Homosexuality and bisexuality
Same-sex marriages (SSM), civil unions,
domestic partnerships & other human rights
issues. 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.
Two opposing opinions about marriage equality:
- Opinion 1: Many conservatives believe that states are free to define marriage as they wish, even if their definition violates the U.S. Constitution:
During the 2014-MAR testimony of state attorney Kristin Heyse in the case DeBoer v. Snyder in Michigan's federal District Court. she defended the 2004 amendment to the state Constitution that banned all recognition of same-sex relationships:
"This case is ... about the state’s definition of marriage. The people’s definition of marriage that encouraged kids ... [to be] raised by moms and dads was not irrational. ... Moms and dads are important. ... Mothers and fathers are not indispensable. Kids benefit by having both."
- Opinion 2: Almost everyone else believes that states are free to define marriage as they wish, as long as their definition doesn't violate the U.S. Constitution:
Excerpt from the ruling in by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Awad v. Ziriax 670 F.3d 1111, 1132 during 2012:
"The [U.S.] Constitution does not permit either a state legislature or the state’s citizens through a referendum to enact laws that violate constitutionally protected rights. ... While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out ... the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights [under the U.S. Constitution]."
Current really "hot topics" concerning 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:
The redefinition of marriage to include loving, committed same-sex couples is a major decision being made by a growing and accelerating number states in the U.S. and by other countries.
As of 2014-MAR-01, 17 countries have legalized SSM. The latest is Scotland whose parliament modified its marriage law on 2014-FEB-04. That leaves Australia and Northern Ireland as the only two large English speaking areas that have not taken this step. Debate is active in both countries.
California, Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, & New Mexico are the most recent U.S. states to legalize SSM, bringing the total to 17 states and the District of Columbia. A number of federal District Courts have legalize SSM in their state or required their state to recognize marriages solemnized by same-sex couples in other states. However, these court decisions are all stayed pending appeals to Circuit Courts of Appeal. Stays currently prevent same-sex couples from marrying. See below. Dozens of lawsuits are active in other states.
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 the map was made:
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. 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 of SSM In the U.S.:
- As of 2014-APR-06:
- Marriage licenses are routinely available and marriages routinely registered for same-sex couples in 17 states. About 38% of Americans live in a political jurisdiction where same-sex couples can marry. The states are: CA, CT, DE, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, ME, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NH, RI, VT, & WA. The District of Columbia makes a total of 18 political jurisdictions with marriage equality.
- Same-sex marriage (SSM) remains forbidden by state constitutional amendments in 27 states and by state laws only in 4 states [IN, PA, WV, WY].
- Some of the recent developments were:
- The Illinois legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill. It was signed into law on 2013-NOV-20.
- The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled on 2013-DEC-19 that the state marriage laws were unconstitutional and that SSM was legal.
- Many federal district courts have issued rulings legalizing marriages in their states or requiring their state to recognize marriages solemnized out of state. See 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.
- 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.
Some 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 parents of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
- 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.
- Defining eligibility for marriage in the U.S. is done on a state-by-state basis. However, many states that have banned same-sex marriage through legislation or by amending their constitution have violated the equal protection and equal access clauses of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. These states can expect to have same-sex marriage legalized by rulings of federal District Courts because of these violations.
- Since 2011, 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 killed new SSMs 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 largely a generational shift as the vast majority of teens support marriage equality and are approaching adulthood, while most senior citizens oppose marriage equality and 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 runing 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: 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 them to do the exact opposite.
Elsewhere in the world, the most recent governments to pass SSM legislation were England and Wales, France, New Zealand, and Scotland. That leaves Australia and Northern Ireland as the only large, predominately English speaking countries that do not allow same-sex marriage. Debate is active in both countries.
Topics covered in this section:
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:
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses to loving, committed same-sex couples and register their marriages. See above. According to Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, there were 36 active lawsuits in 20 states seeking marriage equality as of late 2013.
At year end, 2013 according to the Pew Research Center:
Past history and current status of same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions in various states:
* SSM currently available in 17 states and Washington DC.
About 40% of American same-sex couples live in one of these locations.
** Oregon recognizes legal same-sex marriages that were solemnized out of state.
In addition, ten rulings by federal District Courts have been issued. All states but Indiana, they are currently being appealed to a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal:
- In five states -- Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia 1 -- District Courts have legalized same-sex marriage, but their rulings have been stayed.
- In two states -- Kentucky and Tennessee -- District Court rulings have required their state to recognize same-sex marriages made in other states.
- In two states:
- In Ohio, a District Court ruled that a person who married a spouse of the same sex in an out-of-state marriage can have their married state acknowledged, but only on her or his Ohio death certificate.
- In Indiana a District Court released a temporary restraining order requiring the state to recognize the marriage of a single specified couple who were married out of state. This was issued on compassionate grounds because one spouse is terminally ill.
These are the only place in the world where the act of dying causes one's marriage to be recognized.
- In one state -- Nevada -- a District Court ruled against same-sex marriage!
Status of SSM elsewhere in the world:
As of 2013-JUN-01, seventeen countries have legalized SSM everywhere within their borders, including: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, France, Iceland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Scotland, Sweden, and Uruguay. Also, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States have legalized SSM in some states, but not in others.
Books about same-sex marriage:
Jason Pierceson, "Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: The Road to the Supreme Court," Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1 edition (2013-MAR-08). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store in either hardcover or Kindle versions.
Book review by Ellen Anderson, University of Vermont:
"Jason Pierceson has given us an engaging and richly informative history of the struggle for marriage equality in the United States. It has something for everybody. The general public will appreciate Pierceson’s accessible prose and penchant for story-telling. Sociolegal scholars and scholars of LGBT rights will prize both the way Pierceson revisits and re-envisions key historical moments in the battle for marriage equality and his exploration of marriage equality politics in states and localities across the nation."
Amazon.com lists the following additional books on
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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/
- Sara Goo, "As 2014 brings new state laws, a look at public opinion on the issues," Email from Factank, Pew Research Center, 2013-DEC-31.
Copyright © 1997 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-APR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson