Saturday, October 13, 2018

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: October 13, 2018.


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.


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, will hear the appeal Nov. 7-9. After that, 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 (Prop 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.

Cayman Islands

A couple sued the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean Sea, in June 2018 after being denied a marriage license because they are women. The Grand Court lawsuit says the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights guarantees the rights to private and family life, freedom of conscience and non-discrimination. A three-day trial will be held in February 2019.

These United Kingdom jurisdictions have marriage equality: 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).

These United Kingdom jurisdictions do not have marriage equality: Northern Ireland, Sark (part of Guernsey) and the overseas territories Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands.


On Oct. 2, 2018, in Boulder, Colorado, USA, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights officials emphatically assured Chile that it must move forward with marriage equality in compliance with an IACHR-brokered settlement agreement signed in 2016 between leading LGBTI group Movilh and the government of former President Michelle Bachelet. IACHR officials also made clear to Chile that it is subject to the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling, which instructed 20 signatory nations of the American Convention on Human Rights to let same-sex couples marry. Chile's Supreme Court president also has said that Inter-American Court consultative opinions, such as the marriage ruling, are binding on Chile.

The reprimand took place in a meeting between three IACHR officials, three representatives of Chile's executive branch, and Movilh's attorneys, Ciro Colombara and Hunter Carter. The representatives of conservative Chilean President Sebastián Piñera reportedly pushed back against the commissioners, saying the government already had complied with the settlement agreement.

That left Movilh leader Rolando Jiménez incredulous. "Affirming that this government has promoted marriage equality or that it already has complied with the settlement agreement is a fallacy," Jiménez said. "They have not lifted a finger in support of this law and, worse still, their officials have spoken out against marriage equality. The state of Chile, as much as us and the IACHR, assumed the commitment to promote marriage equality in a permanent way, with a view to its approval. This should happen no matter who the government is. Chile has been characterized as complying with its international obligations; it would be disastrous if this tradition were broken."

The government's and Movilh's working group, established by the settlement agreement and tasked with promoting passage of marriage equality, continues to meet in Chile. The Bachelet government's marriage-equality bill remains sitting in Congress, where it is said to have majority support.

Costa Rica

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. LGBT activists denounced the court's delay and said they will file a complaint at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The Costa Rican ruling was a direct result of the Inter-American Court'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 "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%.


On July 22, 2018, the National Assembly unanimously passed the first draft of a new constitution containing marriage equality. A three-month public consultation began Aug. 13 and ends Nov. 15. Suggestions and opinions submitted during the consultation, including from Cubans living abroad, will be considered for the second draft, which will go to a voter referendum on Feb. 24, 2019, after clearing the National Assembly. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel is a supporter of marriage equality.


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. Czechia would be the first former-Eastern-Bloc nation to let same-sex couples marry. The bill will have to proceed from the Chamber of Deputies to the Senate to the president.


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. The judges based their decisions on the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling and Ecuador's constitution. An appeals court overturned one of the rulings in September 2018, saying the issue should be dealt with by the National Assembly or the Constitutional Court.


An anti-marriage-equality bill is advancing through the unicameral Congress. 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


In May 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice accepted a lawsuit filed by activists 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."


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 immediately began talking about marriage equality.


Mexico can only get marriage equality state by state. Thirteen of the 31 states along with the federal district Mexico City have gotten there, leaving 18 states to go. States with legislation currently on the move include Baja California Sur, Durango, México (there's a state named México), Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosí, and Yucatán. Here is my full article tracking progress and explaining processes.

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.


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..


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.


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


The Supreme Court finished hearing oral arguments in a groundbreaking 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 more recently suggested the nation is not ready for it.


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


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 local media have said 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.


Two marriage-equality lawsuits are in their final stage in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, reports Venezuela Igualitaria. The group said it expects rulings soon and expects to win. 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). "2018 looks to be a year with favorable judicial decisions on our ... cases for the rights of LGBTI people," Venezuela Igualitaria said.

In September 2018, the president of the National Assembly's Constitution Committee said the new constitution now being drafted likely will include marriage equality.