A relationship, most commonly between one man and one woman in Western countries, which is sanctioned by the State and/or by a religious institution and which confers upon its members certain social and economic conditions, typically including rights of joint property ownership, rights of inheritance and of decision-making in legal and medical matters, and certain legal rights and responsibilities concerning mutual child rearing. These rights and responsibilities have varied over time and today vary from place to place, but common to all of them is the expectation that people who are married are in a legally recognized, financially entwined, committed relationship that is not trivial to separate. Traditionally, marriages in most Western countries carry with them expectations of sexual and emotional monogamy.
See related closed marriage, open marriage, group marriage, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry.
Commentary: Increasingly, Western countries are being forced to grapple with the issue of same-sex partnerships being officially recognized as marriages, both because gays and lesbians want the social status conferred by marriage and because gays and lesbians want the legal rights so conferred, particularly with regard to economic matters such as inheritance and joint property ownership, practical matters such as insurance and the right to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner, and so on. Many people also feel that these legal rights and responsibilities do not have to be limited to exactly two people and that partnerships involving more than two people are entitled to equal treatment under the law as well.