Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Worldwide Marriage Equality Watch List

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: Nov. 13, 2019.


In June 2018, the Bermuda government became the first in the world to end marriage equality, which had been brought in by a court, replacing it with domestic partnerships. The repeal lasted until November 2018, when a court ruling took effect striking down the portion of the domestic-partnership law that re-banned marriage equality. The government has appealed that ruling to the British overseas territory's court of final appeal, the United Kingdom Privy Council. Same-sex couples may continue to marry during the appeal process.

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 ran its course. On Nov. 7, 2019, the Court of Appeal overturned the lower-court ruling but said legislators must provide the plaintiffs with a legal status equivalent to marriage. A final appeal in the case would go to the UK Privy Council, where Bermuda's marriage-equality case is pending.


Since President Sebastián Piñera took office in March 2018, Chile's government has resisted bringing 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 promote marriage equality until it is achieved. In September 2019, the government declared it intended only to "monitor" a marriage-equality bill introduced in 2017 by the previous administration. On Nov. 5, 2019, that bill finally saw approval by the Senate's Constitution Committee. Chile is also among the nations instructed to bring in marriage equality by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' November 2017 marriage-equality ruling.

In February 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. In April 2019, the Santiago Appeals Court ruled against Gómez and Velásquez and in May 2019, the case returned to the Supreme Court.

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 Rights' November 2017 marriage-equality ruling, which instructed Costa Rica and 14 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, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Suriname. Five other signatory nations have marriage equality: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay. Mexico has full marriage equality in 18 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, the federal capital.

Costa Rica's April 2018 presidential election morphed into a referendum on marriage equality after evangelical Christian Fabricio Alvarado catapulted into first place in the first round by making resistance to the Inter-American Court ruling the centerpiece of his campaign. Although polls showed the runoff between the top two vote-getters to be too close to call, marriage-equality supporter Carlos Alvarado won the election 61% to 39%.


In July 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.


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 that was introduced into Parliament several months later by two MPs from the governing parties. 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

In June 2018, the Czech Republic government threw its support behind a pending bill to modify the Civil Code to bring in marriage equality, which recent polls indicate is supported by 61% of Czech people. The Czech Republic would be the first former Eastern Bloc nation to let same-sex couples marry.

El Salvador

A number of marriage-equality lawsuits have been accepted by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, the two most recent in August 2019.


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 November 2017 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.

In August 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." Incoming president Alejandro Giammattei, who will take office Jan. 14, 2020, also opposes marriage equality.

The bill's page at CongressActivists' analysisAmnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch


In May 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice accepted a lawsuit seeking to enforce the November 2017 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.

In October 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."

In November 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 in February 2019, local media said the court had accepted a third case filed by activists.

Hong Kong

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.


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.


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 41 years ago.


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.


Mexico can only get marriage equality state by state. Eighteen of the 31 states and the federal capital Mexico City have gotten there, leaving 13 states to go. I have a separate article with the details here.


Lawyer Iván Chanis Barahona, head of Panama's marriage-equality group, La Fundación Iguales Panamá, says the November 2017 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 in February 2018 because of the Inter-American Court ruling. In January 2018, Panamanian Vice President Isabel De Saint Malo said the Inter-American court ruling is indeed binding ("vinculante") on Panama.

In October 2019, the National Assembly passed a series of constitutional revisions that included a ban on marriage equality. Days of protests by students, LGBTs and others ensued and, on Nov. 8, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo said he will work to delete the ban before the revisions are finalized and sent to a voter referendum.


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 the wake of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' November 2017 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 in June 2018 and has missed the legal deadline for issuing a ruling. It is the court's first case related to marriage equality. In April 2019, the 11th Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Lima ordered the National Registry to register the marriage of a Peruvian same-sex couple who married in 2016 in Miami. In August 2019, the Sixth Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Lima ordered the National Registry to register the marriage of a Peruvian same-sex couple who married in 2015 in New York.

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


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.


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.

South Korea

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."


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 and Vatican City.


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.


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. 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. The National Assembly is controlled by the opposition while the National Constituent Assembly is "officialist." Both are reported to favor marriage equality.)