Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage) is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex and/or gender identity. Legal recognition of same-sex marriage or the possibility to perform a same-sex marriage is sometimes referred to asmarriage equality or equal marriage, particularly by supporters. The first laws in modern times enabling same-sex marriage were enacted during the first decade of the 21st century. As of 19 August 2013, fifteen countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil,Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden,Uruguay) and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Mexico and the United States) allow same-sex couples to marry. A law has been passed by the United Kingdom, effective in England and Wales, which is expected to be fully in force in 2014. Polls in various countries show that there is rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage across race, ethnicity, age, religion, political affiliation, and socioeconomic status. Introduction of same-sex marriage laws has varied by jurisdiction, being variously accomplished through a legislative change to marriage laws, a court ruling based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or by direct popular vote (via a ballot initiative or areferendum). The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political, social, human rights and civil rights issue, as well as a religious issue in many nations and around the world, and debates continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed marriage, be required to hold a different status (a civil union), or be denied recognition of such rights. Same-sex marriage can provide LGBT taxpayers with government services and make financial demands on them comparable to those afforded to and required of male-female married couples. Same-sex marriage also gives them legal protections such as inheritance and hospital visitation rights.
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