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Religious marriage recognizes and creates the rights and obligations intrinsic to matrimony before that religion.
The definition of marriage varies around the world not only between cultures and between religions, but also throughout the history of any given culture and religion, evolving to both expand and constrict in who and what is encompassed, but typically it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged or sanctioned.
Some countries do not recognize locally performed religious marriage on its own, and require a separate civil marriage for official purposes.
In other countries, such as Australia, while only civil marriage is recognised, the Marriage Act allows for a civil marriage and religious marriage to be performed simultaneously by a clergyperson of a recognized religion if he or she is also legally recognized as a wedding officiants (though it is illegal to purport to solemnize religious marriages which would have been unlawful under civil law, such as polygamous marriages or child marriages).
These changes have occurred primarily in Western countries.
In the 21st century, there continue to be controversies regarding the legal status of married women, legal acceptance of or leniency towards violence within marriage (especially sexual violence), traditional marriage customs such as dowry and bride price, forced marriage, marriageable age, and criminalization of consensual behaviors such as premarital and extramarital sex.
He argued that a legitimacy-based definition of marriage is circular in societies where illegitimacy has no other legal or social implications for a child other than the mother being unmarried.