Should gay marriages be approved worldwide?
Spain's lower house of parliament has voted in favour of allowing same-sex marriages, making it the fourth country in the world to do so.
The Spanish bill will become law in a month's time, putting same-sex and heterosexual marriages on the same legal footing including the right to adopt children.
Do you approve of same-sex marriage? Would you consider travelling to either Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands or Spain to get married? Should gay couples have the same rights as heterosexuals?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
First let the world respect homosexuals as equals, before we begin talking about gay marriages. Let the world stop forcing its religious views upon the larger community.
Balaji, Chennai, India
Regardless of whether I am comfortable with homosexuality or not, I feel very strongly that it is none of my business how other people live their lives, especially their sex lives. What really makes me cringe is when a group of people are denied their right to pursue happiness because they do not fit into the stereotypical mythical, white, Christian 1950's family unit complete with stay-at-home Mom and all-knowing, strong, law-giving Dad. The Constitution never specified freedom and equality only "within the boundaries of the Christian conservative church".
Rhonda, Houston, TX, USA
To those who reject gay marriage on the basis of gay couples not being able to reproduce: What about heterosexual couples who cannot or will not have children? Should they be denied marriage also?
The time appears to have come for gay marriages to be recognised more and more. Not only are nations increasingly recognising what's natural and right but our church has decided at the Atlanta Convention to support gay marriage. I'm proud to be a part of my congregational church which is open and affirming in its views and I look forward to hearing from our minister when she returns.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, USA
I totally agree with civil marriage between homosexuals. I know of a gay couple who were 'disowned' by their parents when they decided to live together. But when one of them fell ill and died, all of a sudden his family came to claim his possessions. In a heterosexual marriage all that would belong to the spouse, but his partner was left with nothing and still is paying off debt from the medical costs from his partner's illness. I strongly believe in human rights and equality for all peoples and hope that very soon many more people will accept and embrace one another's beliefs and rights.
As far as it is a civil marriage, there is no problem. But it should not in anyway lead to child adoption. It is a matter of human right and a child has the full right to have a mother and a father.
I love my country but it's sad that the United States is so far behind when it comes to treating everyone as equal. Homosexuals, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jews, Muslims, people with disabilities and anyone else considered 'different' will know where I'm coming from. Our country still holds the greatest influence in the world and I ask everyone to pray for our nation and our world in times of challenges between social and international issues that can impact our globe.
Walter G, Palm Harbor, Florida
We are not against civil unions for homosexuals, I mean, they have to have exactly the same rights than heterosexuals in paying taxes (here in Spain you can pay taxes on your own or with your couple), widowed pension, and all civil rights you have just for marrying. We are against the word "matrimonio" in Spanish, just because the word includes "matri" that means mother, and they can't be mothers, so why don't they just call it civil unions? They say that that involves an implicit discrimination, but I don't think so, is just calling things by its own name.
Aurelio de la Puerta, Seville, Spain
My partner, who's British, and I are one of the 5,000 couples queuing up to marry in Spain. PM Zapatero should be applauded for his progressive stance while other leaders in so-called more liberal northern Europe shy away from allowing full equality. I'd add that it seems strange to take moral authority from the Catholic Church, an institution that has failed to address the issue of paedophile priests effectively, while its stand against the use of condoms has caused the deaths of millions of people from Aids in Africa.
Aleksandar Atanasov, Malaga, Spain
In my opinion, the matter of same-sex marriages would not have been such a trouble if the religious Right and similar people in Europe had not made it a huge issue. So members of non-heterosexual minorities want to marry each other? Let them. They regard it as a right, when their opponents would like to rid them of all rights (including health care).
V Lehtinen, Tampere, Finland
Gay marriage ought to be legalised worldwide. In the United States, the government champions equality, but does not follow through. It is important that gays join African-Americans and women in being liberated and being treated as equals. Gays are people too, and deserve to be treated as such.
Becky Hartung, Idaho Falls, ID, United States
I understand both sides of this issue. However, at the end of the day it is all about equality. The religious right has to understand that stripping one group of their rights leads to a slippery slope that will one day have them stripped of theirs. Let's be reasonable and fair to all. I live as an equal. I am a Canadian!
Michael Talon, Toronto, On, Canada
I believe couples with children carry the weight of a country by creating taxpayers etc. Homosexual couples cannot give birth to children thus should not be allowed to have normal marriage rights. This does not mean they are not human, it's different.
We cannot go on with such closed minds!! I know several gay couples and they all seem more committed to each other than most heterosexual couples. They should have the same rights as anyone else. They have the same emotions and the want for company that any human does. Gay people are not monsters, they are just like you and me and should not be persecuted like so many minorities are and have been throughout history.
Zoe, Hertfordshire, UK
Homosexual couples should have all the same rights as heterosexual couples do, and there is no justification for opinions that state otherwise. The purpose of marriage is to allow two people that love each other to be united in a beautiful bond, and this should not be denied to those whose sexual preferences are different from the majority.
Cory Schneider, Charlotte, NC, USA
First they say that gays are too promiscuous. Then they get upset when we want to get married in a committed relationship. Religious fanatics seem so confused.
Bernie, Denver, CO, USA
We're not talking about a church service but a civil marriage. Gays like any people have their civil rights like any other member of society.
Roger Pacheco, San Francisco, USA
It is to be expected that in an age of individualism coupled with rejection of universal morality that "gay marriage" should become increasingly acceptable. In the long haul of history it is a sign of social and cultural decay.
William Miller, Kansas City, MO, USA
Why should any country hold a referendum on this issue? Why should any majority have the right to decide on the human rights of any minority that is not breaking the law? There would still be segregation in the USA if the people there had had a referendum on racial equality in the 1960's.
Stephen , Belfast NI
I cannot believe this is happening. It's purely unnatural. The purpose of marriage will be lost and its sanctity destroyed.
Emily Fogarty, Smithfield, RI
To those who cry for national referendums and mandates from the electorate, I say this: basic human and civil rights are meant to protect minorities against majority oppression, not the other way around. Honestly, America's brain drain will be Canada's gain. If our country cannot provide its citizens with the protections they need and deserve, expect nothing less than a mass exodus. Hopping the border is looking increasingly attractive...
Ellen, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Reading many of the comments it seems that many parents are raising their children to believe that the love between gay couples is worth less than that between a man and a woman. What nonsense. Also, gay people aren't trying to hijack a religious ceremony. They are trying to enjoy the civil unions already afforded to straight couples. Why is there so much bitterness over the right for people in love to express themselves?
David S, London, UK
Same sex marriage is about human rights. Arguments against this are simply prejudice and hatred disguised by religion and tradition.
Christopher Borycheski, Toronto, Canada
Whether you personally disapprove of gay marriage is irrelevant. That should not preclude people around the world from enjoying equal rights and protections given to everybody else. Most opponents of gay marriage behave as if it would be mandatory and use the unbelievably selfish argument, "I don't like this so you can't do it." These opponents of equality have no concept of what a free society is all about and will one day be ashamed of their backwards and bigoted views. I'm proud my state allows gay marriage, and big cheers for Canada and Spain!
Dean, Boston, MA, USA
As a married woman with two children, I congratulate Canada for allowing others - sisters and brothers - to share in the same depth of relationship which I fortunately enjoy. Shame to all those who prohibit others from love and life.
Annette, Philadelphia PA
Free will and equal rights. If a gay couple wants to be married it is strictly their business. No one tries to stop and no one argues the validity of a heterosexual couple's marriage and as far as adoption goes, with so many children out there waiting to become part of a loving home, the more couples willing to adopt the better. Live and let live. No one should take satisfaction in destroying another person's chance at expressing their love in a permanent honourable fashion.
Romee Trofort, Alexandria, VA US
Equality and discrimination should be abolished wherever possible - if this includes giving full marriage rights to same sex partners then same sex marriage should be available and be open in as many places as possible.
Thomas Kubot, Netherlands
Sad, very sad. This is a slap in the face on my belief structure. How can I teach my kids what is right if the world says what I believe is wrong? This is the impact of gay marriage.
Rodolfo, Cincinnati, USA
Congrats on passing your new law and showing the world that you stand for all human rights! I wish our country would do the same. I admire you all greatly! Congratulations!
Gene, Andover, Minn., USA
It's an important moment, knowing that when I finally fall in love, I'll be able to solemnize our relationship like any other couple. I'm proud of our politicians for taking a step forward.
Tim, Toronto, Canada
I don't see why any country recognizes marriage in the first place. After all a separation of church and state should mean that the state would recognize only civil unions (which would be between all type hetero or homosexual couples).
Tristan Benson, Richmond, Va.
Deeply saddened by the politics and ethics that lead to this decision that hardly reflects the wishes or viewpoint of the majority of Canadians. It is not merely the conservative religious segment of Canadian society, but also many ethnic cultural groups that are disapproving of this redefinition of the word "marriage".
Lisa, Cambridge, Canada
Last night was a great moment for Canada and for the rest of the world. Thanks to all MPs who voted in favour of the bill and to all other people who worked for this over the years! Spain will hopefully follow the lead later this week.
Sami, Helsinki, Finland
I'm proud to be a Canadian today!
S. Terra, Winnipeg Manitoba Canada
Congratulations Canada! It must be great living in a country where everyone is equal.
Paul, Bellingham, WA USA
Canada has once again come to the forefront, while the United States, that bastion of "freedom", is ready to do the opposite. I am still at a loss at how allowing two men or two women to marry diminishes a heterosexual relationship. If you disagree or disapprove, that is what your voice, your church, and your living room is for, but dissenters should not be allowed to take me away from my partner, bar me from his bedside, or prevent us from caring for each other, physically, spiritually, or financially.
Patrick, Madison, Wisconsin, US
I think this is an amazing day for us and the rest of the country, I can finally marry the one I love.
Raymond Parker, Dieppe NB
The orientation I was born with is heterosexual. Because this is "approved" I could be married anywhere. But, if I marry again, I want to marry in Canada where all persons have rights.
Jim Lawson, Leonard OK, USA
The passage of this bill does not reflect the values of the typical Canadian. If parliament had had the courage to submit this to a national referendum there is no doubt that it would have gone down to a resounding defeat.
Pete, Vancouver, Canada
I see nothing but positive coming from this. Gays and lesbians no longer have to suffer the heartbreaking issues that they had to endure by not having equal standing. I am sure that the straight population will see that we have not lost anything and we have allowed people dignity. I am overjoyed!
Greg Pressey, Tillsonburg, Canada
This is a logical next step in the evolution of modern society. Homosexuals in Canada have been waiting since 1967 (when homosexuality was decriminalized) for this day. This legislation is a shining example of the vast difference between Canadian and American mentalities. I am from Quebec and advocate the separation of this province from the rest of the country, but on a day like today I can't help but feel proud to live in Canada.
Thom Seivewright, Montreal, Canada
I think this is excellent! Honestly, what's so wrong about gay people getting married? They're not hurting anyone. As for the 'true definition of marriage' I think that's a joke, what with shows like 'Marry my Dad' how can they say that with a straight face?
Theresa, Ontario, Canada
I have to say this is news that makes my heart happy. People need to realize that true equality goes across the board - marriage should be for all, not just heterosexuals. This is a step in the right direction! USA, are you paying attention?
Peter, East Greenwich, Rhode Island, USA
Being Canadian, I am proud of the politicians who sided with freedom of choice and the people's wish. Intolerance and despotism have no place in politic in a civilized world.
Michel Tremblay, Canada
It's a matter of equal rights and balancing minority rights against the greater population. It doesn't affect my wife's and my marriage in any way at all. Perhaps those who are so offended by it can now put their attention to Canada's high divorce rate (among heterosexual couples of course).
Gary, Nelson, Canada
As a Canadian living in England with my English partner of 5 years, we're both proud to wave the Canadian flag today! Canada is now a shining example to America and the rest of the world of the true and proper way to recognise the rights of all people, and not just those who follow an established religious code of ethics. As Prime Minister Paul Martin has said, equal rights for minority groups is not something you can simply pick and choose.
R. Fraser, London, UK
I've been living with my Canadian partner for over 10 years now and I welcome this legislation. It means we can now go to Canada to have a proper marriage, rather than put up with the second class "civil partnership" which the government is introducing here.
Can't believe our politicians spent so much time on this issue! I'm definitely not against equal rights for gay couples but no matter what the politicians say, to me marriage will always be a union between a man and a woman.
Mark, Ottawa, Canada
As much as the religious right complain, I don't see this having any impact on heterosexual couples, married or otherwise. The facts are that Parliament would have had to invoke the not withstanding clause to take a different course and what would that mean for gay couples that have already married after the high courts found that this was a Charter of Rights issue? Personally I think the "live and let live" motto works for me and I would remind the religious right that the same Charter protects their rights to practise whatever religion they want. They are a lot bigger issues facing Canadian society that deserve our attention.
Mack, Ottawa, Canada
Congratulations Canada. Spain is next and hopefully many countries will follow. About time gay people were treated equal.
Ricardo Yerro, Pamplona, Spain
Equality at last!!! This was never a simple debate about a word. This was: For all of those people who have been beaten to death simply for being who they are; For all of those people who have taken their own lives, either as young people afraid of what they were feeling, or others in heterosexual marriages and not knowing what to do with their truth (and there are far, far too many of these people); For all of those people who marched "before it was popular" and were greeted by rocks and sticks instead of cheers. For anyone, anywhere who faces inequality, bigotry and prejudice, this is a victory for ALL of us who would fight against those trying to deny us what they have so comfortably enjoyed for years. I am personally overwhelmed, and fiercely proud to be a Canadian this morning!
Len T Milley, Toronto, Canada
The Liberal minority government had no mandate from the Canadian electorate to pass this bill. I am outraged that the definition of marriage in Canada has been changed.
T. Mooney, Oakville, Ontario
At least in Canada, all citizens are TRULY created equal. I celebrate my 20th anniversary with my husband this coming week (yes, we're gay). If finances and circumstances were different, a trip to Canada would have been lovely! At least our neighbours to the north have it right. God bless them and God bless Canada!!!
Clay Dove, Dallas, TX, USA
As much as I was against this bill and still am, please politicians can we just get on with running the country? I am sure that there are more important issues that deserve to take up just as much of your valuable time and need as much passion and debate.
Susan Chambers, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
I've no doubt that there will be howls of protest over this but in a truly fair and equal secular society it is perfectly right that gay men and women should have the right to an officially recognised life bond and the term marriage is as good as any who knows they might take it more seriously than a large number of heterosexuals do!
Tim, Plymouth, UK
This is a proud moment for Canada and the world. It also offers another example of how to build an open and inclusive democratic society in contrast to the high state of fear and anxiety demonstrated by our neighbours to the south. America needs us more than their leaders know.
Tom, Ottawa, Canada
This is dark day for Canadian families. Polls indicate that a national referendum would show more than 70% of Canadians oppose the bill, and want to leave marriage as between a man and a woman.
James, Freelton, ON, Canada
Fantastic! Hurrah! Canadians had it right when they said they were welcoming and inclusive. Perhaps the other North American country can learn to follow suit. What a day for celebration that would be.
Nima, College Park, MD