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An Economic Analysis of Same-Sex Marriage

Christina Müller
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Christina Müller: Universität Hamburg

No 2002-1-1045, German Working Papers in Law and Economics from Berkeley Electronic Press

Abstract: The institution of marriage is the foundation of the family and of society. Even though it is a private institution, it has been regulated by society, depending on the specific time and history, religious perceptions, legal rules or customs, and norms. According to historical judicial interpretation, marriage has been viewed as a heterosexual union, same-sex rela-tionships are precluded from the definition of "marriage". Same-sex relationships, regardless of their duration, have not been legally recognised in most countries and, as a result, homosexual partners are denied many of the legal and eco-nomic privileges automatically granted with the marital status. Only recently, some countries have become more open to grant rights for same-sex couples, but the justification is rather on egalitarian than on economic grounds. The aim of the paper is to examine whether restricting the marriage option to heterosexual couples is efficient. It will be argued that there are hardly any grounds for denying same-sex couples the rights heterosexuals are granted when they wish to enter a legally recognised relationship. Furthermore, legalising same-sex marriage and implementing a social change might bring about a welfare gain for society as a whole. Yet, tradition and social values might make it more desir-able to let the relationship be recognised under a different name than “marriage”: a domestic partnership.

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