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Scott Monsma

Abstract

This paper examines different ways of defining marriage in order to understand the current debate about legal same-sex marriage. A review of cross-cultural and historical definitions of marriage indicates there is no one definition of marriage that fits all cultures.  An examination of the function of marriage in Western society concludes that marriage has changed from a focus on kinship and economic ties to romantic and sentimental ties, a change that has implications for both gender and sexuality in defining marriage.  Linked to the changing function of marriage, the paper discusses legal definitions of marriage and several recent court cases.  Finally, the paper discusses how normative definitions of marriage are shifting in response to structural changes in society.  Based on the trajectory of the functional and legal changes, the paper concludes that same-sex marriage is likely to be legal in all 50 states in the not-too-distant future.   KEYWORDS: same-sex marriage, traditional marriage, marriage debate
 

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Articles