on the District Court ruling at any time.
++ In four states, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, federal District Courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality. A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals subsequently reversed their rulings by a close, 2 to 1, vote. The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted all four cases for appeal, and held hearings on the case,Obergefell v. Hodges, during 2015-APR-28. The high court is expected to issue its ruling in late 2015-JUN or early JUL which may legalize same-sex marriage everywhere across the U.S.
Status of SSM elsewhere in the world:
As of 2014-DEC-01, eighteen countries have either legalized SSM or have passed laws to attain marriage equality at some date in the near future when laws become effective. They are: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, Finland, France, Iceland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay.
Mexico, and the United States are unlike other countries, in that marriage laws are defined by individual states. Some, but not all, state governments in these countries have legalized SSM.
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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Gay marriage: MPs back legislation ," BBC News, 2013-FEB-05, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
- See the Bible, Genesis 19, in which God is said to have killed the elderly, adults, youth, children, and infants of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the unsuccessful attempt by men to rape male angels who were visiting Sodom.
- "Of Marriage and Divorce," Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 26, Section 6.135, at: http://www.ccel.org/ or http://www.sacred-texts.com
- Philip Pullella, "Gay marriage, abortion new forms of evil: Pope," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-23, Page A14.
- "Stew" posting a response to "Dispatches from the Culture Wars" bulletin board on the topic "Canada paves the way for gay marriage,"
on 2004-DEC-09. See: http://www.stcynic.com/
- "Spanish pro-family leader decries government policies,"
Catholic World News, 2005-JUN-20, at: http://www.cwnews.com/
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Ministry to
persons with a homosexual inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,"
2006-NOV-14, at: http://www.usccb.org/ This is a PDF file.
- Cynthia Needham, "Hearing revives R.I.'s gay-marriage debate,"
Rhode Island News, 2009-MAY-13, at: http://www.projo.com/
- Jim Burroway, "About Us: The Tale of the Box Turtle." Box Turtle
Bulletin, 2007-JAN-09, at: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/
- Nathan Black, "Christians need to prepare for same-sex marriage," Christian Post, 2011-FEB-26, at: http://www.christianpost.com
- Michael Pearson, "Maryland Senate approves same-sex marriage bill," CNN, 2012-FEB-23, at: http://www.cnn.com/
- Elizabeth Chuck, "Where Same-Sex Marriage Stands in the 50 States," NBC News, 2914-MAY-20, at: http://www.nbcnews.com/
- Copied from the Wikipedia web site on 2014-JAN-11 from an original uploaded by Lokal_Profil. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attributio-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- Olivia B. Waxman, "20 Other Countries Where Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal Nationwide," Time magazine, 2015-MAY-23, at: http://time.com/
Copyright © 1997 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2015-MAY-24
Author: B.A. Robinson