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Current Explanations for the Variation in Same-Sex Marriage Policies in Western Countries

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AbstractOver the last ten years, several western countries have recognized gay marriage either by providing gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, or by allowing civil unions. Other western countries have not. What accounts for this variation? This paper reviews and analyzes the key demographic, institutional and cultural arguments found in the literature on the legalization of gay marriage - especially as these pertain to cross-national comparison - and raises questions about assumptions regarding the extent to which there is variation on these variables across western countries. I argue that institutional and cultural explanations are only meaningful in explaining legalization when their combinations are specified in order to shed light on favorable (or unfavorable) circumstances for policy outcomes.

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