Same-sex marriage around the world: the story so far and what's next

From 2001 to today, we chart the story of same-sex marriage across the globe.

The hands of two men getting married
Image: Maico Pereira via Unsplash

Although the history of same-sex marriage around the world is a fairly recent one, the number of countries that have embraced marriage equality continues to increase. As of today, in more than 30 countries same-sex couples can finally enjoy equal rights, with the last few years bringing some most-welcome new additions to the list. And we don’t even need to look that far!

Our very close neighbour, Northern Ireland recognised same-sex marriages in 2020, becoming the last part of the United Kingdom to take the step.

And that’s not the only good news from our region. A landmark ruling was passed last December by the EU top court, the European Court of Justice that same-sex parents and their children are to be recognised as family in all member states. Such judgment gives a powerful boost to the rights of same-sex couples in the Union, considering that only 16 of the 50 EU countries currently recognise marriage equality.

The ruling follows another one passed in 2018 by the court, which held that all member states must recognise the same-sex marriages of both EU and non-EU citizens who immigrated within their borders.

Despite continued resistance in many parts of the world, some positive steps have also been taken in regions where no country recognised marriage equality before, like Asia and Central America.

Read on to get the full list.

The Netherlands legalises same-sex marriages, becoming the very first country in the world to do so.

Marriage equality is granted to all Belgian citizens.

Canada becomes the first country in the American continent to introduce full marriage equality.
After a rejection from the Spanish Senate, the Spanish parliament finally makes same-sex marriage legal in the whole nation.

South Africa legalises same-sex marriages, becoming the only African country to do so to this day.

After allowing civil unions in 1993, it takes Norway 15 years to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples.

With an overwhelming majority, the Swedish parliament makes same-sex marriages legal in the whole country.

Iceland introduces same-sex marriage and in the same year its Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, becomes the first head of government in the world to ever enter such a union.
A same-sex marriage bill is signed into law in Portugal.
Argentina is the first Latin American country to grant marriage equality to its citizens.

After being the first country to legally recognise same-sex unions through civil partnerships, Denmark also grants them marriage equality.

Uruguay is the second Latin American country to legislate for same-sex marriage.
New Zealand becomes the first country in the Asia-Pacific area to pass such legislation.
In France, a bill is signed into law that effectively implements marriage equality.
In Brazil, the Justice’s National Council rules that marriage licences should be granted to same-sex couples.

Both England and Wales pass legislation to allow same-sex marriages, followed closely by Scotland in the same year.
Luxembourg votes with an overwhelming majority for a law that allows same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

Finland, the last Nordic country to do so, finally recognises marriage equality.
Ireland makes same-sex marriage legal, becoming the first country in the world to do so by popular vote in a referendum.
Same-sex marriages are legalised in Greenland, the world’s biggest island.
The United States Supreme Court introduces marriage equality into federal law.

In Colombia, the Constitutional Court rules to legalise same-sex marriage.

Germany allows same-sex couples to wed in a widely supported move across the country.
Malta grants marriage equality to all its citizens.
An unchallenged majority of Australian legislators approves a law on same-sex marriage, enacting the will of the citizens.

After a high court rules that barring same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional, marriage equality is established in Austria.
Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage, becoming the first Asian country to do so.
After judges rule in favour of a gay couple who sued the country’s civil registry, same-sex marriage is made law in Ecuador.

Northern Ireland is the last country in the UK to establish marriage equality.
Costa Rica is the first Central American country to recognise equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

After a four-year effort, Chile also legalises same-sex marriages.
With a majority of 64.1% in a referendum, Switzerland passes legislation on marriage equality.

Even though the number of countries that currently recognise marriage equality is increasing, we still have a long way to go. If you would like to stay up to date on the recognition of same-sex marriage around the world, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is a useful resource to track its development. Our collective hope is that the list we compiled in this article will keep getting longer and that same-sex couples around the whole world will finally be granted equal legal status and dignity.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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