Sunday, August 1, 2021

Marriage Equality Around the World

Amsterdam City Hall, April 1, 2001 - Photo by Rex Wockner

Article maintained with assistance from Evan Wolfson, Rob Salerno and Andrés Duque. Last update: June 15, 2021.

Same-sex couples can marry in 29 nations and in 47 other discrete jurisdictions around the world:

Netherlands (2001), Saba (2012), Bonaire (2012), Sint Eustatius (2012)

Belgium (2003)

Canada (2003-2005)

USA (2004-2015), Guam (2015), Northern Mariana Islands (2015), Puerto Rico (2015), U.S. Virgin Islands (2015)

Spain (2005), Canary Islands (2005), Ceuta (2005), Melilla (2005)

South Africa (2006)

Norway (2009)

Sweden (2009)

Argentina (2010)

Iceland (2010)

Portugal (2010), Azores (2010), Madeira (2010)

Mexico (2010-2021; full article here)

Denmark (2012), Greenland (2016), Faroe Islands (2017)

France (2013), French Guiana (2013), French Polynesia (2013), Guadeloupe (2013), Martinique (2013), Mayotte (2013), New Caledonia (2013), Réunion (2013), Saint Barthélemy (2013), Saint Martin (2013), Saint Pierre and Miquelon (2013), Wallis and Futuna (2013)

Brazil (2013)

Uruguay (2013)

New Zealand (2013)

England and Wales (2014), Akrotiri and Dhekelia (2014), British Indian Ocean Territory (2014, 2015), Scotland (2014), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (2014), Pitcairn Islands (2015), Ascension Island (2016), Isle of Man (2016), British Antarctic Territory (2016), Gibraltar (2016), Guernsey (2017), Falkland Islands (2017), Tristan da Cunha (2017), Saint Helena (2017), Jersey (2018), Alderney (2018), Bermuda (2017, 2018, see "Notes" below), Northern Ireland (2020), Sark (2020)

Luxembourg (2015)

Ireland (2015)

Colombia (2016)

Finland (2017)

Malta (2017)

Germany (2017)

Australia (2017), Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island

Austria (2019)

Taiwan (2019)

Ecuador (2019)

Costa Rica (2020)

Notes

14 nations bound by Inter-American Court ruling

"THE COURT DECIDES ... by six votes to one that: ... Under Articles 1(1), 2, 11(2), 17 and 24 of the [American] Convention [on Human Rights], States must ensure full access to all the mechanisms that exist in their domestic laws, including the right to marriage, to ensure the protection of the rights of families formed by same-sex couples, without discrimination in relation to those that are formed by heterosexual couples, as established in paragraphs 200 to 228."

In a binding ruling made on Nov. 24, 2017, and published Jan. 9, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights instructed 20 nations that are signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights to let same-sex couples marry: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay. Six of the nations — Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay — have marriage equality, and Mexico has marriage equality in 20 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, the federal capital. Courts in Ecuador and Costa Rica brought in marriage equality because of the Inter-American Court ruling.

"All countries are obligated to apply the Convention as the court applies it, so it is binding on all as precedent," said Hunter T. Carter, a partner at Arent Fox who has tried a case in the Inter-American Court and represents Chilean same-sex couples in the Inter-American system.

Dutch Caribbean

Overseas municipalities Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have marriage equality. Constituent countries Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten do not, though they partially recognize Dutch marriages from elsewhere.

Mexico

Mexican states (there are 31) are a hotspot of the marriage-equality movement. To date, 20 states and federal capital Mexico City have achieved marriage equality via three different pathways. My article is here.

French places

All overseas departments and collectivities — see the France entry above — have marriage equality. The links above show a same-sex couple marrying in nine of the 11 jurisdictions.

British places

See above for the lengthy list of British places with marriage equality. Five overseas territories — Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands — do not have marriage equality.

Bermuda and Cayman Islands

The court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, is expected to rule this year on marriage equality in these British overseas territories. Bermuda has marriage equality during the final appeal but it is blocked in the Cayman Islands.

The Privy Council ruling may have some effect in, or be precedential for, multiple British overseas territories and Commonwealth countries that use the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality. Those overseas territories are Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands. And those Commonwealth countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brunei, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu. The Cook Islands and Niue, associated states of New Zealand, also use the the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality.

Ireland

On May 22, 2015, Ireland became the first nation to bring in marriage equality by popular vote. Irish people amended their constitution by a landslide margin of 62.07% to 37.93%.

U.S. territories

Four of the five U.S. territories — Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands — were covered by the U.S. Supreme Court's nationwide marriage-equality ruling on June 26, 2015. American Samoa was not.

The United States Minor Outlying Islands — Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll and Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean, and Navassa Island in the Caribbean Sea — would have marriage equality. Their population nowadays is a small number of temporarily assigned scientists and military personnel.

Antarctica

Same-sex couples can marry in Antarctica. Nations that claim portions of the continent include Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom. Of those, only Chile doesn't have marriage equality.

On the high seas

Same-sex couples can marry at sea on Celebrity Cruises ships, courtesy of the Malta Parliament's passage of marriage equality in July 2017.

U.S. Indian tribes

There are 574 of them and they are not covered by the June 26, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court ruling that brought in marriage equality nationwide. At least 29 tribes, listed below, have legalized same-sex marriage to date. A number of others follow the marriage law of the state in which they are located, so marriage equality is in place without additional tribal action.

• Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon (2009)
• Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut (2010)
• Suquamish Tribe in Washington (2011)
• Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe in Washington (2012)
• Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan (2013)
• Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington (2013)
• Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan (2013)
• Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California (2013)
• Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma (2013)
• Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota (2013)
• Puyallup Tribe of Indians in Washington (2014)
• Eastern Shoshone Tribe and Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming (2014)
• Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes in Alaska (2015)
• Oneida Tribe in Wisconsin (2015)
• Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan (2015)
• Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in Oregon (2015)
• Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon (2015)
• Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin (2016)
• Tulalip Tribes in Washington (2016)
• Menominee Indian Tribe in Wisconsin (2016)
• Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma (2016)
• Prairie Island Mdewakanton Dakota Community in Minnesota (2017)
• Osage Nation in Oklahoma (2017)
• Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin (2017)
• Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona (2017)
• Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota (2019)
• Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan (2019)
• Colorado River Indian Tribes in Californa/Nevada/Arizona (2019)
• Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota (2020)

Watch list

This section is now a separate article: Worldwide Marriage Equality Watch List. Click here to read about the places on the planet most likely to see marriage equality next, as well as places where marriage equality has become a high-profile topic.

Geography lesson

Where are those 47 other jurisdictions of Australia, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and USA?

Australia
• Christmas Island » Indian Ocean
• Cocos (Keeling) Islands » Indian Ocean
• Norfolk Island » South Pacific Ocean

Denmark
• Faroe Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Greenland » between North Atlantic and Arctic oceans

France
• French Guiana » South America
• French Polynesia » South Pacific Ocean
• Guadeloupe » Caribbean Sea
• Martinique » Caribbean Sea
• Mayotte » Indian Ocean
• New Caledonia » South Pacific Ocean
• Réunion » Indian Ocean
• Saint Barthélemy » Caribbean Sea
• Saint Martin » Caribbean Sea
• Saint Pierre and Miquelon » next to Newfoundland
• Wallis and Futuna » South Pacific Ocean

Netherlands
• Bonaire » Caribbean Sea
• Saba » Caribbean Sea
• Sint Eustatius » Caribbean Sea

Portugal
• Azores » North Atlantic Ocean
• Madeira » North Atlantic Ocean

Spain
• Canary Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Ceuta » Africa
• Melilla » Africa

United Kingdom
• Akrotiri and Dhekelia » Cyprus
• Alderney » English Channel
• Ascension Island » South Atlantic Ocean
• Bermuda » North Atlantic Ocean
• British Antarctic Territory
• British Indian Ocean Territory
• Falkland Islands » South Atlantic Ocean
• Gibraltar » attached to Spain
• Guernsey » English Channel
• Isle of Man » Irish Sea
• Jersey » English Channel
• Northern Ireland » Island of Ireland
• Pitcairn Islands » South Pacific Ocean
• Saint Helena » South Atlantic Ocean
• Sark » English Channel
• Scotland » Great Britain
• South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands » South Atlantic Ocean
• Tristan da Cunha » South Atlantic Ocean
• Wales » Great Britain

USA
• Guam » North Pacific Ocean
• Northern Mariana Islands » North Pacific Ocean
• Puerto Rico » Caribbean Sea
• U.S. Virgin Islands » Caribbean Sea

Worldwide Marriage Equality Watch List

Amsterdam City Hall, April 1, 2001

This is a companion article to my article Marriage Equality Around the World. Here we track the nations and other jurisdictions most likely to see marriage equality next, as well as places where marriage equality has become a high-profile topic. Last update: Aug. 1, 2021.

Andorra

Andorra is planning to erase the distinction between civil unions for same-sex couples and casaments (weddings) for opposite-sex couples and allow both to have casaments, and to define matrimoni (marriage) as a religious thing that happens in church. The vote in the General Council (parliament) is expected this year.

Bermuda and Cayman Islands

The court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, is expected to rule this year on marriage equality in these British overseas territories. Bermuda has marriage equality during the final appeal but it is blocked in the Cayman Islands.

The Privy Council ruling could have some effect in, or be precedential for, multiple British overseas territories and Commonwealth countries that use the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality. Those overseas territories are Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands. And those Commonwealth countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brunei, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu. The Cook Islands and Niue, associated states of New Zealand, also use the the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality.

Bolivia

In May 2021, Bolivian Justice Minister Iván Lima Magne tweeted: "The issue of marriage equality is in process in our Plurinational Constitutional Court, which has requested 'amicus curiae' from the Catholic Church and other entities and experts. This is an issue that should have more debate in the nation and be decided now."

In December 2020, a Bolivian same-sex couple — David Víctor Aruquipa Pérez and Guido Álvaro Montaño Durán — won a two-year legal battle to register their "free union," a legal partnership that carries the same rights and obligations as civil marriage. In July 2020, the La Paz Court of Justice had given the Civic Registry Service (Serecí) 10 days to stop blocking the registration, citing the 2017 marriage equality ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is binding on Bolivia and 13 other nations that still haven't brought in marriage equality.

The Court of Justice emphasized that Bolivia's constitution states that when international treaties and instruments in the area of human rights have been signed, ratified or adhered to by Bolivia, and provide human rights beyond those provided under the Bolivian constitution, the international rights take precedence. This same sort of constitutional clause led to marriage equality in Ecuador in 2019.

Chile

On June 1, 2021, conservative President Sebastián Piñera embraced marriage equality, saying, "I think the time has come for marriage equality in our country." He said he will proceed with a "sense of urgency" in getting his predecessor's 2017 marriage equality bill through Congress. Chile's Supreme and Constitutional courts have ruled against marriage equality despite the 2017 marriage equality ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which binds Chile. And Piñera's government had de-emphasized a 2016 settlement agreement between his predecessor's government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in which the Chilean government agreed to promote marriage equality until it was achieved. (Update: The marriage equality bill passed the Senate in a 28-14 vote on July 21. It now goes to the Chamber of Deputies.)

Cuba

In July 2018, the National Assembly unanimously passed a first draft of a new constitution that contained marriage equality. A public consultation followed, which, the National Assembly reported, found that Cubans opposed putting marriage equality in the constitution. Marriage equality was then excised from the document before it was sent to a successful voter referendum. The assembly is now expected to put marriage equality in a new family code, which also will go to a public consultation and referendum.

Curaçao

In September 2018, 17 years after the dawn of marriage equality in the Netherlands, activists in Curaçao, a Dutch constituent country in the Caribbean Sea, wrote a marriage-equality bill that was introduced into Parliament several months later by two MPs from the governing parties. The initiative was unveiled at a Curaçao Pride event and dubbed "the first marriage equality bill of the Caribbean to be drawn up by our own people." Dutch Caribbean overseas municipalities Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have marriage equality, while Caribbean constituent countries Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten do not, though they partially recognize Dutch marriages from elsewhere.

Czech Republic

Marriage equality passed first reading in the Chamber of Deputies on April 29, 2021, and was sent to committees. A proposed constitutional ban on marriage equality also cleared first reading and went to committees. It is unknown if either measure will clear the committees and return to the full chamber before October's general election. Only 93 of the chamber's 200 members were present for the marriage-equality vote.

El Salvador

There are multiple marriage-equality lawsuits before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice. In January 2020, Justice Aldo Cáder said the court planned to rule before April 2020.

Estonia

In October 2020, a citizens' petition for marriage equality cleared the signature threshold to force consideration by parliament.

Guatemala

An anti-marriage-equality bill cleared two of three readings in the unicameral Congress and remains pending. Even though marriage is already defined in law as between a man and a woman, Bill 5272, Law for Protection of Life and Family, explicitly bans marriage for same-sex couples — contravening the November 2017 marriage-equality ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is binding on Guatemala. Should the bill pass, activists say they would sue in the Constitutional Court and, if they were to lose there, in the Inter-American system. President Alejandro Giammattei opposes marriage equality. » The bill's page at Congress

Honduras

In May 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice accepted a lawsuit seeking to enforce the November 2017 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling that instructed 20 Americas nations to bring in marriage equality and modern gender-identity laws. The lawsuit aims to strike down an article of the Constitution that bans marriage equality and recognition of same-sex couples' foreign marriages and civil unions. It also targets a Family Code article that extends marriage rights to opposite-sex de facto unions but not same-sex unions, and the Law on the National Registry of Persons, which effectively prevents transgender people from changing their name.

In October 2018, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández told reporters at a press conference: "Personally as a Christian I am against marriage of persons of the same sex; obviously, it is the judiciary that, according to Honduran law, has to rule on it. [Regardless of sexual preferences] people should be treated with dignity, no matter what their inclination. People should be treated with dignity and this issue is very important."

In November 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed a second marriage-equality lawsuit, an action of unconstitutionality filed by activist groups, saying the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate "their direct, personal and legitimate interest" in the matter and made technical errors in their filing. The original case, filed by activist Indyra Mendoza Aguilar, remains pending and in February 2019, local media said the court had accepted a third case filed by activists.

In January 2021, Honduras' Congress inserted a marriage equality super-ban into the constitution with a requirement that it can only be overturned by a 75% vote in Congress. Constitutional changes usually require only a two-thirds vote. Activists filed a lawsuit against the super-ban in February, saying it infringes multiple rights guaranteed by the Honduran constitution, that the process by which it was passed was unconstitutional, that it violates the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Honduras is a signatory and which Honduras' constitution incorporates into the constitution, and that it contravenes the Inter-American Court marriage equality ruling, which is based on the American Convention.

Hong Kong

In October 2019, the Court of First Instance of the High Court of Hong Kong ruled against a lesbian who sued for access to marriage, alleging that her constitutional rights to privacy and equality were being violated. The court said the word "marriage" in Hong Kong law refers to heterosexual marriage and the case did not present "sufficiently strong or compelling" evidence for ruling otherwise. It added that legislators should deal with recognizing same-sex relationships. In August 2019, single-issue activist group Hong Kong Marriage Equality launched.

India

Activists began pushing for marriage equality after a constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India unanimously legalized gay sex in September 2018, decriminalizing 18% of LGBT people on the planet. Multiple lawsuits are pending in the high courts of the union territory of Delhi and the state of Kerala, targeting separate laws that regulate secular marriages, religious marriages and marriages entered into abroad. The Delhi cases are scheduled to be heard Aug. 27. Regional high court rulings in India generally have national effect unless another high court has ruled the opposite way.

Jamaica

In July 2019, a legal case was launched at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking to bring marriage equality to Jamaica. It argues that Jamaica's constitution is in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights, which the nation signed four decades ago.

Japan

Thirteen same-sex couples filed marriage-equality lawsuits nationwide on Feb. 14, 2019 (Valentine's Day), and a marriage equality bill was introduced in the legislature, the National Diet, in June 2019. In March 2021, the district court in Sapporo ruled that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is "unconstitutional." The ruling set an important precedent but did not have the effect of deleting the constitution's opposite-sex definition of marriage.

Mexico

Mexico can only get marriage equality state by state. Twenty of the 31 states and the federal capital Mexico City have gotten there, leaving 11 states to go. I have a separate article with the details here.

Namibia

In May 2021, the Windhoek High Court said it will rule on recognition of foreign same-sex marriages on or before January 20, 2022.

Panama

Lawyer Iván Chanis Barahona, head of Panama's marriage-equality group, La Fundación Iguales Panamá, says the November 2017 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling is "totally binding" on Panama. "Case closed." A Panama Supreme Court of Justice draft opinion rejecting marriage equality that had been circulating at the court was withdrawn in February 2018 because of the Inter-American Court ruling. In January 2018, Panamanian Vice President Isabel De Saint Malo said the Inter-American court ruling is indeed binding ("vinculante") on Panama.

In October 2019, the National Assembly passed a series of constitutional revisions that included a ban on marriage equality. Days of protests by students, LGBTs and others ensued and, on Nov. 8, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo said he will work to delete the ban before the revisions are finalized and sent to a voter referendum.

Paraguay

In the wake of the November 2017 marriage-equality ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, activist group SomosGay announced two new lawsuits at the nation's Supreme Court of Justice. As a first step, the suits seek recognition of two marriages of same-sex couples who married abroad.

Peru

In the wake of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' November 2017 marriage-equality ruling, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Duberlí Rodríguez, said, "Peru is part of the Inter-American system and the organism that defends and protects these rights is called the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and ... if the court has taken a decision, I believe that all the parties are called to respect that decision."

In November 2020, Peru's Constitutional Court voted 4-3 not to force the National Registry to record a same-sex marriage entered into in Mexico. The plaintiff said he will take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In April 2019, the 11th Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Lima ordered the National Registry to register the marriage of a Peruvian same-sex couple who married in 2016 in Miami. In August 2019, the Sixth Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Lima ordered the National Registry to register the marriage of a Peruvian same-sex couple who married in 2015 in New York.

A marriage-equality bill was introduced in Congress in 2017 and is awaiting action by the Justice Committee.

Philippines

In September 2019, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed a marriage-equality case it had heard in June 2018. While acknowledging that the Constitution "does not define or restrict marriage on the basis of sex," the justices said the plaintiff lacked standing, violated the principle of hierarchy of courts, and failed to raise a justiciable controversy.

Romania

An attempt to obstruct marriage equality by rewriting the definition of "family" in the constitution failed in October 2018 when an inadequate percentage of voters showed up to vote in a nationwide referendum. Thirty percent of all voters needed to cast a ballot for the referendum result to be valid, but only 20.41 percent did. LGBT leaders and others had called on voters to boycott the referendum. In September 2018, Romania's Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples must have the same "legal and juridical recognition of their rights and obligations" as opposite-sex couples.

South Korea

In November 2019, LGBTs filed 1,056 complaints at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea demanding marriage equality. Gagoonet, the Korean Network for Partnership and Marriage Rights of LGBT, said the mass complaints target the president, prime minister, heads of ministries and local governments, and the National Assembly chair. "Korean same-sex couples are not guaranteed the rights of marriage and family life, which are basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Korea," Gagoonet said. "Because of the lack of recognition, same-sex couples in Korea suffer from an infringement of economic and social rights, including social security, access to healthcare and housing, and workplace benefits."

Switzerland

Switzerland's parliament passed marriage equality in December 2020, with an apparent start date of Jan. 1, 2022, but right-wing forces collected signatures to force a voter referendum on the law. The referendum will be held Sept. 26 and likely will fail, given that polls show more than 80% of the Swiss support marriage equality.

The only nations in Western Europe without marriage equality are Andorra, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican City. Switzerland would become the 30th nation with marriage equality, which is also legal in 47 other discrete jurisdictions around the world.

Thailand

A marriage-equality bill was introduced in parliament in June 2020 by the Move Forward Party, the second-largest opposition party in the lower house. A civil-partnership bill was approved by the cabinet and introduced in parliament in July 2020. It appears to include most of the rights of marriage, including inheritance and adoption rights, but not the right to access a partner's work-based health coverage or pension. In December 2019, Thailand's Constitutional Court rejected a marriage-equality case on a technicality, saying it should have been filed in administrative court. The court was scheduled to rule in a newer marriage equality case on June 29, 2021, but there is no indication it did.

Venezuela

Two marriage-equality lawsuits have long been at the final stage in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, according to Venezuela Igualitaria. One lawsuit targets a Civil Code article that says, "Marriage cannot be contracted except between one man and one woman." The other lawsuit alleges a "legislative omission" resulting from the National Assembly's failure to take up the Equal Civil Marriage Bill. In October 2020, President Nicolás Maduro suggested the National Assembly should address marriage equality in its term that began in January 2021 but he later said it isn't a "priority."

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Mexico's Wild Ride to Marriage Equality

Article maintained with help from Geraldina González de la Vega and Alex Alí Méndez Díaz. Last update: June 16, 2021.

Alex Alí Méndez Díaz
Twenty of Mexico's 31 states and the federal capital Mexico City have marriage equality and same-sex couples can marry in the other 11 states if they go to a federal judge and get a personalized injunction (amparo), a process that is time-consuming and requires paying a lawyer for help. The judge cannot refuse the amparo.

The requirement on judges resulted from a 2015 ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) that declared all bans on marriage equality unconstitutional. The Supreme Court, however, has no power to end all states' bans simultaneously, and can only force individual states' bans out of existence in specific situations.

The ruling says: "Marriage. The law of any federative entity that, on the one hand, considers that the purpose of it [marriage] is procreation and/or that defines it as that which is celebrated between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional." ("Matrimonio. La ley de cualquier entidad federativa que, por un lado, considere que la finalidad de aquél es la procreación y/o que lo defina como el que se celebra entre un hombre y una mujer, es inconstitucional.")

The SCJN ruling resulted from a project by activist-lawyer Alex Alí Méndez Díaz and his organization México Igualitario that involved getting enough identical cases before the Supreme Court from multiple states to create an opportunity for the court to declare "jurisprudence" against bans on marriage equality.

Below are the states where same-sex couples can marry normally. Fourteen states and Mexico City have passed marriage equality legislatively, four states have marriage equality because Supreme Court rulings against their individual bans overrode their laws, and two states decided administratively to stop enforcing their unconstitutional bans.

Aguascalientes (SCJN ruling)
Baja California (administrative, then legislative)
Baja California Sur (legislative)
Campeche (legislative)
Chiapas (SCJN ruling)
Chihuahua (administrative)
Coahuila (legislative)
Colima (legislative)
Hidalgo (legislative)
Jalisco (SCJN ruling)
Mexico City (legislative)
Michoacán (legislative)
Morelos (legislative)
Nayarit (legislative)
Nuevo León (SCJN ruling)
Oaxaca (legislative)
Puebla (SCJN ruling, then legislative)
Quintana Roo (administrative)
San Luis Potosí (legislative)
Sinaloa (legislative)
Tlaxcala (legislative)

As to states whose bans are dead because of Supreme Court rulings, here's what happened: When any law is passed in Mexico and takes effect, there is a 30-day window for certain governmental entities to challenge the law with an "action of unconstitutionality" at the Supreme Court. In all but one of those states, legislators made changes to their marriage laws, unrelated to marriage equality, and the revised paragraphs also included existing man-woman language. The revisions qualified as "new" laws that could be challenged during the 30 days after they took effect. The National Human Rights Commission filed actions of unconstitutionality against the man-woman language and the SCJN struck down the states' bans in separate rulings that began in 2016. The states likely were unaware they were setting up their same-sex-marriage bans for strikedown.

In the case of one those states, Aguascalientes, the challenged new law dealt with the health-care and pension system for state-government workers, and the National Human Rights Commission successfully argued to the SCJN that health care, pension and marriage laws are so dependent on each other that the man-woman definition of marriage, which was not new, needed to be tossed out as well. The SCJN invalidated all state laws that defined marriage as between a man and woman in 2019.

Going forward, it is very likely that additional state congresses will pass marriage equality — because ultimately their lawbooks need to reflect the 2015 Supreme Court jurisprudence ruling — and, in the meantime, it is possible that officials in additional states could stop enforcing their unconstitutional bans by administrative fiat. In addition, some other states' bans may be individually terminated by the Supreme Court via varied ongoing legal actions.

Beyond all that, in December 2019, the ruling Morena party proposed a federal constitutional amendment under which any state that hasn't passed a marriage-equality law must do so within three months of the amendment taking effect. The amendment also would invalidate all remaining state bans on marriage equality the moment it takes effect and extend to all civil-union couples, retroactive to when they entered the union, every right and obligation of marriage. Only 14 of the 20 states with marriage equality (and Mexico City) arrived there by passage of a law, so the amendment would force the hands of 17 states. Amending Mexico's constitution requires a two-thirds vote by members present the day of the vote in the federal Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic, followed by ratification by more than half of the 32 local congresses (31 state congresses and Mexico City's).

ADOPTION: Same-sex couples have adoption rights nationwide. The Supreme Court reiterated its jurisprudence in 2016, writing: "ADOPTION. The best interest of the minor is based on the suitability of the adopters, within which are irrelevant the type of family into which [the minor] will be integrated, as well as the sexual orientation or civil status of [the adopters]." ("Adopción. El interés superior del menor de edad se basa en la idoneidad de los adoptantes, dentro de la cual son irrelevantes el tipo de familia al que aquél será integrado, así como la orientación sexual o el estado civil de éstos.")

Where Mexico Stands Right Now on Marriage Equality (lite version)



Last update: June 16 , 2021

Mexico can only get marriage equality state by state (unless the federal constitution is amended).

There are 31 states and Mexico City, the federal capital.

Twenty states and Mexico City have marriage equality.

Fourteen states — Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Coahuila, Colima, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa and Tlaxcala — and Mexico City passed marriage equality legislatively.

Four states — Aguascalientes, Chiapas, Jalisco and Nuevo León — have marriage equality because their bans were terminated by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. They still need to pass legislation to bring their laws into accord with the court's rulings, but marriage equality is in place now.

One state — Quintana Roo — decided its laws never prevented marriage equality in the first place.

And one state — Chihuahua — currently is not enforcing its ban by administrative fiat.

In the other 11 states, same-sex couples can marry only if they go to a federal judge and get an injunction (amparo), a path that is both time-consuming and requires paying a lawyer for help. The judge cannot refuse the amparo.

The requirement on judges resulted from a 2015 jurisprudence ruling by the Supreme Court that declared all bans on marriage equality unconstitutional.

The court, however, has no power to end all states' bans simultaneously, and can only force individual states' bans out of existence in specific situations.

The 11 states without full marriage equality are Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, México (there's a state named México), Querétaro, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Yucatán and Zacatecas.

For more detail and all links, see my article Mexico's Wild Ride to Marriage Equality.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

LGBT Antidiscrimination Laws in the United States

National Equality March, Washington, D.C., October 11, 2009. Photo by Rex Wockner

Last update: June 15, 2020

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court banned discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, saying LGBT people are protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act's ban on workplace sex discrimination.

The 6-3 decision, written by Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch, said: "An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act] forbids."

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, job discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned in only 23 of the 50 states and two of the five territories, under state and territory law, and in one more state under a federal appeals court ruling. And job discrimination based on gender identity was banned in 22 states and two territories, under state and territory law, and in four more states under a federal appeals court ruling.

Laws in states and territories

Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is banned nationwide by the Supreme Court ruling. LGBT people have additional protections, in the areas of housing and public accommodations, in 23 states.

Twenty-one states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington. So does the federal district, Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Utah prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and housing but not in public accommodations. Guam and Puerto Rico (U.S. territories) also prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment before the nationwide Supreme Court ruling.

In states with no sexual-orientation or gender-identity protections in the remaining areas of housing and public accommodations, it is common to find protections at the municipal level in large cities and university towns. Local nondiscrimination ordinances, however, sometimes do not have the teeth of state or federal laws.