Same-sex marriage is slowly gaining a foothold across the world. In countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa LGBTQ+ people are allowed to marry, although only in Canada is marriage completely equal for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. The other nations impose special residency requirements on homosexual couples. Civil unions, registered partnerships, and domestic partnerships are available with varying rights and responsibilities in nineteen other countries, as well as regions of Australia and of three South American countries. The United States lags behind. Only one state, Massachusetts, issues marriage licenses to LGBT couples. Civil unions (or domestic partnerships) are available in only seven states and the District of Columbia (two more states will be added at the beginning of 2008). Most states (twenty-six) have constitutional amendments or statutes defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman, thus precluding same-sex marriage. On the federal level, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, provides the same definition of marriage and also purports to allow any state to deny “full faith and credit” to same-sex marriages of other states.While the struggle to gain equal matrimonial rights for LGBT people continues its uphill battle, the nature of marriage is changing, as the results of the Pew Research Center’s survey make clear. As LGBT people have been moving towards marriage, the institution itself has been undergoing significant transformations. Fewer couples are marrying, and fewer couples remain married for life. Those who do marry often delay marriage until they are in their late 20’s or 30’s. Some couples, both homosexual and heterosexual, shun marriage for various reasons which will be discussed. The institution’s purposes are changing and its boundaries are blurring. This paper will recommend that the option of marriage, not merely civil unions, should be made legally available for LGBT people. In presenting a case for same-sex marriage, this paper also will present a case for reshaping marriage itself by decoupling the social contract that is the basis of marriage from the layers of religious and cultural significance that our history has placed on the institution. Committed unions should be encouraged and enjoy legal and social protection, but there is no need to encumber these unions with extraneous religious associations and traditional prejudices.

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