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The act of marriage usually creates normative or legal obligations between the individuals involved, and any offspring they may produce or adopt.

In terms of legal recognition, most sovereign states and other jurisdictions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and a diminishing number of these permit polygyny, child marriages, and forced marriages.

Over the twentieth century, a growing number of countries and other jurisdictions have lifted bans on and have established legal recognition for interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, and most recently, gender-neutral marriage.

Some cultures allow the dissolution of marriage through divorce or annulment.

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.