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Main article: Psychology of marriage

A marriage is a relationship between or among individuals, usually recognized by civil authority and/or bound by the personal moral  beliefs of the participants. The fact that marriage often has the dual nature of a binding legal contract plus a moral promise can make it difficult to characterize.

A married couple can be called each other's spouses, and spousal  is used as a legal term for the marital  relation.

In one form or another, marriage is found in virtually every society. The very oldest records that refer to it speak of it as an established custom. Despite attempts by anthropologists to trace its origin (and test the hypothesis of primitive promiscuity), evidence is lacking.

In Western societies, marriage has traditionally been understood as a monogamous union, while in other parts of the world polygamy has been a common form of marriage. Usually this has taken the form of polygyny (a man having several wives) but a very few societies have permitted polyandry (a woman having several husbands). [1]


Precise definitions vary historically and between and within cultures: modern understanding emphasizes the legitimacy of sexual relations in marriage, yet the universal and unique attribute of marriage is the creation of affinal ties (in-laws). Traditionally, societies encourage one to marry "out" far enough to strengthen the ties, but "close" enough so that the in-laws are "one of us" or "our kind". Exception to this rule has been found in the marriages whose aim is to strengthen concentration of wealth and power rather than to create affinal ties. Even in this case, the individual was often encouraged to marry "within" close family limits. (Further discussion and reference: Marvin Harris, late Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University)

Marriage remains important as the socially sanctioned bond in a sexual relationship. Marriage is sometimes understood as a relationship designed to produce children and successfully socialize them. Historically, many societies have allowed some form of polygamy. Europe, the United States and Canada have, for the most part, defined themselves as monogamous cultures. This partially stemmed from Germanic cultural traditions, Christianity, and mandate of the Roman Law. However it is important to note that Roman Law permitted prostitution, concubinage, and sexual access to slaves. The Christian West formally banned these practices.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Globally, most existing societies no longer allow polygamy as a form of marriage. For example, China shifted from allowing polygamy to supporting only monogamy in the Marriage Act of 1953 after the Communist revolution. Most African and Islamic societies continue to allow polygamy (around 2.0 billion people). Probably less than 3% of all Muslim marriages are polygamous. It is increasingly expensive in an urban setting, but more useful in rural areas where children are a future source of agricultural labor. Most of the world's population now live in societies where polygamy is less common and marriages are overwhelmingly monogamous.

Since the later decades of the 20th century many ideas about the nature and purpose of marriage and family have been challenged, in particular by LGBT social movements, which point out that marriage should not be exclusively heterosexual. Some people also argue that marriage may be an unnecessary legal fiction. This follows from an overall shift in Western ideas and practices of family; since World War II, the West has seen a dramatic increase in divorce (6% to over 40% of first marriages), cohabitation without marriage, a growing unmarried population, children born outside of marriage (5% to over 33% of births), and an increase in adultery (8% to over 40%)[How to reference and link to summary or text]. A de facto system of serial monogamy has emerged.

Today, the term marriage is generally reserved for a union that is formally recognized by the state (although some people disagree). The phrase legally married can be used to emphasize this point. In the United States there are two methods of receiving state recognition of a marriage: common law marriage and obtaining a marriage license. The majority of US states do not recognize common law marriage. Many localities do support various types of domestic partnerships.

Marriage was strictly a civil institution until about the mid 5th century CE. Around that time Augustine and others theosophised about marriage and the Christian Church started taking an interest in co-opting it. Christians began to have their marriages conducted by ministers in Christian gatherings. Having always regarded it in practical terms as a relationship between a man and a woman, it was in the 12th century that the Church (the Catholic Church), as well as other orthodoxies, formally defined marriage as a sacrament. (In Catholicism the Sacrament of Matrimony is between three people: God, the man and the woman). The Protestant Reformation reformulated marriage as a life-long covenant; Protestant leaders like Martin Luther and Calvin denied that marriage was a sacrament.

Marriage of some kind is found in most societies, and typically married people form a nuclear household, which is often subsequently extended biologically, through children. In the West the nuclear family emerged after 1100[How to reference and link to summary or text]. Most non-Western societies have a broader definition of family that includes an extended family network. Alternatively, people may choose to be "childfree". Or they may be childless for other reasons: infertility, for example.

The term wedlock is a synonym for marriage, and is mainly used in the phrase "out of wedlock" to describe a child born of parents who were not married.

Although legal same-sex marriage is prohibited in many locales, persons of all orientations enjoy equal marriage rights in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada.

Polygamy is practised illegally by some groups in the United States and Canada, primarily by Mormon fundamentalists sects that separated from the mainstream Latter Day Saints movement after the practice was renounced in 1890.


The participants in a marriage usually seek social recognition for their relationship, and many societies require official approval of a religious or civil body. Sociologists thus distinguish between a marriage ceremony conducted under the auspices of a religion and a state-authorized civil marriage.

In many jurisdictions the civil marriage ceremony may take place during the religious marriage ceremony, although they are theoretically distinct. In most American states, the marriage may be officiated by a Priest, Minister, Rabbi or other religious authority, and in such a case the religious authority acts simultaneously as an agent of the state. In some countries such as France, Spain, Germany, Argentina and Russia, it is necessary to be married by the state before having a religious ceremony. Some states allow civil marriages in circumstances which are not allowed by many religions, such as same-sex marriages or civil unions, and marriage may also be created by the operation of the law alone as in common-law marriage, which is a judicial recognition that two people living as domestic partners are entitled to the effects of marriage. Conversely, there are examples of people who have a religious ceremony that is not recognized by the civil authorities. Examples include widows who stand to lose a pension if they remarry and so undergo a marriage only in the eyes of God and the community, homosexual couples (in locales where marriage equality is not the law), some sects which recognize polygamy, retired couples who would lose pension benefits if legally married, Muslim men who wish to engage in polygamy that is condoned in some situations under Islam, and immigrants who do not wish to alert the immigration authorities that they are married either to a spouse they are leaving behind or because the complexity of immigration laws may make it difficult for spouses to visit on a tourist visa.

In Europe it has traditionally been the churches' office to make marriages official by registering them. Hence, it was a significant step towards a clear separation of church and state and also an intended and effective weakening of the Christian churches' role in Germany, when Chancellor Otto von Bismarck introduced the Zivilehe (civil marriage) in 1875. This law made the declaration of the marriage before an official clerk of the civil administration (both spouses affirming their will to marry) the procedure to make a marriage legally valid and effective, and reduced the clerical marriage to a private ceremony.

Types of marriages[]

Main article: Types of marriages

Marriage restrictions[]

Most nation-states still restrict marriage to two persons, one of each sex. There are four nations that have legislated marriage equality for same-sex couples, however: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada.

Many countries regulate the age at which one can get married. Societies have always placed restrictions on marriage to relatives, though the degree of prohibited relationship varies widely. In almost all societies, marriage between brothers and sisters is forbidden, with Ancient Egyptian, Hawaiian, and Inca royalty being the rare exceptions. In many societies, marriage between some first cousins is preferred, while at the other extreme, the medieval Catholic church prohibited marriage even between distant cousins. The present day Catholic Church still maintains a standard of required distance (in both consanguinity and affinity) for marriage.

In the Indian Hindu community, especially in the Brahmin caste, marrying a person of the same Gotra was prohibited, since persons belonging to the same Gotra are said to have identical patrilineal descension. In ancient India when Gurukul was in existence, the shishyas (the pupils) were advised against marrying any of Guru's children as shishyas were considered Guru's children and it would be considered marriage among siblings (though there were exceptions like Arjuna's son Abhimanyu marrying Uttra, the dance student of Arjuna in Mahabharata). The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, brought reforms in the area of same gotra marriages. Before this act, the Indian constitution banned same gotra marriages. Now the Indian constitution guarantees any two consenting adults (women 18 or older and men 21 or older) from any race, religion, caste or creed to engage in the institution of marriage.

Many societies have also adopted other restrictions on whom one can marry, such as prohibitions on marrying persons with the same surname, or persons with the same sacred animal. One example is South Korea. Even today, it is generally considered taboo for a man to marry a woman if they both have the same family name. The most common surname in South Korea is "Kim" (almost 20%), however, there are several branches (or clans) in the "Kim" surname. (Korean family names are divided into one or more clans.) Only intra-clan marriages are prohibited, as they are considered one type of exogamy. Thus, many "Kim-Kim" couples can be found.

Anthropologists refer to these sorts of restrictions as exogamy. One exception to this pattern is in ancient Egypt, where marriage between brothers and sisters was permitted in the royal family -- as it was also permitted in Hawaii and among the Inca; this privilege was denied commoners and may have served to concentrate wealth and power in one family. The consequence of the incest-taboo is exogamy, the requirement to marry someone from another group. Anthropologists have thus pointed out that the incest taboo may serve to promote social solidarity.

Societies have also at times required marriage from within a certain group. Anthropologists refer to these restrictions as endogamy. An example of such restrictions would be a requirement to marry someone from the same tribe. Racist laws adopted by some societies in the past, such as Nazi-era Germany, apartheid-era South Africa and most of the southern United States and Utah prior to 1967, which prohibited marriage between persons of different races could also be considered examples of endogamy.

Cultures that practiced slavery might admit that slave marriages formed but grant them no legal status. This was the practice under the Roman empire, so that in the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas, the freewoman Perpetua could be described as "a married matron" but Felicitas as the "fellow-servant" of Revocatus -- even though the Christians regarded, religiously, such marriages as binding. Likewise, slave marriages in the United States were not binding, so that many contrabands escaping slavery during the American Civil War sought official status for their marriages. Among the rights distinguishing serfdom from slavery was the right to enter a legally recognizable marriage.


Main article: Wedding

The ceremony in which a marriage is enacted and announced to the community is called a wedding. A wedding in which a couple marry in the "eyes of the law" is called a civil marriage. Religions also facilitate weddings, in the "eyes of God". In many European and some Latin American countries, when someone chooses a religious ceremony, they must hold that ceremony separate from the civil ceremony. Certain countries, like Belgium, Bulgaria and the Netherlands, demand that the civil marriage take place before any religious marriage. In some countries — notably the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Spain — both ceremonies can be held together; the officiant at the religious and community ceremony also serving as an agent of the state to enact the civil marriage. That does not mean that the state is "recognizing" religious marriages — the "civil" ceremony just takes place at the same time as the religious ceremony. Often this involves simply signing a register during the religious ceremony. If that civil element of the full ceremony is left out for any reason, in the eyes of the law no marriage took place, irrespective of the holding of the religious ceremony.

While some countries, such as Australia, permit marriages to be held in private and at any location, others, including England, require that the civil ceremony be conducted in a place specially sanctioned by law (i.e., a church or registry office), and be open to the public. An exception can be made in the case of marriage by special emergency license, which is normally granted only when one of the parties is terminally ill. Rules about where and when persons can marry vary from place to place. Some regulations require that one of the parties reside in the locality of the registry office. Because of Australia's very relaxed rules on marriage, some celebrities (such as Michael Jackson) have opted to marry in Australia, so as to have a private ceremony.

The way in which a marriage is enacted has changed over time, as has the institution of marriage itself. In Europe during the Middle Ages, marriage was enacted by the couple promising verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or other witnesses was not required. This promise was known as the "verbum". If made in the present tense (e.g. "I marry you"), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense ("I will marry you"), it would, by itself constitute a betrothal, but if the couple proceeded to have sexual relations, the union was a marriage. As part of the Reformation, the role of recording marriages and setting the rules for marriage passed to the state; by the 1600s many of the Protestant European countries had heavy state involvement in marriage. As part of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church added a requirement of witnesses to the promise, which under normal circumstances had to include the priest.


In most societies, marriages end at the death of one of the partners, and in monogamous societies this allows the other partner to remarry. A spouse that outlives the other is referred to as a widow (female) or widower (male). Many societies also provide for the termination of marriage through divorce. Marriages can also be annulled or cancelled, which is a legal proceeding that establishes that a marriage was invalid from its beginning.

Several cultures have practiced temporary and conditional marriages. Examples include the Celtic practice of handfasting and fixed-term marriages in the Muslim community. Pre-Islamic Arabs practiced a form of temporary marriage that carries on today in the practice of Nikah Mut'ah, a fixed-term marriage contract. Muslim controversies related to Nikah Mut'ah have resulted in the practice being mostly confined to Shi'ite communities.

Rights and obligations relating to marriage[]

File:V03p128a01 Ketubah.jpg

A Ketubah in Hebrew, a Jewish marriage-contract outlining the duties of each partner

See also: Rights and responsibilities of marriages in the United States

A marriage bestows rights and obligations on the married parties, and sometimes on relatives as well, being the sole mechanism for the creation of affinal ties (in-laws). These may include:

  • Giving a husband/wife or his/her family control over a spouse’s sexual services, labor, and property.
  • Giving a husband/wife responsibility for a spouse’s debts.
  • Giving a husband/wife visitation rights when his/her spouse is incarcerated or hospitalized.
  • Giving a husband/wife control over his/her spouse’s affairs when the spouse is incapacitated.
  • Establishing the second legal guardian of a parent’s child.
  • Establishing a joint fund of property for the benefit of children.
  • Establishing a relationship between the families of the spouses.

These rights and obligations vary considerably between societies, and between groups within society.[1]

Marriage has traditionally been a prerequisite for having children, which many believe serves as the building block of a community and society. Thus, marriage not only serves the interests of the two individuals, but also the interests of their children and the society of which they are a part.

In most of the world's major religions, marriage is a prerequisite for sexual intercourse: unmarried people are not supposed to have sex, which is referred to as fornication and is socially discouraged or even criminalized. Sex with a married person other than one's spouse, called adultery, is even less acceptable and has also often been criminalized.

Marriage and religion[]

Main article: Religious aspects of marriage

Many religions have extensive teachings regarding marriage. Most Christian churches give some form of blessing to a marriage; the wedding ceremony typically includes some sort of pledge by the community to support the couple's relationship.

Liturgical Christian communions, notably Anglicanism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy, consider marriage (sometimes termed holy matrimony) to be an expression of grace, termed a sacrament or mystery

. In Western ritual, the sacrament is bestowed upon a husband and wife by the spouses themselves as ministers, with a bishop, priest or deacon normally witnessing the union on behalf of the church. In Eastern ritual churches, the clergyman functions as the minister. Western Christians commonly term marriage a vocation, while Eastern Christians term it an ordination and a martyrdom, though the theological emphases indicated by the various appelations are not excluded by the catechetical teachings of either tradition. Marriage is commonly celebrated in the context of a Eucharistic service (a nuptial Mass or Divine Liturgy). The sacrament of marriage is iconic of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

East Timor hakka wedding

Ethnic Hakka people in a wedding in East Timor, 2006

While most Reformed Christians would deny the elevation of marriage to the status of a sacrament, nonetheless it is considered a covenant between spouses before God.

In Judaism, marriage is viewed as a contractual bond commanded by God (Deuteronomy 24:1 ) in which a man and a woman come together to create a relationship, under the guidance of the Torah and Halakha, in which God is directly involved. This relationship is also expected to fulfill the commandment to have children (Genesis 1:28 ). Despite the fact that children are not the singular goal of marriage, the rearing of children is an important aspect of it. The main focus centers around the relationship between the husband and wife. Kabbalistically, marriage is understood to mean that the husband and wife are merging together into a single soul. This is why a man is considered "incomplete" if he is not married as his soul is only one part of a larger whole that remains to be unified.

Islam also recommends marriage highly; among other things, it helps in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. The Bahá'í Faith sees marriage as a foundation of the structure of society, and considers it both a physical and spiritual bond that endures into the afterlife. Hinduism sees marriage as a sacred duty that entails both religious and social obligations. By contrast, Buddhism does not encourage or discourage marriage, although it does teach how one might live a happily married life.

Different religions have different beliefs regarding the breakup of marriage.

For example, the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize divorce, because in its eyes, a marriage is forged by God. The Church states that what God joins together, humans cannot sunder. As a result, although acknowledging civil divorce may be required to protect one spouse or the children, people who get a civil divorce are still considered married in the eyes of the Catholic Church, which does not allow them to remarry, even if the state they live in allows a civil re-marriage. The Catholic Church recognizes marriages between non-baptized people as "good and natural marriages" and even if only one partner is baptized, does not permit them to divorce if the non-baptized person is willing to live peaceably with the Christian. However, if the non-baptized person refuses to live with the Christian, or to do so peaceably -- if, for instance, they interfere with the Christian's practice of religion -- the marriage can be broken. Catholicism teaches that both parties entering into a marriage must have the appropriate intentions: to remain married until death ends the marriage, to be faithful in marriage and to be open to the gift of children. Because of the necessity of the proper intentions being present, a nullity may be declared where it may be shown that one of the parties did not have at least one of the proper intentions. With a nullity, religions and the state often apply different rules, meaning that a couple, for example, could receive an annulment from the state and not have their marriage annulled by the Catholic Church because the state disagrees with the church over whether an annulment could be granted in a particular case. This produces a situation of Catholics getting Church annulments simultaneously with state divorces, allowing the ex-partners to marry other people in the eyes of both the Church and the State.

Islam does allow divorce; however, there is a verse stated in the Qur'an describing divorce as the least desirable act allowed between people. The general rule is for a man to allow his wife to stay until the end of her menstrual period or for 3 months if she so wishes after the divorce. During this period they would be divorced in that they would simply be living under the same roof but not functioning as husband and wife. Scholars of the Qur'an suggest that the main point is to prevent any decisions by the woman from being affected by hormonal fluctuations as well as to allow any heated arguments or differences to be resolved in a civil manner before the marriage is completely terminated. However, there is no obligation on the woman to stay, if she so wishes she may leave. The man is also obliged to give his wife a gift or monetary sum equivalent to at least half her mahr (gift or monetary sum which is given to the wife at the commencement of the marriage). Specific conditions as to how a divorce is conducted also apply if a woman is pregnant, or has given birth just prior to the divorce.

refer Qur'an 2:228-232, 236, 237, 241 and 65:1-7. See also 4:35.

Marriages are typically entered into with a vow that explicitly limits the duration of the marriage with the statement "till death do you part". However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a distinctive view of marriage called celestial marriage, wherein they believe that individuals that are worthy can enter into a marriage relationship that can endure beyond death. This is documented in their Proclamation On The Family.

Marriage and economics[]

The economics of marriage have changed over time. Historically, in many cultures the family of the bride had to provide a dowry to pay a man for marrying their daughter. In other cultures, the family of the groom had to pay a bride price to the bride's family for the right to marry the daughter. In some cultures, dowries and bride prices are still demanded today. In both cases, the financial transaction takes place between the groom (or his family) and the bride's family; the bride has no part in the transaction and often no choice in whether to participate in the marriage.

In some cultures, dowries were not unconditional gifts; if the groom had other children, they could not inherit the dowry, which had to go to the bride's children, and which, in the event of her childlessness, had to return to her family -- sometimes not until the groom's death, or his remarriage; often the bride was entitled to inherit at least as much as her dowry from her husband's estate.

Morning gifts, which might also be arranged by the bride's father rather than the bride, were given to the bride herself; the name derives from the Germanic tribal custom of giving them the morning after the wedding night. She might or might not have control of this morning gift during the lifetime of her husband, but is entitled to it when widowed. If the amount of her inheritance is settled by law rather than agreement, it may be called dower. Depending on legal systems and the exact arrangement, she may not be entitled to dispose of it after her death, and may lose the property if she remarries.

Morning gifts were preserved for many centuries in morganatic marriage, a union where the wife's inferior social status was held to prohibit her children from inheriting a noble's titles or estates. The morning gift would be to support the wife and children.

Another legal provision for widowhood was jointure, in which property, often land, would be held in joint tenancy, so that it would automatically go to the widow on her husband's death.

In many modern legal systems, two people who marry have the choice between keeping their property separate or combining their property. In the latter case, called community property, when the marriage ends by divorce each owns half; if one partner dies the surviving partner owns half and for the other half inheritance rules apply.

In some legal systems, the partners in a marriage are "jointly liable" for the debts of the marriage. This has a basis in a traditional legal notion called the "Doctrine of Necessities" whereby a husband was responsible to provide necessary things for his wife. Where this is the case, one partner may be sued to collect a debt for which they did not expressly contract. Critics of this practice note that debt collection agencies can abuse this claiming an unreasonably wide range of debts to be expenses of the marriage. The cost of defense and the burden of proof is then placed on the non-contracting party to prove that the expense is not a debt of the family.

The respective maintenance obligations, during and eventually after a marriage, are regulated in most jurisdictions; see alimony.

Some have attempted to analyze the institution of marriage using economic theory; for example, anarcho-capitalist economist David Friedman has written a lengthy and controversial study of marriage as a market transaction (the market for husbands and wives) [2].

In some cultures, woman are expected to marry a spouse more powerful economically, socially, or politically. Called hypergyny, this practice is common in India.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Though an expected social norm in America, hypergyny is slowly being replaced by Isogamy, marriage between equals, and the marrying 'down' of woman.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Many anthropologists ascribe this to increased gender equality between women and men.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Romantic marriage and pragmatic marriage[]

Romantic marriage[]

The so-called "romantic" marriage is usually initiated by the participants themselves after realizing that a cathexic bond exists between them or that making a commitment to live together, share a household, and possibly raise children is mutually advantageous. Often it is a combination of factors.

Pragmatic marriage[]

Main article: Arranged marriage

A pragmatic (or 'arranged') marriage that is facilitated by formal procedures of family or group politics. A responsible authority sets up or encourages the marriage. The authority could be parents, family, a religious figure or a consensus. The former two often start the process with informal pressure, social pressure, whilst the latter two often start the process with a formal system or statement. In both cases, the authority has a compelling veto over the marriage, and this system is socially supported by the rest of community so that to deny it is extreme and drastic. Once declared, an engagement is implicit, which follows through with a formal marriage ceremony.

Arranged and 'pragmatic' marriages are typical of dowry-based inheritance systems. Women in these societies inherit male wealth at the time of marriage, causing the parents to have a particular interest in their daughters' marriages. These same societies demanded pre-marital chastity and kept a high degree of separation of the sexes until marriage. Modern Western marriage expectations and traditions are derived from this system of dowry-based marriage.

Pragmatic marriage contrasted to romantic marriage[]

Cultures that aspire to create relationships after couples marry are those with institutionalized practices of pragmatic marriage. Cultures that come to think that marriages should only be tried once a short-term compatibility already exists adopt romantic marriages.

Those who believe in romantic marriage will often criticize pragmatic marriage, considering it is oppressive, inhuman, sexist, or immoral. Defenders of pragmatic marriage disagree, often pointing to cultures where the success rate of pragmatic marriages is seen to be high, and holding that nearly all couples learn to love and care for each other very deeply.

Those who uphold pragmatic marriage frequently state that it is traditional, that it upholds social morals, that it is good for the families involved. They also have some traditional criticisms of romantic marriage, saying that it is short-term, overly based on sexual lust, or immoral. Defenders of romantic marriage would hold that it is preferable to achieve an emotional bond before entering into a lifelong commitment.

The arranged marriage and the romantic marriage are not strict opposites. In many cultures, a couple wishing to marry will seek the approval of one or both parents, and the parents are entitled to pragmatically investigate the social and economic position of the proposed spouse and withhold consent. In others, the parents may carefully inspect people before admitting them into the social circle where the unmarried may meet, so as to prevent unsuitable romantic bonds from forming.

Same-sex marriage[]

Main article: Same-sex marriage


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. Same-sex marriage remains infrequent worldwide, especially as it is prohibited in most countries. As tolerance of homosexuality has become more widespread in Western cultures, more governments are allowing and/or sanctioning marriage of same-sex couples.

Jurisdictions accepting same-sex marriage[]

Some countries recognize same-sex marriage, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Spain. In the United States same-sex marriage is currently considered unprotected by the U.S. constitution, and is banned in the majority of states, either constitutionally or by statute. It is currently legal in the State of Massachusetts, but only for their residents and residents of Rhode Island. South Africa will soon (January 2007) have same-sex marriage.

"Civil Union" or "Registered Partnership" is operative in Denmark (including Greenland but excluding the Faroe Islands), Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Andorra, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Switzerland, Czech Republic and the American states of Vermont, Connecticut and California, the Australian states of Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory and some regions of Italy.

"Domestic Partnership", which gives fewer rights than a "Civil Union" or "Registered Partnership," is operative in Hungary, Portugal and Croatia and in the American states of Maine, New Jersey, and District of Columbia, in the Australian states of Western Australia and Queensland, and in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

The State of Hawaii has "reciprocal beneficiaries relationship," which is a limited interpersonal status for same-sex couples. Vermont also has "reciprocal beneficiaries relationship," but this is a very different interpersonal status from the Hawaiian form. Pending legal challenges to marriage restrictions are aimed at expanding or reinforcing the recognition of same-sex marriages in other states


These developments have created a political and religious backlash, most notably in the United Kingdom, where the Church of England has, after long debate, officially banned blessings of gay couples, and in the United States, where several states have specifically outlawed same-sex marriage, often by popular referenda. The state of Mississippi passed a ban on same sex marriage with 86% of the vote, the highest percentage seen on a statewide level. On the other side, Lutheran churches in Netherlands, Sweden and some Lutheran churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany allow blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. In other countries (such as Finland) such ceremonies are discouraged and rarely performed by the church.

The city of San Francisco in 2004 began sanctioning same-sex marriages despite their being explicitly illegal in California. The Supreme Court of California declared that the unions were null and void. In 2005, a bill AB19, changing California law to let same-sex couples marry, was passed by both houses of the California State Legislature and then vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. (See Same-sex marriage in California for more information.)

Criticisms of the institution of marriage[]

Main article: Criticisms of the institution of marriage

Some commentators have been critical of marriage, sometimes condemning individual local practices and sometimes even the entire institution. A good many of the criticisms are developed from a feminist viewpoint that claims marriage can be particularly disadvantageous to women. However, there are other viewpoints from which marriage in its usual forms is problematic. Father's Rights advocates claim that no fault divorce and a family courts bias toward giving women custody of children encourages divorce. Sacred marriage vows that are often entered into as an indissovable sacred contract of fidelity often turns into a unilateral debt instrument by men that women may 'cash in' at any time, although the courts are increasingly dealing with cases where the ex-husband receives payment from the higher earning ex-wife.

See also[]

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:


Lists and statistics[]

  • Age at first marriage - average ages of people when they first marry
  • Marriageable age - ages at which people are allowed to marry in various countries
  • List of people with the shortest marriages
  • List of people with longest marriages
  • List of people with multiple marriages

Related concepts[]


  • Marriage and mental health
  • Marriage and physical health


  1. Leach, Edmund (1968). Paul Bonannan and John Middleton Marriage, Family, and Residence, The Natural History Press.

External links[]

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