xvi Preface to the First Edition 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 names 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. Various nations have taken different stands on this question. In the Muslim world, for example, same-sex relationships of any kind are regarded as sinful and, in some countries, are pun- ishable by death. The concept of same-sex marriage is, there- fore, unthinkable in such cultures. Christianity has long taken a similar stand on same-sex relationships, and in countries that were part of colonial empires established by Christian nations (such as England, Belgium, and the Netherlands), same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage are simply not a possibil- ity in today’s world. But a number of other nations have taken a different view. Same-sex marriage has actually become legal in seven nations: Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden. Twenty other nations have adopted civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other marriage-like arrangements that extend to same-sex couples nearly all of the same rights available to opposite-sex couples in a legal marriage. The most striking fact about these data may be that all seven nations that have legalized same-sex marriage (and many political subdivisions that have taken the same action) have done so within the last decade. Is the world witnessing a revolution in the way nations think about the meaning of marriage as a social institution? Certainly, the issue of same-sex marriage has become a topic of vigorous debate in many parts of the world. In the United States, for example, every state of the union, as well as the federal legislature, has held often acrimonious discussions as to what rights, if any, same-sex couples have in forming marriage-like unions. In the vast majority of cases, states have taken legislative and/or constitutional actions that specifically prohibit same-sex marriage and, in many cases, any comparable type of union. But a number of states have resisted this overall trend. Five states,
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