|Amsterdam City Hall, April 1, 2001 - Photo by Rex Wockner|
Article maintained with Evan Wolfson, Rob Salerno and Andrés Duque. Last update: November 21, 2018.
Same-sex couples can marry in 25 nations and in 44 other jurisdictions around the world:
Netherlands (2001), Saba (2012), Bonaire (2013), Sint Eustatius
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)
Portugal (2010), Azores (2010), Madeira (2010)
Mexico (2010-2018; 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)
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)
Australia (2017), Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island
Final rulings issued
The Constitutional Court struck down the ban on marriage equality on Dec. 5, 2017, and also extended the nation's same-sex registered-partnership law to opposite-sex couples. The ruling takes effect Jan. 1, 2019. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the ruling were allowed to marry earlier.
The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice struck down the nation's ban on marriage equality Aug. 8, 2018, but delayed its ruling from taking effect until 18 months after it's officially published. The court told the Legislative Assembly to bring in marriage equality in the meantime but if it doesn't, the ruling will come into force anyway. In response, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado "convoked" a marriage-equality bill in August's legislative session but it did not come up for a vote.
The Costa Rican ruling was a direct result of the Inter-American Court of Human Right's January 2018 marriage-equality ruling, which obligates Costa Rica and 15 other Americas nations without marriage equality to let same-sex couples marry. Those nations, signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights, are Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Suriname. Four other signatory nations already have marriage equality: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. Mexico has full marriage equality only in 13 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, a federal district.
Evan Wolfson, the architect of marriage equality in the U.S., told Wockner.com: "The Inter-American Court ruling mandating the freedom to marry was clear, binding, and months ago. The people of Costa Rica went to the polls and repudiated the anti-gay, anti-marriage candidate in favor of the current president, who campaigned in support of the freedom to marry. This week Costa Rica's Supreme Court got the what right, but the when wrong. Every day of delay is a day of real injury, indignity, and injustice for real families. It's time for the freedom to marry in Costa Rica — now."
Costa Rica's presidential election, held April 1, 2018, morphed into a referendum on marriage equality after an evangelical Christian, Fabricio Alvarado, catapulted into first place in the first round (besting 12 other candidates) by making resistance to the Inter-American Court ruling the centerpiece of his campaign. Polls showed the runoff between the top two vote-getters to be too close to call, but on election day, marriage-equality supporter Carlos Alvarado won in a landslide — 61% to 39%.
The Constitutional Court declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on May 24, 2017, and gave the Legislative Yuan no more than two years to change laws. Legislators have not done so and if they continue to resist, marriage equality will arrive automatically.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 24, Taiwanese voters will vote on competing referenda put forth by supporters and opponents of marriage equality, proposing that the government introduce legislation to bring in marriage equality or to create civil unions for same-sex couples instead.
Referenda cannot overturn Constitutional Court rulings but the government is required to propose laws that accord with referenda outcomes. If a civil-union law were enacted instead of marriage equality, it is likely further legal action would ensue in the Constitutional Court.
Sixteen Americas nations
"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 (PDF in English) released Jan. 9, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights instructed 20 nations that are signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights to bring in marriage equality: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay. Marriage equality is already in place in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, and Mexico has marriage equality in 13 of its 31 states.
"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.
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.
Mexican states (there are 31) are a hotspot of the marriage-equality movement. To date, 13 states have achived full marriage equality via three different pathways. My article is here.
All 11 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 jurisdictions.
See above for the lengthy list of British places with marriage equality. Northern Ireland, Sark (part of Guernsey) and the overseas territories Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands do not have marriage equality.
A law repealing marriage equality and replacing it with domestic partnerships that offer the benefits of marriage took effect June 1, 2018, making the Bermuda government the first in the world to end marriage equality. On June 6, 2018, the portion of the law that re-banned marriage equality was struck down by the same court that had legalized marriage equality in May 2017. On July 5, 2018, the goverment appealed the new strikedown to the Court of Appeal. That court, composed of foreign judges flown in for the occasion, heard the case Nov. 7-9, 2018. After it rules, there can be one final appeal to the United Kingdom Privy Council, where opponents of marriage equality would face long odds.
There has been only one other repeal of marriage equality in history: California voters ended marriage equality via a ballot initiative (Proposition 8) in 2008. A court ruling overturning the voters' decision took effect in 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the initiative's sponsors. Voters in the U.S. state of Maine once blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force, in 2009, and then reversed themselves and allowed marriage equality, in 2012. Voters in Slovenia blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force in 2015.
On May 22, 2015, Ireland became the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Irish people amended their constitution to bring in marriage equality by a landslide margin of 62.07% to 37.93%.
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 Carribean Sea — would have marriage equality. Their only population nowadays is a small number of temporarily assigned scientists and military personnel.
Marriage equality exists in much of Antarctica, given the nations that claim portions of the continent as national territory: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom.
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 567 of them, and they are not covered by the June 26, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. At least 22 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 same-sex marriage is legal within the tribe without any 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)
• Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota (2016)
• Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma (2016)
• Osage Nation in Oklahoma (2017)
• Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin (2017)
• Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona (2017)
The Human Rights Campaign produced this nice map. Enlarging it to about 400% reveals every speck of Earth where same-sex couples can marry.
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.
Where are those 44 other jurisdictions of Australia, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and USA?
• Christmas Island » Indian Ocean
• Cocos (Keeling) Islands » Indian Ocean
• Norfolk Island » South Pacific Ocean
• Faroe Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Greenland » between North Atlantic and Arctic oceans
• 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
• Bonaire » Caribbean Sea
• Saba » Caribbean Sea
• Sint Eustatius » Caribbean Sea
• Azores » North Atlantic Ocean
• Madeira » North Atlantic Ocean
• Canary Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Ceuta » Africa
• Melilla » Africa
• Akrotiri and Dhekelia » Cyprus
• Alderney » English Channel
• Ascension Island » South 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
• Pitcairn Islands » South Pacific Ocean
• Saint Helena » South Atlantic Ocean
• Scotland » Great Britain
• South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands » South Atlantic Ocean
• Tristan da Cunha » South Atlantic Ocean
• Wales » Great Britain
• Guam » North Pacific Ocean
• Northern Mariana Islands » North Pacific Ocean
• Puerto Rico » Caribbean Sea
• U.S. Virgin Islands » Caribbean Sea