Same Sex Marriage

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Same Sex Marriage

Same Sex Marriage

Marriage is found in virtually all societies, and the majority (some 90%) of people in every society gets married at least once in their lifetime (Carroll & Wolpe, 1996; Ember, Ember, & Peregrine, 2006). Cultures vary with regard to what is considered appropriate premarital behavior, whom one marries, how one marries, a proper marriage ceremony, and length and purpose of the marriage. Each culture also defines marriage differently although there are some common criteria across many societies. Marriage is typically defined simply as a “socially approved sexual and economic union, usually between a woman and a man” (Ember et al., 2006, p. 343), which is generally denoted symbolically in some way (e.g., ceremony, certificate, symbols-rings). Normally, there are reciprocal rights and obligations between the two spouses and their future children. Viewing marriage as a social process where new relationships are set up between the kin of both the husband and the wife essentially describes all forms of marriage. With this, marriage maintains social patterns through the production of offspring. (Lewin, 1999)

Traditionally, marriage was defined as a union between a man and a woman with children born to the woman being recognized as legitimate offspring to both parents (Royal Anthropological Institute, 1951). Marriage was thought to change the status of a man and a woman, stipulate the degree of sexual access for the married partners, establish the legitimacy of the children born to the wife, and create relationships between the kin of both the wife and husband. Anthropologists have since noted the exceptions to this standard definition and have expanded it to reflect broader practices. As such, Miller (2008) offers a working definition of marriage given the complexity of practices that fall under the umbrella of marriage-“a more or less stable union, usually between two people, who may be, but are not necessarily, co-residential, sexually involved with each other, and procreative with each other” (p. 140).

British anthropologist Edmund Leach (1955) observed that marriage may accomplish the following depending on the society. Leach described these rights of marriage as possibilities for either or both spouses:

* Establish legal father and mother of children

* Provide control over sexuality of spouse

* Give rights to labor of spouse

* Give rights over spouse's property

* Create a joint fund of property (for children)

* Begin a socially significant affinal relationship between spouses and their relatives.

Some societies recognize various kinds of same-sex marriages (Kottak, 2008). Same-sex marriages are legal in Denmark; Norway; Holland; South Africa; Ontario, Canada; and Massachusetts, in the United States. There is much debate politically and socially regarding the legal status of same-sex marriages (Miller, 2008).

Depending on the historical and cultural setting, samesex marriages have been accepted. In some African cultures, for instance, women may marry other women in order to strengthen their social and economic status among society (Kottak, 2008). Among the Nandi of Kenya, approximately 3% of marriages are female-female marriages. The Nuer of southern Sudan are also reported to have ...
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