What’s Gay Marriage?

Many grown-ups who are in love with each other want to spend their lives together. Marriage is one way to do this. The couple agrees to live together as a family. They promise to take care of each other and their kids.

To get married, a couple goes to a local government office and asks for a marriage certificate. A marriage certificate is a piece of paper that says a couple is officially married.

When a couple is two men or two women, people sometimes call it “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage.”

For a long time, couples of two men or two women were not allowed to get marriage certificates. They could still have weddings, live together, and raise kids. But they could not get marriage certificates to show that they were officially married.

Not having a marriage certificate made it harder to do many things. In some places, gay couples could not adopt kids together or take care of foster kids. If they had a baby together, the government would not count both of the grown-ups as officially being parents. Only one parent could do things that parents normally do, like take the kids on field trips or sign school permission slips.

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to let two men or two women get marriage certificates. After that, other states started giving marriage certificates to same-sex couples. But many states still would not let gay couples officially be married.

A lot of people thought this was unfair to gay couples. Some of them asked the national government to let gay couples get officially married everywhere in the United States.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States — the part of the national government in Washington, D.C., that studies and explains laws — decided that same-sex couples can get marriage certificates no matter where they live. The Supreme Court said this is the fairest and best way to help same-sex couples take care of each other and their kids.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2015