Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage) is marriage between people of the same sex, either as a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. The term marriage equality refers to a political status in which same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage are considered legally equal.
In the late 20th century, rites of marriage for same-sex couples without legal recognition became increasingly common. The first law providing for same-sex marriage in modern times was enacted in 2000 in the Netherlands and came into force in 2001. As of 20 December 2017, same-sex marriage is legally recognized (nationwide or in some parts) in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico,[nb 1] the Netherlands,[nb 2] New Zealand,[nb 3] Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom,[nb 4] the United States[nb 5] and Uruguay. It is also likely to soon become legal in Taiwan and Austria, after court rulings on the subject in May and December 2017, respectively. Additionally, after a motion lodged by Costa Rica, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling in favour of same-sex marriage on 9 January 2018, which is expected to facilitate legalisation in several countries in the Americas.[nb 6] Polls show rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage in the Americas, and most of Europe. However, as of 2018, South Africa is the only African country where same-sex marriage is recognized. Taiwan would become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage if the Civil Code is amended. Two other Asian countries, namely Israel and Armenia, recognise same-sex marriages performed outside the country for some purposes.
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, undermine a right of children to be raised by their biological mother and father or erode the institution of marriage itself.
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. A court document filed by the American Anthropological Association stated that reversing enacted same-sex marriage legislation served to single out gay men and women as ineligible for marriage, thereby both stigmatizing and inviting public discrimination against them.
The American Anthropological Association asserts that social science research does not support the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.