Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage) is marriage between two people of the same biological sex and/or gender identity. Legal recognition of same-sex marriage or the possibility to perform a same-sex marriage is sometimes referred to as marriage equality or equal marriage, particularly by supporters. The legalization of same-sex marriage is characterized as "redefining marriage" by many opponents.
The first laws enabling same-sex marriage in modern times were enacted during the first decade of the 21st century. As of 28 June 2014, sixteen countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uruguay) and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Mexico and the United States) allow same-sex couples to marry. The law in Luxembourg will come into force on 1 January 2015. Polls in various countries show that there is rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage across race, ethnicity, age, religion, political affiliation, and socioeconomic status.
Introduction of same-sex marriage laws has varied by jurisdiction, being variously accomplished through a legislative change to marriage laws, a court ruling based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or by direct popular vote (via a ballot initiative or a referendum). The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political, social, human rights and civil rights issue, as well as a religious issue in many nations and around the world, and debates continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed marriage, or instead be allowed to hold a different status (a civil union), or be denied such rights. Same-sex marriage can provide same-sex couples who pay their taxes with government services and make financial demands on them comparable to those afforded to and required of opposite-sex married couples. Same-sex marriage also gives them legal protections such as inheritance and hospital visitation rights.
Some analysts state that financial, psychological and physical well-being are enhanced by marriage, and that children of same-sex couples 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.
Same-sex marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. Various faith communities around the world support allowing same-sex couples to marry or conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies; for example: Buddhism in Australia, Church of Sweden, Conservative Judaism, U.S. Episcopalians, Humanistic Judaism, Native American religions with a two-spirit tradition, Druids, the Metropolitan Community Church, Quakers, Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, and Wiccans, as well as various other progressive and modern Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish groups and various minor religions and other denominations.