Same-Sex Marriage: A Reference Handbook

Same-Sex Marriage: A Reference Handbook

Same-Sex Marriage: A Reference Handbook

Same-Sex Marriage: A Reference Handbook


Despite a general attitude shift towards accepting same-sex relationships in the United States over the last two decades, there is still a prevailing opinion that same-sex marriages should be prohibited. Indeed, even among the few states that have legalize marriage for same-sex couples, California, Hawaii, and Maine have had their statutes overturned by state voters.This book provides a comprehensive review of attitudes toward same-sex marriage in the United States, examining historical events, religious traditions, and gender norms that have influenced understandings of same-sex marriage in America. Information regarding same-sex relationships in other cultures, both today and in previous eras, provides insightful perspective to the topic; arguments for and against same-sex marriages are presented along with rebuttals to both positions.


Same-sex marriage? What an absurd idea! Marriage has always been between one man and one woman. How can anyone imagine any kind of legal union called “marriage” between two women or two men?

Well, perhaps so. But also, perhaps not. Anyone who has studied American history knows that it is not quite true that “marriage has always been between one man and one woman.” In fact, one of the largest religious denominations in the United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church), not only endorsed but also encouraged polygamous marriages of its members for more than half a century. Church leaders made it a requirement of their faith that men take multiple wives in order for both men and women to ensure their entry into heaven after their deaths. Reflecting the importance of such marriages, the church referred to them as “celestial marriages.”

And a careful study of human civilization shows that many other types of marriage are possible and, often, have been the norm among various societies. In some cultures, a one-man, one-woman marriage is often augmented by the addition of additional wives or husbands who may or may not live with the primary family all or part of the time. And same-sex marriages, while certainly not common in most societies, have existed in many cultures.

So perhaps the idea of same-sex marriage in the twenty-first century is not such a revolutionary idea as it first seems. Perhaps the question really is whether the United States and other nations of the world are now ready to acknowledge the right of two women or two men to join together in a social institution that bears the name of marriage. Or whether they should, at the very least, be entitled to some type of legal union that bestows all or most of the rights associated with opposite-sex marriage.

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