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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex Marriages, worldwide:

Past and current activities concerning same-
sex marriages (a.k.a. gay marriages, SSM),
across the U.S. and the rest of the world.

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In this web site, the acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage. This term is the most
accurate because it includes same-sex marriages that include one or two bisexuals.
However, our use of "gay marriage" improves search engines' access to this web site.

"LGBT" refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community.

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-Front Page, New York Times

Front page of the New York Times on Saturday, 2015-JUN-27, one
day after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.
Two column headings say:
"Forceful Dissents From the Court And Nation"
Historic Day for Gay Rights, but a Twinge of Loss for Gay Culture"

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Current status in the United States.

After 2015-NOV, marriage had become generally available to same-sex couples throughout the 50 states, and District of Columbia, and four out of five territories. The exception remains American Samoa where most of the population are American residents, not American Citizens. As a result, not all decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court apply in that territory.

During 2016, there were still holdouts in a few counties where county clerks are valuing their faith group's religious beliefs above their oath of office, their promise to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and their obligation to obey the Golden Rule. They are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This was not too serious a problem in practice because, in most or all cases, same-sex couples can simply travel to another nearby county within their state to pick up their license. By mid-2018, when this disclaimer was last updated, if there are any clerks still refusing to issue such licenses, they seem to be largely ignored by the media.

One exception ocurred in Root, NY which is located west of Schenectady and northwest of Albany. An engaged same-sex couple, Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd, approached the town clerk, Laurel "Sherrie" Eriksen during mid-2018 to purchase a marriage license. No news outlet appears to have reported the exact date. She refused to issue a license because her sincere religious beliefs called for her to discriminate against persons with a homosexual orientation. Also, they had not made an advance appointment with her. She recommended that they make an appointment with the deputy town clerk who does not share her religious need to discriminate. The couple then drove 13 miles to Cobleskill, NY where they obtained a marriage license.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) has directed the state government's Division of Human Rights to look into the matter. He also asked the couple to visit him in Albany and offered to officiate at their wedding. Gov. Cuomo said:

"Personally, I cannot believe that this could happen anywhere in this country, let alone in the state of New York." 19

The Gallup Poll found that approval of gay marriage had reached about 63% in 2017 20 and more than two out of three (67%) in 2018. 21 This includes 83% of Democrats, 71% of Independents and 44% of Republicans. 21 Youths currently in high schools are the first generation where the majority have close friendships with gay/lesbian youths who are fellow students or close family members. They are reaching an understanding of sexual orientation that is far superior to previous generations. Future adult support for same-sex marriage can only increase as these students age.

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The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, offered a thoughtful survey on marriage:

Bishop Schori discussed how marriage was viewed from biblical times until shortly after voters in California voted very narrowly in 2008-NOV to continue to restrict marriage in that state to one woman & one man:


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wedding rings Some current really "hot topics" about same-sex marriage (SSM) (a.k.a. gay marriage or marriage equality):

SSM appeared to be the most prominent religious conflict in the U.S. during most of 2015, surpassing even abortion access.

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Sponsored link.

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same sex marriage symbol Worldwide SSM status as of 2017-DEC:

Marriage equality -- creating the right for loving, committed same-sex couples to marry -- has become established in a growing number of countries. The Netherlands was the first during 2001. The U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the entire country on 2015-JUN-26. The 13 states that had banned it gradually fell in line with the court ruling..

Among major English speaking countries, only Northern Ireland has not taken this step. Public support for SSM is quite high in this country and debate is active there.

On 2017-DEC-07, the Australian Government was the most recent to legalize same-sex marriage. They had conducted a postal survey on gay marriage among all enrolled electors. (In Australia, voting is compulsory, so that about 96% of the eligible population is entrolled). An incredible 79.5% of eligible voters returned their volunteer survey cards. 61.5% favored marriage equality; 38.4% favored denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

same-sex marriage worldwide 16

Color coding: For same-sex couples:

  • Dark blue: Marriages can be solemnized now.
  • Blue: Civil unions or domestic partnersipes are available
  • Green: Marriages solemnized elsewhere can be recognized.
  • Orange: Same-sex couples became ableto marry n 2018.
  • Gray: Countries that do not yet allow same-sex marriages.

Status of marriage equality as of 2017-DEC-08:

  • The following countries have made marriage available for same-sex couples. In order by year, they were:
    • 2001: The Netherlands.
    • 2001: Belgium.
    • 2005: Canada (the first country in the western hemisphere and the first in North America) and Spain.
    • 2006: South Africa (the first country in Africa).
    • 2009: Norway and Sweden.
    • 2010: Argentina, Iceland, and Portugal.
    • 2012: Denmark.
    • 2013: Brazil, France, New Zealand, and Uruguay, .
    • 2014: England, Scotland., and Wales.
    • 2015: Finland, Greenland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and United States (except for American Samoa)
    • 2016: Colombia
    • 2017: Germany, and Malta.
    • 2018: Australia
    • 2019: Taiwan (the first country in Asia), Austria. 14,22

Mexico City legalized same-sex marriages in late 2009. Some states in Mexico have since done the same.

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. Also, some media accounts date same-sex marriage to the time when the enabling bill is signed into law, while others date them to when the law came into effect.

Northern Ireland remains the only large, developed, predominately English speaking country that continues to deny the right of same-sex couples to marry.

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Sponsored link

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Other aspects of same-sex marriage (SSM) discussed in this section:

SSM is very controversial. The central government in almost every country is responsible for defining marriage eligibility. However, in the U.S., marriage is defined at the state level. This means a total of 57 separate battles -- one in each of 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government and the five U.S. territories (three of which are in the Pacific Ocean, and two in the Atlantic). The current status is shown below.

At its peak, 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 effort involving 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.

Support for 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.

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One of many points of view:

"you are not oppressed" message

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Other topics covered in greater detail:

bulletIntroductory material:

Background material:       <<< Please read some of these essays first!


History and current status of SSM and civil unions:

bulletHarms resulting from:

bullet The denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples

bullet Same-sex marriage itself according to some conservatives
bulletHealth benefits resulting from SSM

bulletQuotations showing the diversity of beliefs about SSM

bulletAdditional material:
bulletChanges, including re-definitions, of marriages since before biblical times

bulletWhy are couples not permitted to marry?
bullet The battle over interracial marriage in the U.S. Part 1   Part 2   Part 3

bulletWhy do some same-sex couples want to marry?

bulletDisagreements over whether same-sex marriage should be permitted
bullet Analysis of Family Research Council`s stance on SSM
bullet Arguments against SSM raised by the National Organization for marriage
bullet Allowing military chaplains to conduct SSM ceremonies
bullet Inside a "scary, society-destroying family" led by parents of the same sex
bullet Support for same-sex marriage by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
bullet A speech by Ed Fallon in opposition to a state DOMA law in Iowa

bulletHow do children fare with same-sex parents?
bullet One child with three legal parents: a Canadian court decision

bulletGovernments that recognize same-sex relationships

bulletCompanies that extend benefits to partners of gay/lesbian employees

bulletMarriage benefits that are denied to gay & lesbian couples

bullet A sampling of opinions by religious leaders and individuals
bulletAffects of Religion and race on attitudes towards SSM:
bullet Christian, Jewish and other religions' policies toward same-sex marriages and equal rights for gays

bullet The Bible and same-sex marriage

bullet Two aspects to marriage: civil and religious: should they be separated?

bullet Marriage and family forms in the Bible and now

bullet Reactions by the African American churches and community concerning marriage equality
bullet 2012: Resolution by the Southern Baptist Convention that same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue:
bullet 2008: Article in Newsweek in support of SSM


TV ads by the National Organization for Marriage opposing SSM:

bulletLaws in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world:
bulletLegal aspect of same-sex marriages

bulletU.S. court & legislative activity restricting same-sex marriage - DOMA laws

bullet The Nebraska DOMA law declared unconstitutional


U.S. Constitutional amendments to ban SSM:

bulletAn interpretation of the U.S. Constitution as it applies to same-sex marriage

bullet Will SSM inevitably lead to decriminalizing polygamy?
bullet International declarations on the rights of LGBT persons
bullet Laws in other countries that oppress or protect LGBT persons
bulletPublic opinion polls:
bulletIn the U.S.:
bulletSingle polls
bulletRepeated polls:
bullet star On same-sex marriage
bullet On same-sex civil unions

bulletIn Canada:
bullet 1996 to 2002;
bullet 2003-JAN to AUG
bullet 2003-SEP to DEC
bullet 2004
bullet 2005 This is the year in which SSM was legalized across Canada
bullet 2006

bullet Anecdotal comments about SSM

bulletLegal developments affecting SSM, civil unions, etc. in the U.S.:
bulletLGBT news items 1996 to 2010

bulletThe 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