Gay marriage is a term for a legally or socially recognized marriage between two people of the same sex. "Same-sex marriage" and "gay marriage" are the most common terms used in news media and politics.Some proponents of same-sex marriage use the term "equal marriage" to stress that they seek equality as opposed to special rights.

Marriage, as defined by the civil law, is currently available to same-sex couples in six countries. The Netherlands was the first country to allow same-sex marriage in 2001. Same-sex marriages are also legal in Belgium, Canada, Norway, South Africa and Spain. In 2005, Spain became the first country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage (including adoption rights) on equal terms and under the same law.

Two states in the United States, Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay or same-sex marriage. From May 2008, California allowed for same sex marriages, though Proposition 8 has overturned that right as of November 2008. The states of Vermont, New Jersey and New Hampshire offer civil unions.
Oregon has domestic partnership laws that grant some of the rights and responsibilities of marriage.
Maine, Washington, Maryland, and the District of Columbia grant certain limited benefits through domestic partnerships. Hawaii has reciprocal beneficiary laws.

Opponents argue that equating same-sex and opposite-sex marriage changes the meaning of marriage and its traditions. Furthermore they frequently use the term "homosexual marriage," and some surveys have suggested that the word "homosexual" is more stigmatizing than the word "gay".

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