|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: Feb. 15, 2024.
Six British overseas territories
Nineteen UK-associated 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), Northern Ireland (2020), and Sark (2020).
Six British overseas territories do not have marriage equality: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Bermuda had marriage equality in 2017 and again from 2018 to 2022. It was terminated on March 14, 2022, by the court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The judgment is here. The Cayman Islands had marriage equality for 13 days in 2019. It was blocked with finality on March 14, 2022, by the court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The judgment is here.
The six remaining UK jurisdictions can still achieve marriage equality if their legislatures pass it, if the UK government imposes it, or possibly via the European Court of Human Rights. There is also a case from the British Virgin Islands before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
In March 2023, Bolivia's Constitutional Court legalized same-sex "free unions" that carry all the rights and obligations of marriage. The reasoning of the ruling, the language of Bolivia's constitution, and the interplay between the Bolivian constitution and rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights suggest that if activists pursue marriage equality, they should win that, too. Bolivia is required to bring in marriage equality by the Inter-American Court's 2017 marriage equality ruling, and doubly required to do so because of the manner in which Inter-American Court rulings are incorporated into the nation's constitution.
Marriage equality passed first reading in the Chamber of Deputies in April 2021 and was sent to committees.
In September 2021, the Curaçao Court of First Instance ruled that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional, but said it is up to Parliament to eliminate the unlawful discrimination. A marriage equality bill was introduced in Parliament in 2018 but was not voted on. In December 2022, the Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba ruled that same-sex partners in Aruba and Curaçao must be able to marry. That ruling has not come into force either, and could be appealed. The Netherlands' three constituent countries in the Caribbean — Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten — lack marriage equality while the Netherlands' three overseas municipalities in the Caribbean — Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius — have marriage equality.
There are multiple marriage-equality lawsuits before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, which is bound by the 2017 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage equality ruling to rule for marriage equality. In January 2020, Justice Aldo Cáder said the court planned to rule before April 2020. In September 2021, President Nayib Bukele suggested he opposes marriage equality.
In March 2022, Congress passed a bill that explicitly banned 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. Two days later, President Alejandro Giammattei said he would veto the bill if Congress did not withdraw it because it was unconstitutional and violated international conventions Guatemala is a party to. Four days later, Congress voted to "archive" the bill and not send it to Giammattei's desk.
The Constitution Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice rejected marriage equality in January 2022 and several cases (1 • 2 • 3) have been taken to the Inter-American human rights system. In 2017, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a marriage equality ruling binding on 20 nations, including Honduras. Twelve of the nations still have not brought in marriage equality.
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.
On Oct. 17, 2023, the Supreme Court of India declined to bring in marriage equality in a ruling that otherwise soared with LGBTQI-friendly rhetoric. The judgments kicked any decision on marriage equality to the nation's parliament. The court added, however, that India's states are free to bring in marriage equality without a national law. India has 28 states and 8 union territories.
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. In December 2022, the commission accepted the case.
Two Japanese courts — in Sapporo and Nagoya — have ruled that the nation's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and two courts — in Osaka and Tokyo — have ruled that it is not. 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.
Marriage equality came up for discussion in parliament, the Landtag, in September 2021 and the parliamentary groups expressed support, contingent on there being a broad social debate before passage.
In April 2023, three couples sued the national government to force it to recognize and allow same-sex marriages.
Mexico achieved marriage equality state-by-state between March 2010 and October 2022. There is still a bit of clean-up that needs to happen. I have a detailed article here.
In May 2023, Namibia's Supreme Court ordered the government to recognize same-sex marriages entered into abroad between a Namibian and a foreigner. The case centered on residency rights for two non-Namibian spouses.
The Supreme Court of Justice rejected marriage equality in February 2023. The ruling directly contravenes the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' 2017 marriage equality ruling, which is binding on Panama and 19 other nations. The court said: "The ruling indicates that there is a reality, and that is, up to now, the right to marriage equality has not gone beyond being an aspiration that, although legitimate for the groups involved, does not have the category of a human right or fundamental right, being that it lacks conventional and constitutional recognition."
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.
In June 2022, the Constitutional Court rejected cases seeking registration of Peruvian same-sex couples' marriages entered into in other countries. The court reportedly said that bringing in marriage equality requires a change in the nation's constitution, that it would be an abuse of the court's position to impose marriage equality, that the 2017 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage equality ruling is not binding on Peru, and that the Inter-American human rights system suffers from "ideologization."
In January 2023, Congress' Justice and Human Rights Committee "archived" a marriage equality bill, sending it to the legislative "freezer," as they say in Spanish.
At the time of the Inter-American Court ruling — which is binding on 20 countries, including Peru — the president of Peru's Supreme Court of Justice, Duberlí Rodríguez, stated, "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."
The only countries in South America without marriage equality are Bolivia, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
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.
In December 2022, a same-sex couple married in Germany said they will take the matter of Poland's refusal to recognize them as married to the European Court of Human Rights.
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. In May 2023, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Romania to legalize same-sex unions.
In June 2022, Slovakia's Constitutional Court said it will rule on recognition of same-sex marriages entered into in other countries.
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."
In January 2023, Suriname's Constitutional Court ruled that the Central Bureau for Civil Affairs (Centraal Bureau voor Burgerzaken) did not have to record the marriage of a Surinamese male couple who got married in Argentina. The court said the man-woman definition of marriage in the Civil Code does not violate the constitution or international treaties the South American nation has signed. Suriname is a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights and is bound to bring in marriage equality by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' 2017 marriage equality ruling.
Parliament passed marriage equality by a vote of 369-11 in a first reading on Dec. 21, 2023.
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."
The only nations in Western Europe without marriage equality are Italy and the microstates Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.