Same-sex marriage, also known as gay marriage, is marriage between people of the same sex. Same-sex marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting.
Same-sex unions have been recorded in the history of a number of cultures, but marriages or socially-accepted unions between same-sex partners were rare or nonexistent in other cultures. In the late 20th century, religious rites of marriage without legal recognition became increasingly common. The first law providing for marriage of people of the same sex in modern times was enacted in 2001 in the Netherlands. As of 26 June 2015, eighteen countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay) and certain sub-jurisdictions allow same-sex couples to marry. Similar laws in Finland, Ireland and Slovenia are not yet in force. Polls show rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage in the Americas, Australia, and most of Europe. However, with the exception of South Africa and Israel, no country in Africa or Asia recognizes same-sex marriage.
Introduction of same-sex marriage laws has varied by jurisdiction, being variously accomplished through legislative change to marriage laws, a court ruling based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or by direct popular vote (via ballot initiative or referendum). The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political and social issue, and also a religious issue in many countries, and debates continue to arise over whether people in same-sex relationships should be allowed marriage or some similar status (a civil union). Same-sex marriage can provide those in same-sex relationships who pay their taxes with government services and make financial demands on them comparable to those afforded to and required of those in opposite-sex marriages. Same-sex marriage also gives them legal protections such as inheritance and hospital visitation rights. Various faith communities around the world support allowing those of the same sex to marry, while many major religions oppose same-sex marriage. Opponents of same-sex marriages have argued that recognition of same-sex marriages would erode religious freedoms and undermine a right of children to be raised by their biological mother and father.
Some analysts state that financial, psychological and physical well-being are enhanced by marriage, and that children of same-sex parents or carers benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally recognized union supported by society's institutions. Court documents filed by American scientific associations also state that singling out gay men and women as ineligible for marriage both stigmatizes and invites public discrimination against them. The American Anthropological Association avers that social science research does not support the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon not recognizing same-sex marriage.