|Amsterdam City Hall, April 1, 2001 - Photo by Rex Wockner|
Article maintained with assistance from Evan Wolfson, Rob Salerno and Andrés Duque. Last update: December 8, 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 on Aug. 8, 2018, but delayed its ruling from taking effect until May 26, 2020 (18 months after it was published in the Judicial Bulletin). 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 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 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.
"The Inter-American Court ruling mandating the freedom to marry was clear, binding, and months ago," Freedom to Marry Global's Evan Wolfson said after the Costa Rican ruling. "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. ... 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."
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%.
On Nov. 24, 2018, LGBTs lost voter referendums on marriage equality by wide margins. In rejecting marriage equality, voters approved the idea of a new law for same-sex couples, saying 'yes' to, "Do you agree to the protection of the rights of same-sex couples in cohabitation on a permanent basis in ways other than changing of the Civil Code?"
According to Article 30 of Taiwan's Referendum Act, the executive branch of government has three months to study the referendum results and send a proposal to the legislative branch, which then must deliberate on the proposal before its next adjournment.
If the Legislative Yuan passes nothing between now and late May 2019, marriage equality will arrive automatically in Taiwan under a May 2017 Constitutional Court ruling that struck down the opposite-sex definition of marriage as unconstitutional and gave the legislature two years to change laws. If the Legislative Yuan passes something less than marriage equality before the deadline, legal wrangling likely will ensue over the conflict between the new law and the Constitutional Court ruling.
Freedom to Marry Global's Evan Wolfson said: "Whatever the results may be, legislative acts and referenda alike must be consistent with the Constitution — the supreme law of the land enacted by the people — and cannot block or override the command of the Constitution as reflected in the Court's marriage ruling. Even a temporary majority cannot just strip away constitutional rights from a vulnerable minority."
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 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.
[Note: Bermuda has marriage equality again as of a Nov. 23, 2018, ruling by the Court of Appeal. We will edit all relevant references throughout the articles here once the 21 days have passed during which the government can announce an appeal of the new ruling to the UK's Privy Council, the court of final appeal, and request a new stay, i.e. once we know the ruling is going to stick.]
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 government 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 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)
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