Today the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case which will determine whether the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution must guarantee the right for same-sex couples to marry. Here are nine things you should know about this controversial topic:

(Note: When this is posted to social media it is inevitable that even before reading the article someone will respond by saying, “The first thing you should know is that ‘same-sex marriage’ isn’t marriage.” Allow me to beat them to the punch by saying that I completely agree. Marriage between people of the same-sex is an ontological and metaphysical impossibility and such relationships are a poor simulacrum of the creational norm and the institution created by God. However, while the term “same-sex marriage” is a misnomer it gets tedious putting scare quotes around the phrase. The use of the term marriage to refer to same-sex unions throughout this article is a mere concession of form and should in no way be taken as an admission I believe them to truly be marital unions.)  

1. Out of 1,170 societies recorded in Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, marriage between one man and one woman is common in all and polygyny (the practice of men having more than one wife) is prevalent in 850. Marriage between people of the same sex, however, was never widely accepted in any culture prior to 2000.

2. Among the pagans of the Roman Empire there were a few instances of same-sex marriages, most notably the emperor Nero. Nero was in two same-sex ceremonies, once to the freeman Pythagoras as a “bride” and once as a “groom” to a boy named Sporus. In his Annals, Tacitus writes:

Nero, who polluted himself by every lawful and lawless indulgence, had not omitted a single abomination which could heighten his depravity, till a few days afterward he stooped to marry himself to one of that filthy herd, by name Pythagoras, with all the forms of regular wedlock. The bridal veil was put over the emperor; people saw the witnesses of the ceremony . . .

And in The Twelve Caesars Suetonius says,

He gelded the boy Sporus, and endeavoured to transform him into a woman. He even went so far as to marry him, with all the usual formalities of a marriage settlement, the rose-coloured nuptial veil, and a numerous company at the wedding. When the ceremony was over, he had him conducted like a bride to his own house, and treated him as his wife.

3. In 2000, the Netherlands became the first nation in history to legalize same-sex marriage. The other countries that have legalized such unions are Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Iceland (2010), Portugal (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Uruguay (2013), New Zealand (2013), France (2013), Brazil (2013), England and Wales (2013), Scotland (2014), Luxembourg (2014), Finland (2015). In Mexico, it is only allowed in some parts of the country.

4. By judicial fiat, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriages in 2004. The Massachusetts Supreme Court declared that “barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution.” Same-sex weddings were allowed that same year.

5. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. In 19 of those states, including Utah, Pennsylvania and Florida, gay marriage became legal (starting at the beginning of 2014) after federal courts struck down laws or state constitutional amendments banning same-sex unions.

6. In almost every country where it is legal, same-sex marriages end in divorce at a higher rather than in unions with a man and a woman. For example a study found that male couples in Sweden were 35 percent more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples, and lesbian partners were over 200 percent more likely to divorce. Whether the couples had children made little difference in the relative rates.

7. For many same-sex couples, commitment in a relationship doesn’t include monogamy. “Monogamish” coupling (emotionally intimate only with each other yet engages in sexual infidelities or group sexual activity) is generally considered acceptable, even normative, within homosexual communities. The same appear to be true even when the relationships are legally recognized. The first study on same-sex couples with civil unions began in 2000 in Vermont. Esther Rothblum conducted research to compare lesbians and gay men with their married siblings. Rothblum found that 15 percent of straight husbands said they’d had sex outside their relationship, compared with 58 percent of gay men in civil unions and 61 percent of gay men who were partnered but not in civil unions. When asked whether a couple had arrived at an explicit agreement about extra-relational sex, a minuscule 4 percent of straight husbands said they’d discussed it with their partner and determined that it was okay, compared with 40 percent of gay men in civil unions and 49 percent of gay men in partnerships that were not legally recognized.

8. There are an estimated 350,000 same-sex couples that have received state marriage licenses. That's just 0.3 percent of the nation's 242 million adults.

9. The religious demographic groups most likely to strongly oppose same-sex marriage are white evangelical Baptists, white evangelical Church of Christ, and Jehovah’s Witness (44 percent for each group). The groups most likely to strongly favor same-sex marriage are Unitarian-Universalists (74 percent), Buddhist (48 percent), and Jewish (47 percent).

Recent posts in this series:

Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • Prayer in the Bible • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Orphans • Halloween and Reformation Day • World Hunger • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues