Civil marriage

A civil marriage is a marriage performed, recorded and recognised by a government official.[1] Such a marriage may be performed by a religious body and recognised by the state, or it may be entirely secular.

Albert Anker - Die Ziviltrauung (1887)
A civil marriage in 19th century Switzerland (Albert Anker, 1887)


Every country maintaining a population registry of its residents keeps track of marital status,[2] and all UN Member countries except Iran, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Tonga have signed or ratified either the United Nations Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages (1962)[3] or the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) which carry a responsibility to register marriages.[4] Most countries define the conditions of civil marriage separately from religious requirements. Certain countries, such as Israel, allow couples to register only on the condition that they have first been married in a religious ceremony recognised by the state, or were married in a different country.

In England

In medieval Europe, marriage was governed by canon law, which recognised as valid only those marriages where the parties stated they took one another as husband and wife, regardless of the presence or absence of witnesses. It was not necessary, however, to be married by any official or cleric. This institution was cancelled in England with the enactment of "Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act" of 1753, which required that, in order to be valid and registered, all marriages were to be performed in an official ceremony in a religious setting recognised by the state, i.e. Church of England, the Quakers, or in a Jewish ceremony. Any other form of marriage was abolished. Children born into unions which were not valid under the Act would not automatically inherit the property or titles of their parents. For historical reasons, the Act did not apply in Scotland. Consequently, until 1940, it continued to be enough in Scotland for a man and a woman to pledge their commitment to each other in front of witnesses to legalise their marriage. This led to an industry of "fast marriages" in Scottish towns on the border with England; the town of Gretna Green was particularly well known for this. In 1836, the requirement that the ceremony take place in a religious forum was removed, and registrars were given the authority to register marriages not conducted by a religious official.

In other European countries

A cauple wait for wedding
A couple waiting to get married in the town of Alghero on the island of Sardinia, Italy

Many European countries had institutions similar to common-law marriage. In 1566, the edict of the Council of Trent was proclaimed denying Catholics any form of marriage not executed in a religious ceremony before a priest and two witnesses.

The Protestant pastor and theologian of Geneva, John Calvin, decreed that in order for a couple to be considered married they must be registered by the state in addition to a church ceremony.

In 1792, with the French Revolution, religious marriage ceremonies in France were made secondary to civil marriage. Religious ceremonies could still be performed, but only for couples who had already been married in a civil ceremony. Napoleon later spread this custom throughout most of Europe. In present-day France, only civil marriage has legal validity. A religious ceremony may be performed after or before the civil union, but it has no legal effect.

In Germany, the Napoleonic code was valid only in territories conquered by Napoleon. With the fall of his empire, civil marriage in Germany began to die out. However, certain sovereign German states introduced civil marriages, which were either obligatory (like the French model) or optional, with either a religious or civil ceremony being accepted. Already before 1848 the Grand-Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach enacted optional civil marriages, followed by the German republics of the Free City of Frankfurt upon Main (1850, obligatory), Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (1851, optional) and Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck (1852, optional). German Grand-Duchies such as Oldenburg (1852/55, optional), Baden (1860) and Hesse (1860) as well as the Kingdom of Württemberg (1863) followed suit.[5] Civil marriages enabled interfaith marriages as well as marriages between spouses of different Christian denominations. After the unification of Germany in 1871, the Reichstag adopted a bill initiated by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck as the "Civil Marriage Law" in 1875 (see: Kulturkampf); since then, only civil marriages have been recognised in Germany. Religious ceremonies may still be performed at the couple's discretion. Until Dec. 31, 2008, religious marriages could not be performed until the couple had first married in a civil ceremony.

Civil marriage in the world currently

England and Wales

Today marriages in England or Wales must be held in authorised premises, which may include register offices, premises such as stately homes, castles and hotels that have been approved by the local authority, churches or chapels of the Church of England or Church in Wales, and other churches and religious premises that have been registered by the registrar general for marriage.[6]

Civil marriages require a certificate, and at times a licence, that testify that the couple is fit for marriage. A short time after they are approved in the superintendent registrar's office, a short non-religious ceremony takes place which the registrar, the couple and two witnesses must attend; guests may also be present. Reference must not be made to God or any deity, or to a particular religion or denomination: this is strictly enforced, and readings and music in the ceremony must be agreed in advance.[7]

United States

Marriage in the United States is still largely regulated by state laws (though not without occasional federal override—see Loving and Obergefell).

All states (and the District of Columbia) require a marriage license issued by local civil authorities. As a rule, ministers of religion (e.g. rabbis or Christian pastors) are authorized in law to perform marriages; various state or local officials, such as a mayor, judge, deputy marriage commissioner, or justice of the peace, are also empowered to conduct civil wedding ceremonies, which may take place in public offices. Many counties in Pennsylvania allow self-uniting marriages for which no official minister is required, as a concession to the state's Quaker heritage (though other religious traditions also avail themselves of the option). The type of ceremony (religious or civil) has no bearing on the legal validity of the marriage, and there is no requirement to precede a religious rite with a civil ceremony. Marriages performed outside of the United States are legally binding if officially recognized by the government of the country in which they are performed.

Countries with mandatory civil marriage

In most European countries there is a civil ceremony requirement. Following the civil marriage ceremony, couples are free to marry in a religious ceremony. Such ceremonies, however, only serve to provide a religious recognition of the marriage, since the state's recognition has already been given. In some of these countries (e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey) most couples marry without any religious ceremony at all. Full, formal weddings, complete with wedding gowns and the presence of family and friends, are usually conducted in special ceremonial rooms in the town hall.

Countries with no civil marriage

There is no civil marriage in many Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, Syria,[8] Jordan,[9] UAE,[10] Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Libya, Mauritania, as well as in Indonesia,[11] Iran, Lebanon and Israel, among others; all marriages are conducted by religious authorities, and are registered by civil authorities only after having been registered by authorities of officially approved religions, or, having been registered abroad. Some of those countries as Israel, Syria and Lebanon officially recognize Islam, Christianity, Druze, Judaism, and marriage is possible but usually only within the same community. Contrary to the situation in Lebanon, Syrian law prohibits the recognition of any marriage that falls outside the existing proscriptions of its personal status laws, even if the couple gets married abroad [12]. Egypt recognizes civil marriages but is very complicated. One will need to have all the necessary paperwork completed and then one must go with two men as your witnesses. Foreigners will need a paper from their embassy. This yields particular problems for those who are refused divorce by their spouses, or couples in religious traditions that forbid divorce altogether. Malaysia allows civil marriage for non-Muslims only, while in Kuwait, Bahrain and Afghanistan[13] it is allowed for foreign citizens only.

Civil marriage and other unions of same-sex couples

Wedding party at Town Hall
People leaving the town hall of Høje, Denmark following a civil marriage

As of December 2018, there were several jurisdictions which permitted same-sex marriages, namely Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Kingdom of Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, both Taiwan and Austria by federal high court rulings (both not yet in effect until 2019 and Costa Rica in effect by 2020)[14], England, Wales, Scotland (does not include both Northern Ireland and Sark as of yet in the UK), the Isle of Man, Falkland Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Bermuda (despite ongoing legal appeals), Pitcairn Islands, Gibraltar, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Antarctic Territory, Ascension Island, Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha,[15] United States and Uruguay. Also several states within Mexico - namely Mexico City, Baja California, Campeche, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Quintana Roo, Guerrero, Querétaro and Puebla. Israel,[16] Estonia and Armenia recognize same-sex civil marriages abroad from other countries - but does not allow same-sex marriages to be performed within their borders. Northern Ireland recognises same-sex civil partnerships but not same-sex marriages, and treats foreign same-sex marriages (including those from the rest of the UK) as civil partnerships.

In 22 countries worldwide and in several jurisdictions within Mexico, a same-sex couple can be legally partnered in a civil union, domestic partnership or registered partnership. Couples in these unions or partnerships are afforded rights and obligations similar to, but not identical to, those of a married couple.

See also


  1. ^ "Civil Marriage Definition". 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "OHCHR | Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage".
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-03-31.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Julius Schoeps, "Emanzipation der Herzen – oder: Der Fall Ferdinand Falkson", in: PreußenJahrBuch: Ein Alamanch [published on the occasion of the Projekt Preussen 2001], Museumspädagogischer Dienst Berlin (MD Berlin) in collaboration with the Landesverband der Museen zu Berlin and Museumsverband des Landes Brandenburg (ed.), Berlin: MD Berlin, 2000, pp. 52–56, here p. 56. ISBN 3-930929-12-0.
  6. ^ "England and Wales", Legal (article), Wedding Guide UK, archived from the original on 2013-02-09
  7. ^ "England and Wales", Music Not Allowed at Civil Ceremonies (article), Wedding Music Designer (Simon Jordan)
  8. ^ Syria: Social repercussions of a marriage between a male Druze and a Muslim woman, UNHCR
  9. ^ Marriage in Jordan, USA: Jordan embassy, archived from the original on 2011-10-06
  10. ^ Marriage and weddings, Dubai, UAE FAQs
  11. ^ Marriage in Indonesia, BCC Visa Law
  12. ^ Hassan, Ali Wadea'. "Between Church and State: Civil Marriage in the Arab World".
  13. ^ Marriage in Afghanistan, USA: Kabul embassy, archived from the original on 2011-09-06
  14. ^ "Taiwan top court backs same-sex marriage". BBC News. 2017-05-24.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Israel's Supreme Court approves same-sex marriages performed abroad Archived September 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Israel Insider, November 21, 2006
Civil Marriage Act

The Civil Marriage Act (full title: An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes) (the Act) was legislation legalizing same-sex marriage across Canada. At the time the bill became law, same-sex marriage had already been legalized by court decisions in all Canadian provinces except Alberta and Prince Edward Island, as well as in the territories of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

It was introduced as Bill C-38 in the first session of the 38th Parliament of Canada on February 1, 2005. It passed the House of Commons on June 28, 2005, and the Senate on July 19, 2005. The Act became law when it received Royal Assent on July 20, 2005.

As with all federal legislation in Canada, the Act is written in both French and English, with equal force. The French title is Loi sur le mariage civil, or in full, Loi concernant certaines conditions de fond du mariage civil.


In many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, the consummation of a marriage, often called simply consummation, is the first (or first officially credited) act of sexual intercourse between two people, either following their marriage to each other or after a prolonged romantic attraction. The definition of consummation usually refers to penile-vaginal sexual penetration, but some religious doctrines hold that there is an additional requirement that there must not be any contraception used.The religious, cultural, or legal significance of consummation may arise from theories of marriage as having the purpose of producing legally recognized descendants of the partners, or of providing sanction to their sexual acts together, or both, and its absence may amount to treating a marriage ceremony as falling short of completing the state of being married, or as creating a marriage which may later be repudiated. Thus in some legal systems a marriage may be annulled if it has not been consummated. Consummation is also relevant in the case of a common law marriage. The importance of consummation has led to the development of various bedding rituals.

In addition to these formal and literal usages, the term also exists in informal and less precise usage to refer to a sexual landmark in relationships of varying intensity and duration.

Dezső Perczel

Dr. Dezső Perczel de Bonyhád (18 January 1848 – 20 May 1913) was a Hungarian politician, who served as Interior Minister between 1895 and 1899 in Dezső Bánffy's cabinet. His father was Béla Perczel, a former Minister of Justice of Hungary. During his reigning Dezső Perczel supported the institution of civil marriage. He also made a law about the parish registers. He took several measures concerning about the labour movement's and the nationality movements' breaking off. Later (1903–1904) he fought against the Opposition's tactics of filibuster. He was a president of new-created Party of National Work.

Homosexuality in China

Homosexuality in China has been documented in China since ancient times. According to one study, homosexuality was regarded as a normal facet of life in China, prior to the Western impact of 1840 onwards. However, this has been disputed. Several early Chinese emperors are speculated to have had homosexual relationships accompanied by heterosexual ones. Opposition to homosexuality, according to the study by Hinsch, did not become firmly established in China until the 19th and 20th centuries, through the Westernization efforts of the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China. On the other hand, Gulik's study argued that the Mongol Yuan dynasty introduced a more ascetic attitude to sexuality in general.For most of the 20th century, homosexual sex was banned in the People's Republic of China until it was legalized in 1997. In 2001, homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental illnesses in China.In a survey by the organization WorkForLGBT of 18,650 lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, 3% of males and 6% of females surveyed described themselves as "completely out". A third of the men surveyed, as well as 9% of the women surveyed said they were in the closet about their sexuality. 18% of men surveyed answered they had come out to their families, while around 80% were reluctant due to family pressure.

LGBT rights in Gibraltar

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights have evolved significantly in the past decades in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1993 and the age of consent was equalised to 16 in 2012. The Supreme Court of Gibraltar ruled in April 2013 that same-sex couples have the right to adopt. Civil partnerships have been available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples since March 2014. In October 2016, Gibraltar voted to legalise same-sex marriage. The Civil Marriage Amendment Bill 2016 was passed unanimously in Parliament. The law received royal assent on 1 November and took effect on 15 December 2016.

Legality of polygamy

The legality of polygamy varies widely around the world. Polygamy is legal in 58 out of nearly 200 sovereign states, the vast majority of them being Muslim-majority countries situated in Africa and Asia. In most of these states, polygyny is allowed and legally sanctioned. Polyandry is illegal in virtually every state in the world. The rest of the sovereign states do not recognize polygamous marriages.

Marriage in Israel

Marriages in Israel can be performed only under the auspices of the religious community to which couples belong, and no religious intermarriages can be performed legally in Israel. Matrimonial law is based on the Millet or confessional community system employed in the Ottoman Empire, which was not modified during the British Mandate and remains in force in the State of Israel.In addition to the respective faiths of Jewish, Muslim and Druze communities in Israel, Israel recognizes ten distinct denominations of Christianity. Marriages in each community are under the jurisdiction of their own religious authorities. The religious authority for Jewish marriages performed in Israel is the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Rabbinical courts. The Israeli Interior Ministry registers marriages on presentation of proper documentation. Israel’s religious authorities — the only entities authorized to perform weddings in Israel — are prohibited from marrying couples unless both partners share the same religion. Therefore, interfaith couples can be legally married in Israel only if one of the partners converts to the religion of the other. However, civil, interfaith and same-sex marriages entered into abroad are recognized by the state.It is illegal under Penal Law Amendment (Bigamy) Law, 5719 (1959), to marry in Israel while already married. This applies to members of each confessional community, including the Jewish and Muslim, even though it is allowed in the Torah and the Quran. Despite its criminalization under Israeli law, polygyny is nevertheless still practiced by Israel’s Muslim Bedouin community, where about 25% of men are believed to have more than one wife, and it is also recognized for existing marriages of immigrant Jews from diaspora communities where polygyny is widely practiced.

In 2013, the minimum marriage age in Israel was raised to 18, from a previous age of 17. Previously, the marriage age was 18 for males and 17 for females, before they were equalised at 17 years.

Marriage vows

Marriage vows are promises each partner in a couple makes to the other during a wedding ceremony based upon Western Christian norms. They are not universal to marriage and not necessary in most legal jurisdictions. They are not even universal within Christian marriage, as Eastern Christians do not have marriage vows in their traditional wedding ceremonies.

Polygamy in Eswatini

Polygamy in Swaziland is legal but rare due to high dowry prices. Swaziland has a dual legal system of common law, based on Roman-Dutch law, and traditional unwritten Swazi law. Polygamous marriages are mostly performed under traditional law but also sometimes under civil marriage.

Polygamy in Malawi

While polygamous marriages are not legally recognized under the civil marriage laws of Malawi, customary law affords a generous amount of benefits to polygamous unions, ranging from inheritance rights to child custody. It has been estimated that nearly one in five women in Malawi live in polygamous relationships.

Recognition of same-sex unions in Israel

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Israel. The Israeli Government has registered same-sex marriages performed abroad for some purposes since 2006. However, since the state has yet to legalize civil marriage in Israel, those who choose to get married must turn to one of the 15 religious marriage courts recognized by the state. As of 2017, none of these 15 religious courts permit same-sex marriage under their respective auspices. Consequently, Israelis who desire to have their same-sex marriage recognized by the Israeli Government must first marry outside Israel, in a jurisdiction where such marriages are legal, and then register upon returning home.

Same-sex marriage in Alberta

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Alberta since July 20, 2005, upon the granting of royal assent to the federal Civil Marriage Act. Alberta was one of the four Canadian provinces and territories where same-sex marriage had not been legalised prior to the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act, along with Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Same-sex marriage in Canada

Same-sex marriage in Canada was progressively introduced in several provinces by court decisions beginning in 2003 before being legally recognized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005. On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario issued a decision immediately legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, thereby becoming the first province where it was legal. The introduction of a federal gender-neutral marriage definition made Canada the fourth country in the world, and the first country outside Europe, to legally recognize same-sex marriage throughout its borders. Before the federal recognition of same-sex marriage, court decisions had already introduced it in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories, whose residents collectively made up about 90% of Canada's population. More than 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in those areas before the Civil Marriage Act was passed. Most legal benefits commonly associated with marriage had been extended to cohabiting same-sex couples since 1999.

The Civil Marriage Act was introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal minority government in the House of Commons of Canada on February 1, 2005, as Bill C-38. It was passed by the House of Commons on June 28, 2005, by the Senate on July 19, 2005, and it received royal assent the following day. Following the 2006 election, which was won by a Conservative minority government under new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the House of Commons defeated a motion to reopen the matter by a vote of 175 to 123 on December 7, 2006, effectively reaffirming the legislation. This was the third vote supporting same-sex marriage taken by three Parliaments under three prime ministers in three different years, as shown below.

Same-sex marriage in Manitoba

Same-sex marriage is legal in Manitoba. On September 16, 2004, it became illegal for the Canadian province to continue to discriminate against homosexuals by denying civil marriage to same-sex couples. In the case of Vogel v. Canada, Justice Douglas Yard of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench ruled that the policy of the Government of Manitoba was unconstitutional, and ordered the province to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.Manitoba became the fifth jurisdiction in Canada (and the eighth worldwide) to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, after the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, and the territory of Yukon. Judge Yard said that his decision had been influenced by the previous decisions in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

This decision followed a suit brought by three couples in Manitoba who were denied marriage licences by the Government of Manitoba. Both the provincial and federal governments had made it known that they would not oppose the court bid.

A June 2005 Winnipeg Free Press survey showed that of the 14 federal Manitoban MPs, eight were against same-sex marriages, five were for and one could not be reached.

Same-sex marriage in Maryland

Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in the U.S. state of Maryland since January 1, 2013. In 2012, the state's Democratic representatives, led by Governor Martin O'Malley, began a campaign for its legalization. After much debate, a law permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the General Assembly (Maryland's bicameral Legislature, composed of the Senate and House of Delegates) in February 2012 and signed on March 1, 2012. The law took effect on January 1, 2013 after 52.4% of voters approved a statewide referendum held on November 6, 2012. The vote was hailed as a watershed moment by gay rights activists and marked the first time marriage rights in the United States have been extended to same-sex couples by popular vote.Upon the rise of the same-sex marriage movement in the early 1970s, Maryland established the first law in the United States that expressly defined marriage to be a union between a man and a woman. Attempts to both ban and legalize same-sex marriage in the 1990s and 2000s failed to gain enough support from central committees of the state legislature. Roman Catholic authorities throughout the state were adamantly opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, saying it deeply conflicted with the best interests of society and would threaten religious liberty. The debates produced disputes between individuals who had been traditionally aligned on causes and prompted sharp criticism from African-American religious leaders who said same-sex marriage would "disrupt the fabric of the culture."Before passage of the Civil Marriage Protection Act, the state recognized same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions following the 2010 release of a legal opinion from Attorney General Doug Gansler in his nine-month analysis of comity laws. In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals maintained Gansler's analysis and issued a unanimous decision in Port v. Cowan finding that a same-sex marriage performed out-of-state must be considered equal and valid under state law, despite its earlier decision in Conaway v. Deane (2007) in which the court upheld the statutory ban on same-sex marriage as constitutional.

Same-sex marriage in Nunavut

Same-sex marriage is legal in Nunavut. The territory began granting marriage licences to same-sex couples upon the passage of the federal Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005. Previously, beginning in October 2003, same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions were legally recognized in Nunavut.

Same-sex marriage in Prince Edward Island

Same-sex marriage is legal in Prince Edward Island. The province began the process of updating its laws to recognize same-sex marriage after the passage in the House of Commons of Canada of the Civil Marriage Act, the federal law recognizing such marriages. It had been one of only four provinces and territories, with Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where same-sex marriage had not already been legalized by court challenges prior to the passage of the law.

Same-sex marriage in Saskatchewan

Same-sex marriage became available in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan as of November 5, 2004, as a result of a decision of the Family Law Division of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench. This decision followed similar cases in six other provinces and territories, and pre-dated by eight months the federal Civil Marriage Act of 2005, which made same-sex marriage available throughout Canada. Later court decisions have dealt with the issue of marriage commissioners who object to performing same-sex marriages on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Furthermore, same-sex couples have been able to adopt children jointly since 2001, after the Adoption Act was amended by the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan in July 2001.

Timeline of civil marriage in the United States

Many laws in the history of the United States have addressed marriage and the rights of married people. Common themes addressed by these laws include polygamy, interracial marriage, divorce, and same-sex marriage.

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