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Same-Sex Marriage

Texts:  Same-Sex Marriage
Used Books:  LGBT Studies 
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What is Marriage For?

The Case for Same Sex MarriageThe History of Same Sex Marriage

Excerpts The History of Same Sex Marriage by William N. Eskridge, Jr.


Notwithstanding acceptance of same-sex unions in Greece, Rome, and even the medieval Church, modern Western culture is peculiarly hostile toward same-sex unions. The most critical point in the West's attitudes toward same-sex unions or marriages can be located in the thirteenth century.63 It was then that many secular governments enacted their first laws prohibiting "crimes against nature" and that prior ecclesiastical laws came to be more stringently enforced. The Church took a stronger stand against same-sex intimacy. Leading scholastic thinkers Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas systematized theological arguments against such behavior. In contrast to the relatively open and tolerant attitudes expressed during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Europe after 1200 acted in an increasingly persecutory manner toward any kind of behavior that transgressed established gender lines, including not just same-sex intimacy but also aggressive, independent behavior by women such as cross-dressing...

Site Includes excerpts from:

Pre-Western Cultures
Non-Western Cultures
Registered Partnership, Domestic Partnership, and Marriage

A worldwide summary compiled by IGLHRC in November, 1998.


Several nations and dozens of provincial and municipal governments around the world have enacted legislation to protect sexual minorities from discrimination in employment, housing, access to services, and other areas of public life. Only Denmark (including Greenland), Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, Hungary, and Iceland have enacted nationwide legislation aimed at reducing such discrimination in relation to marriage, and even in these nations some forms of discrimination remain codified in the law.

Definitions of marriage
Any attempt to reform discriminatory marriage laws must take account of the fact that the social and legal meaning of marriage varies from society to society and has altered over time. In some countries, marriage is a simple civil contract, affirmed before a state authority, and open (with certain restrictions, usually involving the ages, health, or blood relationship of potential partners) to any two persons of the opposite sex. By contrast, some countries recognize only marriages performed by religious authorities.

Moreover, in addition to civil marriage, many countries recognize so-called "common-law" marriage, also called "cohabitation" or concubinage. These countries extend certain benefits associated with marriage--usually economic ones, especially pension and inheritance rights--to cohabiting partners who have not entered into a civil marriage. Under some legal systems, cohabiting partners need not actually be engaged in a sexual or emotional relationship in order to claim these benefits.

The benefits and burdens which marriage confers, as well as the ways in which they are shared between the partners, also differ widely. Access to divorce remains difficult or impossible in some polities; in some countries, sexual relations outside marriage (adultery), as a breach of the marriage contract, are punishable in criminal law. Marriage is often an unequal contract, in which one partner is deprived of rights before the law, or surrenders those rights to the other partner; in some cases, it is an involuntary contract, which can be affirmed against the will of one of the parties--usually the woman. In many countries, the institutions that define marriage incorporate legacies of gender bias so that women face extensive discrimination within marriage. Such discrimination can include unequal rights to property and other assets; deprivation of economic or physical independence, and of sexual autonomy; unequal responsibility for child care and housework, and unequal rights to custody of children; and impunity for physical or sexual violence committed by men within the marriage relationship. Forced marriage is one particularly flagrant infringement of an individual's right to enter into partnership with the person of one's choice.

There is much more on this fact sheet. 


NOW -- Same Sex Marriage

National Organization for Women offers an overview of the legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage. Find out how to help the group's efforts promoting lesbian rights.

Attacks on same-sex marriage have become the leading anti-lesbian and gay strategy of the radical right. Despite a recent study showing 71 percent of lesbians are in committed relationships, same-sex marriage is not legal in any state. Nevertheless, radical extremists are using this issue to divide the country and target lesbians and gay men for discrimination. Organized opposition to this gratuitous lesbian and gay bashing is essential to stop religious political extremists from advancing their hate-filled agenda.

Site Includes:

Key Points
NOW's Efforts
Under Attack
Take Action NOW
 PDF format 


Domestic Partnerships and Same Sex Marriages

Carnegie Mellon University Information

Links to debates on same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships and gay adoption. Focuses on laws and court cases.



Provides an overview of the history, current legal situation and recent developments in same-sex marriage laws. Find numerous related links.

Site Includes:

Background information
Why are couples not permitted to marry?
Governments and Companies taking action on same-sex relationships
Recent developments in
US court and legislative activity; DOMA law
Religious and secular aspects
Public opinion polls
Declaration of Religious Support for Same-Sex Unions (1998-MAY)
Books on same-sex marriage
Recent developments
Internet resources
Other resources
References used


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