Saturday, April 20, 2019

Worldwide Marriage Equality Watch List

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

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: April 20, 2019.

Bermuda

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. On Nov. 23, 2018, the government lost again and marriage equality returned to Bermuda. Unwilling to give up, on Dec. 13, 2018, the government announced an appeal to the United Kingdom Privy Council, the British overseas territory's court of final appeal, where the government will likely lose again. Same-sex couples may continue to marry during the ongoing appeal.

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 blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force in 2009, then reversed themselves and allowed marriage equality in 2012. Voters in Slovenia blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force in 2015. A court ruling in the British overseas territory Cayman Islands allowed marriage equality for 13 days in 2019 before a higher court issued a stay. No same-sex couple married during that time.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands Grand Court legalized marriage equality on March 29, 2019, striking down the British overseas territory's ban. On April 10, 2019, the day the first marriage was to take place, the Court of Appeal issued a stay of the Grand Court ruling, blocking marriage equality until the government's appeal of the ruling runs its course.

Chile

Since President Sebastián Piñera took office in March 2018, Chile's government has resisted obligations to bring in marriage equality and, in October 2018, Piñera told TV viewers, "I believe that marriage, as we conceive it and by its nature, is between a man and a woman."

Under a settlement agreement Chile's government entered into before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2016, the government is required to push for marriage equality until it is achieved. Chile is further obligated to bring in marriage equality under the Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling published in January 2018.

There has been a marriage-equality bill awaiting action in Congress since 2017. It has had enough support to pass since the last election but has not been brought up for a vote.

On Feb. 14, 2019, Chile's Supreme Court overturned a ruling of the Santiago Appeals Court that had declared inadmissible a marriage-equality lawsuit filed by journalist Ramón Gómez and graphic designer Gonzalo Velásquez. The Supreme Court told the lower court to hear the case and said the Civil Registry's refusal to give the couple a date for their marriage could have violated Article 20 of the constitution. The lawsuit followed a December 2018 Supreme Court ruling in which the court declared, "Constitutional norms and international convention provide that every person who inhabits the State of Chile is the holder of the right to marry and to found a family." That ruling came in a case filed by an opposite-sex couple who were denied marriage by the Civil Registry because the woman was a foreigner without a Chilean identity card.

Costa Rica

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). 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 15 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, a federal district.

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%.

Cuba

On July 22, 2018, the National Assembly unanimously passed the first draft of a new constitution containing marriage equality. A three-month public consultation followed, ending Nov. 15. On Dec. 18, the National Assembly reported that the consultation found that Cubans oppose putting marriage equality in the constitution, and the language was removed. Instead, the Assembly said, the matter will be dealt with in a new Family Code, which will go to a public consultation and referendum within two years of the new constitution coming into force.

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 and introduced it in Parliament. 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

On June 22, 2018, the Czech Republic government threw its support behind a bill to modify the Civil Code to bring in marriage equality. The Czech Republic would be the first former-Eastern-Bloc nation to let same-sex couples marry. The bill has to proceed from the Chamber of Deputies to the Senate to the president.

Ecuador

In July 2018, the Constitutional Court president, Alfredo Ruiz, met with LGBTI leaders and told them a majority of the court's justices will vote for marriage equality and gay adoption when a case gets there, the LGBTI leaders said.

In June 2018, a family court in Cuenca ruled in two cases that two same-sex couples would be allowed to marry as soon as the court issued its ruling in written form, but an appeals court later said the issue should be dealt with by the National Assembly or the Constitutional Court. The initial ruling was based on the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling and Ecuador's constitution.

El Salvador

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice rejected a marriage-equality case Jan. 11, 2019. Other marriage-equality cases remain active at the court. The rejected case alleged a "legislative omission," claiming that legislators had shirked their duties by not including same-sex couples in the nation's marriage laws. The justices disagreed, saying the lawsuit failed to show how the constitution required legislators to include same-sex couples in the marriage laws, failed to show how the contested law violated other constitutional provisions, and contained arguments that contradicted themselves. • Court press releaseRuling

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 January 2018 marriage-equality ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is binding on Guatemala. Should the bill pass, activists say they will sue in the Constitutional Court and, if they lose, go to the Inter-American system.

On Aug. 31, 2018, President Jimmy Morales said [5:54 mark in video]: "I remind the people of Guatemala that their institutions and their officials, according to Article 156 of the Political Constitution of the Republic, are not obligated to follow illegal orders. Guatemala and our government believe in life. Our government and Guatemala believe in the family based in the marriage of man and woman."

The bill's page at CongressThe billActivists' analysisMore from Guatemala's VisiblesAmnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch

Honduras

In May 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice accepted a lawsuit seeking to enforce the January 2018 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.

On Oct. 12, 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."

On Nov. 10, 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 María Mendoza Aguilar, remains pending and, on Feb. 6, 2019, local media said the court had accepted a third case filed by activists.

Hong Kong

A preliminary High Court hearing in two marriage-equality lawsuits took place Jan. 3, 2019.

India

A constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India unanimously legalized gay sex Sept. 6, 2018, decriminalizing 18% of LGBT people on the planet. Adults having sex in private can no longer be jailed for "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." Given the court ruling's expansive language, LGBT activists quickly added marriage equality to their agenda.

Japan

Thirteen same-sex couples filed marriage-equality lawsuits nationwide on Feb. 14, 2019 (Valentine's Day), and the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party is planning to introduce a marriage-equality bill in the Diet.

Mexico

Mexico can only get marriage equality state by state. Fifteen of the 31 states and the federal district Mexico City have gotten there, leaving 16 states to go. I have a separate article with the details here.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, doesn't have a government because the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin power-sharing agreement collapsed in January 2017 and hasn't been restored due to disagreement about marriage equality, local language rights and other issues. It is possible any resolution to the impasse could see introduction of equal marriage in the last major area of the United Kingdom that doesn't have it. There are also ongoing efforts to bring in marriage equality via a vote of the UK Parliament in London and via court challenges.

Panama

Lawyer Iván Chanis Barahona, head of Panama's marriage-equality group, La Fundación Iguales Panamá, says the January 2018 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 on Feb. 15, 2018, because of the Inter-American Court ruling. On Jan. 16, 2018, Panamanian Vice President Isabel De Saint Malo said the Inter-American court ruling is indeed binding ("vinculante") on Panama..

Paraguay

In the wake of the January 2018 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' January 2018 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 March 2018, a court ruling that had forced the National Registry to register veteran activist Óscar Ugarteche's Mexican marriage to his husband was overturned on a technicality related to the timing of the filing of his lawsuit. He appealed to the Constitutional Court, which heard the case June 20 and was supposed to rule within 30 days. It is the court's first-ever case related to marriage equality. On April 4, 2019, the 11th Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Justice of Lima issued an injunction ordering the National Registry to register the marriage of a Peruvian same-sex couple who married in 2016 in Miami.

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

Philippines

The Supreme Court finished hearing oral arguments in a marriage-equality case on June 26, 2018. Multiple media reports speculated that the justices will find a way to rid themselves of the case without legalizing marriage equality. President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed support for marriage equality but the government later suggested the nation is not ready for it.

Romania

An attempt to obstruct marriage equality by rewriting the definition of "family" in the constitution failed Oct. 7, 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. On September 28, 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.

Switzerland

Switzerland's Federal Assembly is slow-walking the transition from same-sex civil partnerships to marriage equality and some activists have become impatient with the process. The only nations in Western Europe without marriage equality are Andorra, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, Vatican City, and the UK's Northern Ireland.

Taiwan

Marriage equality will begin in Taiwan on May 24 under terms of a 2017 ruling by the Constitutional Court, unless the Legislative Yuan passes some kind of other law for same-sex unions, which could lead to a new legal challenge.

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 had three months to study the referendum results and send a proposal to the legislative branch, which has to deliberate on the proposal before its next adjournment. On Feb. 21, 2019, the executive branch proposed a special law extending marriage rights to same-sex couples (and using the word "marriage") but it is unclear if the draft law would create actual marriage equality because it does not change the existing Civil Code marriage law.

The conflicts among the Constitutional Court ruling, the referenda outcomes and a draft bill to bring in supposed marriage equality under a special law rather than via the marriage laws make it impossible to know what the situation will be on May 24, unless the Legislative Yuan finalizes nothing and the Constitutional Court ruling brings in full marriage equality that day. A second, likely unconstitutional draft bill would prohibit use of the words "marriage" and "spouse" in relation to legal same-sex unions.

Thailand

On the cusp of achieving a "Life Partnership Bill," Thai activists are planning a three-pronged approach to get to full equality — further amendments to the Partnership Bill, attempting to amend the marriage section of the Civil Code, and getting the Constitutional Court to add same-sex couples to the marriage section of the Civil Code.

Venezuela

Two marriage-equality lawsuits are in their 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 (Proyecto de Ley de Matrimonio Civil Igualitario). In September 2018, the president of the National Constituent Assembly's Constitution Committee said a new constitution being drafted likely will include marriage equality.

(Venezuela has dueling national assemblies at this point. The National Assembly is controlled by the opposition while the National Constituent Assembly is "officialist." Both are reported to favor marriage equality.)