The History of Same-Sex Marriage

A social union or legal contract between two consenting persons for the purpose of creating children may be referred to as a traditional marriage. A marriage, a societal institution, may refer to an interpersonal relationship whereby intimate and sexual engagements are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on where the bond originated. A traditional marriage usually has a formal induction through a wedding ceremony, otherwise known as matrimony. A marriage occurs for one of a number of reasons, including legal, social, libidinal, emotional, economic, religious, and spiritual in essence.

Marriages are often recognized by the state, religious authority, or both institutions. Civil marriage is a legally recognized union recognized by the governmental institution unattached to a religious organization. Marital contracts can also be broken or dissolved through a separative process known as a divorce or annulment. Both definitions carry different connotations from culture to culture with each imposing varying penalties based on the wavering of the legal and/or religious affiliation.

Marriage has been practiced throughout all of recorded history; however the practices, rules, and ceremonies in which the marriage is conducted have changed greatly over the course of human history.

  1. University of Florida: The History of Marriage
  2. Ohio State University: Marriage in Ancient Mesopotamia and Babylon
  3. University of Dayton: Interracial Marriages and the Effects on Children
  4. Way Back Machine: Gay Marriage in Montaigne, Rome
  5. International Museum of Women: A Brief History of Marriage
  6. Solidarity: A Selective History of Marriage in the United States
  7. North Carolina History Project: A History of Marriage
  8. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: History of Marriage


Homosexuality, a romantic or purely sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender, has been scrutinized by various cultures throughout history. Homosexuality is just one of the main three definitions of sexual orientation, alongside with heterosexuality and bisexuality. Homosexuality has been established as a normal and positive variation of sexual interaction by the scientific community; however, some religious sects and “ex-gay” organizations have characterized the behavior as a “choice.” Homosexual women identify with the term “lesbian,” while their male counterparts identify with the term “gay” to describe their sexual orientation in concordance with society.

  1. The City University of New York: The Homosexual Tradition in China Selections from Chinese Homosexual Literature
  2. University of Missouri-Columbia: Understanding Gay Culture (PDF)
  3. The World History of Male Love: Homosexual Traditions Around the World
  4. Africa Journal: The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa (PDF)
  5. Avert: Homophobia, Prejudice and Attitudes to Gay Men and Lesbians: Homophobia Around the World
  6. Public Broadcasting System: The Invention of Heterosexuality: Who's Gay? Who's Straight?
  7. Jonah Web: Why Homosexuality Nor Heterosexuality Exist in Judaism
  8. Homosexuality in Christianity and the Bible (PDF)

History of Same-Sex Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships

Same-sex marriage, a legally or socially recognizable union between two consenting adults of the same biological sex or social gender, has been under fire for many years. Since 2001, ten countries and other nation-states have begun to legally formalize same-sex marriages, including Argentina, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, Mexico City, Spain, South Africa, and some regions within the United States. Same-sex marriages have varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which has resulted in legislative changes of marriage laws in order to meet the constitutional demands of equality established by the Founding Fathers. Other opposing nations recognize same-sex marriages as a civil rights, political, social, moral, or religious taboo.

Same-sex marriage has existed throughout all of history. In ancient times the unions were not sanctioned by any governing body but ceremonies were held in various parts of the world where individuals of the same sex would have arrangements or contracts, binding them to each other. In some cultures, these marriages were culturally acceptable, however in ancient Rome a law was put in place by Constantius II and Constans that condemned marriages between partners of the same sex. The punishment for breaking this law was death.

The same-sex marriage debate in the United States has been going on for decades. In 1971 two students from the University of Minnesota filled out an application for a marriage license and were denied by the clerk because the couple consisted of two members of the same sex. James Michael McConnell and Richard Baker argued that the U.S. Constitution does not state that individuals must be in a heterosexual relationship in order to be legally married. The claim made it to the Supreme Court, where it was dismissed and no license was issued.

  1. Yale University: The History of Same-Sex Marriages (PDF)
  2. Santa Clara University: Gay Marriage: Theological and Moral Arguments
  3. Fordham University: People with a History: An Online Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual History
  4. Princeton University: CQ Researcher: Should Same-Sex Unions be Legally Recognized? (PDF)
  5. Virginia Tech University: Marriage and Identity: Interracial or Same-Sex: A Historical Perspective (PDF)
  6. Gay History and Literature: A History of Gay Marriage
  7. TIME World: A Brief History of International Gay Marriage
  8. Timeline of LGBT History in the United States (DOC)

Legislation Related to Same-Sex Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships

The Defense of Marriage Act that was passed and signed into Public Law 106-199 by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1996. The Defense of Marriage Act redefined “marriage” and “spouse” for purposes serving federal law. States are allowed to regulate the marital status of each citizen; however, a narrow interpretation codified the same-sex policy. A total of 43 U.S. States have fully recognized same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions as a legal bond.

  1. Boston College: Statutes Related to Same-Sex Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships (PDF)
  2. University of Rutgers: Civil Union Act/Domestic Partnership Act in New Jersey FAQ
  3. National Conference of State Legislatures: Civil Unions and Domestic Partnership Statutes
  4. Fact Check: What is a Civil Union?
  5. Lambda Legal: Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Couples’ Marriages, Civil Unions & Domestic Partnerships (PDF)
  6. Empire State Pride Agenda: Same-Sex Marriage in New York Myth Busters
  7. Traditional Values Special Report: Same-Sex Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships Defined (PDF)
  8. Alternatives to Marriage: Same-Sex Marriage FAQ
  9. AM New York: Same-Sex Marriage Legalized in New York
  10. Suffolk University: Same-Sex Marriage State Legal Recognition

Pro and Anti-Gay Rights Organizations

There are different pro-gay rights and anti-gay rights organizations in existence that consistently fight for or against the homosexual lifestyle as a legal contract recognizable by the state and federal governments. Some of these organizations function to simply push through legislation for benefits, while others have owned a completely radical viewpoint against homosexual unions. Despite the opposition, homosexuals have garnered enough attention in Washington, D.C. to overturn many discriminatory policies established by the U.S. Government.

  1. Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund (Pro)
  2. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (Pro)
  3. National Black Justice Coalition (Pro)
  4. American Family Association (Anti-)
  5. Repent America (Anti-)
  6. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (Anti-)

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