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Same-sex marriage in the United States

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Same-sex marriage, also referred to as gay marriage, is a marriage between two persons of the same sex. Currently the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, under the Defense of Marriage Act, but same-sex marriage is currently recognized on the state level by two states, California and Massachusetts. The issue is a divisive political issue in the United States and elsewhere. The social movement to obtain the rights and responsibilities of marriages in the United States for same-sex couples began in the early 1970s, and the issue became a prominent one in U.S. politics in the 1990s.

Legal issues Edit

See Same-sex marriage legislation in the United States

Federal lawEdit

The legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the United States are complicated by the nation's federal system of government. Traditionally, the federal government did not attempt to establish its own definition of marriage; any marriage recognized by a state was recognized by the federal government, even if that marriage was not recognized by one or more other states (as was the case with interracial marriage before 1967 due to anti-miscegenation laws). With the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, however, a marriage was explicitly defined as a union of one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law. (See Template:Usc.) Thus, no act or agency of the federal government currently recognizes same-sex marriage.

According to the federal government's General Accounting Office (GAO), more than 1,138 rights and protections are conferred to U.S. citizens upon marriage by the federal government; areas affected include Social Security benefits, veterans' benefits, health insurance, Medicaid, hospital visitation, estate taxes, retirement savings, pensions, family leave, and immigration law.

However, many aspects of marriage law affecting the day to day lives of inhabitants of the United States are determined by the states, not the federal government, and the Defense of Marriage Act does not prevent individual states from defining marriage as they see fit; indeed, most legal scholars believe that the federal government cannot impose a definition of marriage onto the laws of the various states by statute.[citation needed]

State lawEdit

See Same-sex marriage legislation in the United States by state

Massachusetts has recognized same-sex marriage since 2004, and California since May 15, 2008, though this only affects state law; the U.S. federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages in Massachusetts or California as being marriages under federal law, by means of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, and New Hampshire have created legal unions that, while not called marriages, are explicitly defined as offering all the rights and responsibilities of marriage under state (though not federal) law to same-sex couples. Maine, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Oregon and Washington have created legal unions for same-sex couples that offer varying subsets of the rights and responsibilities of marriage under the laws of those jurisdictions.

On May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional, effectively creating same-sex marriage in California.[1][2] Citing the 1948 California Supreme Court decision Perez v. Sharp, which reversed the interracial marriage ban, In re Marriage Cases struck down California's 1977 one-man, one-woman marriage law and a similar voter-approved 2000 law (which had passed 61%-39%) in a 4-3 ruling, written by Chief Justice Ronald George). The Advocates for Faith and Freedom and the Alliance Defense Fund, among other things, asked for a stay of the ruling,[3] but the court denied the requests on June 4, 2008.[4][5] In addition, the court clarified that its ruling takes effect at 5:00 p.m. on June 16 2008.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag.

The court ruling in California gave rise to considerable opposition locally and nationally.[6] Same-sex marriage opponents announced, furthermore, that they gathered 1 million signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to define marriage as between a man and woman, to effectively annul the decision.[7]

Some states that legally recognize same-sex relationships also recognize similar relationships contracted in other states, though those relationships are not recognized in states without such legal recognition.

In contrast, twenty-six states have constitutional amendments explicitly barring the recognition of same-sex marriage, confining civil marriage to a legal union between a man and a woman. Forty-three states have statutes restricting marriage to two persons of the opposite sex, including some of those that have created legal recognition for same-sex unions under a name other than "marriage." A small number of states ban any legal recognition of same-sex unions that would be equivalent to civil marriage.[citation needed]

Opponents of same-sex marriage have attempted to prevent individual states from recognizing such unions by amending the United States Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In 2006, the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party line vote, and was debated by the full United States Senate, but was ultimately defeated in both houses of Congress.[8]

On August 30, 2007, Iowa Judge Robert Hanson temporarily annulled a law allowing marriage only between men and women before placing a stay the following day on his own ruling.[9]

Currently, same-sex couples are suing for the right to marry in Connecticut and Iowa.[10]

Impact of foreign laws Edit

The legalization of same-sex marriages across all of Canada (see same-sex marriage in Canada) has raised questions about U.S. law, due to Canada's proximity to the U.S. and the fact that Canada has no citizenship or residency requirement to receive a marriage certificate (unlike the Netherlands and Belgium). Canada and the U.S. have a history of respecting marriages contracted in either country.

Immediately after the June 2003 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, a number of American couples headed or planned to head to the province in order to get married. A coalition of American national gay rights groups issued a statement asking couples to contact them before attempting legal challenges, so that they might be coordinated as part of the same-sex marriage movement in the United States.[citation needed]

At present, same-sex marriages are recognized nationwide in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, and Norway (from January 1 2009). Same-sex marriage conducted abroad is recognized in Israel, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles and the states of New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island.

Debate Edit

File:Samesex marriage in USA.svg

Opposition Edit

See Traditional marriage movement.

Opposition to homosexual marriage in the United States is associated by some with the religious right, though it is by no means limited to this group; social conservatives,[11][12] the Roman Catholic Church,[13][14] and the Orthodox branch of Judaism[15][16] also support the traditional, opposite-sex definition of marriage. Prominent Evangelical Christian opponents of same-sex marriage include Pat Robertson, James Dobson and the late Jerry Falwell. Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that same-sex relationships are not marriages,[17] that same-sex marriage is contrary to the best interests of children because it deprives children of either a mother or a father,[18] that legalization of same-sex marriage will open the door for the legalization of polygamy,[19] and that legalization of same-sex marriage would erode religious freedoms.[20] Other opponents of same-sex marriage hold that same-sex marriage is contrary to God's will,[21][22] that it is unnatural,[23] that it encourages unhealthy behavior,[24] and that it harms the family structure of society. Still others argue that same-sex marriage would encourage individuals to act upon homosexual urges, when such individuals ought to instead seek help to overcome the temptation toward homosexual behavior.[25]

A writer of The Weekly Standard, Stanley Kurtz, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, blames same-sex marriage in the Netherlands for an increase in parental cohabitation contracts. He asserts in that same-sex marriage has detached procreation from marriage in the Dutch mind and would likely do the same in the United States.

...the American media are correct to report that the majority of Dutch citizens have accepted the innovation [same-sex marriage]. The press has simply missed the meaning of that public shift. Broad Dutch acceptance of same-sex marriage means that marriage as an institution has been detached from the public mind. That is why the practice of parental cohabitation has grown so quickly in the Netherlands. By the same token, the shoulder shrug that followed the triple wedding [polyamory] story shows that legalized group marriage in the Netherlands is a real possibility.[26]

At least 41 states have statutes and/or constitutional provisions that prohibit same-sex marriage.[27]

Support Edit

Christopher Ott, a reporter for The Progressive, has characterized the social conservatives' predictions of legalized polygamy in states such as Massachusetts that have same-sex marriage as false. He confronts the common argument that same-sex marriage would devalue marriage as a whole by referencing other historical events such as allowing women to vote and stating that it did not devalue the electoral process. Ott describes the prohibition of same-sex marriage as devaluing the American principle of equal treatment. also have to wonder if he and other opponents to equal rights really understand the consequences of the amendments they support. Do they really want gay and lesbian couples separated at the emergency room door in the event of an accident or illness? Do they really think long-term couples should be denied the right to make medical or end-of-life decisions, which married couples take for granted? Do they really think that kids should be denied health coverage by one parent's health insurance because the law treats them as strangers? Do they really think it's fair for gay and lesbian people to pay the same taxes as everyone else, but to be denied the hundreds of rights, benefits and protections of marriage? Do they really think that a gay and lesbian couple that has been together for 50 years does not deserve the protections that non-gay newlyweds enjoy from day one?[28]

The Economist magazine, while expressing support for the same sex marriage, argued that attempts to force same-sex marriage through the Supreme Court constitutes "yet another self-damaging act of judicial overreach". The magazine further argues that it is sensible for proponents of same-sex marriage to "concentrate on winning their battles in the court of public opinion and the chambers of the legislature." [2]

Additionally, the mayors in 2006 of several large cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle publicly supported same-sex marriage.

Other politicians who have announced their support for same-sex marriage include Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, New York Governor David Paterson, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, former Vice President Al Gore, and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

Several political parties such as the Communist Party USA,[29] U.S. Green Party, the Socialist Party USA,[30] and several state Democratic Parties, including the California Democratic Party, [31] the Iowa Democratic Party, [32] the Maine Democratic Party, [33] the Massachusetts Democratic Party, [34] and the Washington State Democratic Party [35] also support gay marriage.

Supporting civil unions or domestic partnershipsEdit

Those supporting the creation of a legal status for same-sex couples in the form of civil union or domestic partnership legislation include some state governors, such as those of California, Connecticut, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, the national Democratic Party,[36] and President George W. Bush.[37][38][39]

Popular opinion Edit

See Same-sex marriage in the United States public opinion

Case law Edit

United States case law regarding the spousal rights of gay or bisexual persons:

  • Baker v. Nelson, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971) (upholding a Minnesota law defining marriage)
  • Jones v. Hallahan, 501 S.W.2d 588 (Ky. 1973) (upholding a Kentucky law defining marriage)
  • Singer v. Hara, 522 P.2d 1187 (Wash. App. 1974)
  • Adams v. Howerton, 673 F.2d 1036 (9th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 458 U.S. 1111 (affirming that same-sex marriage does not make one a "spouse" under the Immigration and Nationality Act)
  • De Santo v. Barnsley, 476 A.2d 952 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1984)
  • In re Estate of Cooper, 564 N.Y.S.2d 684 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 1990)
  • Dean v. District of Columbia, 653 A.2d 307 (D.C. 1995)
  • Storrs v. Holcomb, 645 N.Y.S.2d 286 (N.Y. App. Div. 1996) (New York does not recognize or authorize same-sex marriage) (this ruling has since been changed, New York does recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states)
  • In re Estate of Hall, 707 N.E.2d 201, 206 (Ill. App. Ct. 1998) (no same sex marriage will be recognized; petitioner claiming existing same-sex marriage was not in a marriage recognized by law)
  • Baker v. State, 170 Vt. 194; 744 A.2d 864 (Vt. 1999) (Common Benefits Clause of the state constitution requires that same-sex couples be granted the same legal rights as married persons)
  • Rosengarten v. Downes, 806 A.2d 1066 (Conn. 2002) (state will not recognize Vermont civil union)
  • Burns v. Burns, 560 S.E.2d 47 (Ga. Ct. App. 2002) (recognizing marriage as between one man and one woman)
  • Frandsen v. County of Brevard, 828 So. 2d 386 (Fla. 2002) (State constitution will not be construed to recognize same-sex marriage; sex classifications not subject to strict scrutiny under Florida constitution)
  • In re Estate of Gardiner, 42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002) (a post-op male-to-female transgendered person may not marry a male, because this person is still a male in the eyes of the law, and marriage in Kansas is recognized only between a man and a woman)
  • Standhardt v. Superior Court ex rel. County of Maricopa, 77 P.3d 451 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2003) (no state constitution right to same-sex marriage)
  • Morrison v. Sadler, 2003 WL 23119998 (Ind. Super. Ct. 2003) (Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act is found valid)
  • Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003) (denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated provisions of the state constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equality, and was not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.)
  • Lewis v. Harris, 908 A.2d 196 (N.J. 2006) (New Jersey is required to extend all rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples, but prohibiting same-sex marriage does not violate the state constitution; legislature given 180 days from October 25, 2006 to amend the marriage laws or create a "parallel structure.")
  • Andersen v. King County, 138 P.3d 963 (Wash. 2006) (Washington's Defense of Marriage Act does not violate the state constitution)
  • Hernandez v. Robles, 855 N.E.2d 1 (N.Y. 2006) (New York's marriage statutes do not permit same-sex marriage and are not unconstitutional).
  • Conaway v. Deane, 932 A.2d 571 (Md. 2007) (upholding state law defining marriage as between a "man" and a "woman,")
  • Martinez v. County of Monroe, 850 N.Y.S.2d 740 (N.Y. App. Div. 2008) (The court ruled unanimously that because New York legally recognizes out-of-state marriages of opposite-sex couples, it must do the same for same-sex couples. The county is seeking leave to appeal the decision.[3])
  • In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d 384 (Cal. 2008) (The court ruled that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is invalid under the equal protection clause of the California Constitution, and that full marriage rights, not merely domestic partnership, must be offered to same-sex couples.)


  1. California same-sex marriage ban struck down
  2. Mintz, Howard. "California Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage", Mercury News, 15 May 2008. Retrieved on 2008-05-15. Template:Languageicon 
  3. California's top court legalizes gay marriage
  4. California Supreme Court Denies Rehearing and Stay in Marriage Cases (2008-06-04). Retrieved on 2008-06-04.
  5., California Supreme Court refuses to delay gay marriage
  6. On the views that the court’s ruling constitutes usurpation of power, and/or that it demeans society morally, see, for example, the May 15th Statement by the Catholic bishops of CA; Patrick J. Buchanan, “Post-Christian America: Marriage ruling another streetlight on our ‘darkening path to perdition,” WorldNetDaily, May 22, 2008; "Judicial Usurpation, California Style," by Robert Struble, TeLL, June 2008.
  7., Gay Couples Rejoice at Ruling
  8. Senate blocks same-sex marriage ban, CNN, June 7, 2006, (Accessed July 5, 2006)
  9. BBC NEWS, Iowa judge approves gay weddings
  10. Gay marriage decisions ripe in Calif., Conn.,
  21. The Religious Right and Anti-Gay Speech: Messengers of Love or Purveyors of Hate?. Matthew Shepard Online Resources.
  23. Anti-Gay Backlashes Are on 3 States' Ballots. The New York Times (1992-10-04). Retrieved on 2008-06-06.
  26. Stanley Kurtz Bangs Drum About Polyamory and Bisexuality. Poly Greens News (2006-01-07).
  28. Ott, Christopher, [1], The Progressive, February 8, 2005.
  29. Election Platform 2004. Communist Party USA. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  30. Socialist Party Platform: Human Rights. Socialist Party USA. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  31. "California Democrats Present Our Blueprint for the Golden State". California Democratic Party. Retrieved on 2008-05-15.
  32. Iowa Democratic Party Platform. Iowa Democratic Party. Retrieved on 2008-03-17.
  33. 2006 MDP Platform. Maine Democratic Party. Retrieved on 2008-03-17.
  34. Massachusetts Democratic Party Platform. Massachusetts Democratic Party. Retrieved on 2008-03-17.
  35. Platform of the Democratic Party of Washington. Washington State Democratic Convention. Retrieved on 2008-03-17.
  36. Democratic Party 2004 Platform. see page 42
  37. Hunter, Melanie. "Bush Tolerates Civil Unions, Thinks States Should Decide", Cybercast News Service, 27 October 2004. Retrieved on 2008-03-07. 
  38. Bumiller, Elisabeth. "Bush Says His Party Is Wrong to Oppose Gay Civil Unions", The New York Times, 26 October 2004. Retrieved on 2008-03-07. 
  39. "Bush's gay union stance irks conservatives", Associated Press, 26 October 2004. Retrieved on 2008-03-07. 


In General Edit

In USA Edit

See alsoEdit

A Union In Wait (documentary)

External linksEdit

Supporting same-sex marriageEdit

Opposing Same-Sex MarriageEdit

Template:Same-sex marriage in the United States Template:United States topics

de:Anerkennung gleichgeschlechtlicher Partnerschaften in den Vereinigten Staaten es:Matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo en los Estados Unidos nl:Homohuwelijk in de Verenigde Staten zh:美国同性婚姻

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