Friday, November 26, 2021

Marriage Equality Around the World

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

Article maintained with assistance from Evan Wolfson, Rob Salerno and Andrés Duque. Last update: Sept. 26, 2021.

Same-sex couples can marry in 30 nations and in 47 other discrete jurisdictions around the world:

Netherlands (2001), Saba (2012), Bonaire (2012), Sint Eustatius (2012)

Belgium (2003)

Canada (2003-2005)

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)

Norway (2009)

Sweden (2009)

Argentina (2010)

Iceland (2010)

Portugal (2010), Azores (2010), Madeira (2010)

Mexico (2010-2021; 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)

Brazil (2013)

Uruguay (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), Bermuda (2017, 2018, see "Notes" below), Northern Ireland (2020), Sark (2020)

Luxembourg (2015)

Ireland (2015)

Colombia (2016)

Finland (2017)

Malta (2017)

Germany (2017)

Australia (2017), Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island

Austria (2019)

Taiwan (2019)

Ecuador (2019)

Costa Rica (2020)

Switzerland (2021)

Notes

14 nations bound by Inter-American Court ruling

"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 made on Nov. 24, 2017, and published Jan. 9, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights instructed 20 nations that are signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights to let same-sex couples marry: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay. Six of the nations — Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay — have marriage equality, and Mexico has marriage equality in 23 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, the federal capital. Courts in Ecuador and Costa Rica brought in marriage equality because of the Inter-American Court ruling.

"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.

Dutch Caribbean

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.

Mexico

Mexican states (there are 31) are a hotspot of the marriage-equality movement. To date, 23 states and federal capital Mexico City have achieved marriage equality via three different pathways. My article is here.

French places

All 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 11 jurisdictions.

British places

See above for the lengthy list of British places with marriage equality. Five overseas territories — Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands — do not have marriage equality.

Bermuda and Cayman Islands

The court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, is expected to rule this year on marriage equality in these British overseas territories. Bermuda has marriage equality during the final appeal but it is blocked in the Cayman Islands.

The Privy Council ruling may have some effect in, or be precedential for, multiple British overseas territories and Commonwealth countries that use the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality. Those overseas territories are Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands. And those Commonwealth countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brunei, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu. The Cook Islands and Niue, associated states of New Zealand, also use the the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality.

Ireland

On May 22, 2015, Ireland became the first nation to bring in marriage equality by popular vote. Irish people amended their constitution by a landslide margin of 62.07% to 37.93%.

U.S. territories

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 Caribbean Sea — would have marriage equality. Their population nowadays is a small number of temporarily assigned scientists and military personnel.

Antarctica

Same-sex couples can marry in Antarctica. Nations that claim portions of the continent include Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom. Of those, only Chile doesn't have marriage equality.

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 574 of them and they are not covered by the June 26, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court ruling that brought in marriage equality nationwide. At least 29 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 marriage equality is in place without 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)
• Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin (2016)
• Tulalip Tribes in Washington (2016)
• Menominee Indian Tribe in Wisconsin (2016)
• Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma (2016)
• Prairie Island Mdewakanton Dakota Community in Minnesota (2017)
• Osage Nation in Oklahoma (2017)
• Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin (2017)
• Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona (2017)
• Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota (2019)
• Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan (2019)
• Colorado River Indian Tribes in Californa/Nevada/Arizona (2019)
• Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota (2020)

Watch list

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.

Geography lesson

Where are those 47 other jurisdictions of Australia, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and USA?

Australia
• Christmas Island » Indian Ocean
• Cocos (Keeling) Islands » Indian Ocean
• Norfolk Island » South Pacific Ocean

Denmark
• Faroe Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Greenland » between North Atlantic and Arctic oceans

France
• 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

Netherlands
• Bonaire » Caribbean Sea
• Saba » Caribbean Sea
• Sint Eustatius » Caribbean Sea

Portugal
• Azores » North Atlantic Ocean
• Madeira » North Atlantic Ocean

Spain
• Canary Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Ceuta » Africa
• Melilla » Africa

United Kingdom
• Akrotiri and Dhekelia » Cyprus
• Alderney » English Channel
• Ascension Island » South Atlantic Ocean
• Bermuda » North 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
• Northern Ireland » Island of Ireland
• Pitcairn Islands » South Pacific Ocean
• Saint Helena » South Atlantic Ocean
• Sark » English Channel
• Scotland » Great Britain
• South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands » South Atlantic Ocean
• Tristan da Cunha » South Atlantic Ocean
• Wales » Great Britain

USA
• Guam » North Pacific Ocean
• Northern Mariana Islands » North Pacific Ocean
• Puerto Rico » Caribbean Sea
• U.S. Virgin Islands » Caribbean Sea

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. 26, 2021.

Andorra

Andorra is planning to erase the distinction between civil unions for same-sex couples and casaments (weddings) for opposite-sex couples and allow both to have casaments, and to define matrimoni (marriage) as a religious thing that happens in church. The vote in the General Council (parliament) is expected this year.

Bermuda and Cayman Islands

The court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, is expected to rule this year on marriage equality in these British overseas territories. Bermuda has marriage equality during the final appeal but it is blocked in the Cayman Islands.

The Privy Council ruling could have some effect in, or be precedential for, multiple British overseas territories and Commonwealth countries that use the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality. Those overseas territories are Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands. And those Commonwealth countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brunei, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu. The Cook Islands and Niue, associated states of New Zealand, also use the the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality.

Bolivia

In May 2021, Justice Minister Iván Lima Magne tweeted: "The issue of marriage equality is in process in our Plurinational Constitutional Court, which has requested 'amicus curiae' from the Catholic Church and other entities and experts. This is an issue that should have more debate in the nation and be decided now."

In December 2020, a Bolivian same-sex couple — David Víctor Aruquipa Pérez and Guido Álvaro Montaño Durán — won a two-year legal battle to register their "free union," a legal partnership that carries the same rights and obligations as civil marriage. The La Paz Court of Justice cited the 2017 marriage equality ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights — which is binding on Bolivia and 13 other nations that still haven't brought in marriage equality — and emphasized that Bolivia's constitution defers to international human rights instruments signed, ratified or adhered to by the nation when they guarantee human rights beyond those granted by the constitution. This same sort of constitutional clause led to marriage equality in Ecuador in 2019.

Chile

The Senate and Chamber of Deputies have passed marriage equality and President Sebastián Piñera is planning to sign it into law as soon as the Senate OKs alterations made by the Deputies, which it is expected to do no later than the first week of December 2021.

Cuba

In July 2018, the National Assembly unanimously passed a first draft of a new constitution that contained marriage equality. A public consultation followed, which, the National Assembly reported, found that Cubans opposed putting marriage equality in the constitution. Marriage equality was then excised from the document before it was sent to a successful voter referendum. The government has now inserted marriage equality into a draft of a new family code, which also will go to a public consultation and referendum.

Curaçao

In September 2021, the 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. The Netherlands' three constituent countries in the Caribbean — Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten — all lack marriage equality while the Netherlands' three overseas municipalities in the Caribbean — Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius — all have marriage equality.

Czech Republic

Marriage equality passed first reading in the Chamber of Deputies on April 29, 2021, and was sent to committees. A proposed constitutional ban on marriage equality also cleared first reading and went to committees.

El Salvador

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.

Estonia

In October 2020, a citizens' petition for marriage equality cleared the signature threshold to force consideration by parliament.

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 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 would sue in the Constitutional Court and, if they were to lose there, in the Inter-American system. President Alejandro Giammattei opposes marriage equality. » The bill's page at Congress

Honduras

Two marriage equality cases, from 2018 and 2019, are stalled at 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 2021, Honduras' Congress inserted a marriage equality super-ban into the constitution with a requirement that it can only be overturned by a 75% vote in Congress. Activists sued over the super-ban the following month, citing the Inter-American Court ruling and the American Convention on Human Rights, on which the ruling was based and which Honduras' constitution incorporates into the constitution.

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.

India

Activists began pushing for marriage equality after a constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India unanimously legalized gay sex in September 2018, decriminalizing 18% of LGBT people on the planet. Multiple lawsuits are pending in the high courts of the union territory of Delhi and the state of Kerala, targeting separate laws that regulate secular marriages, religious marriages and marriages entered into abroad. Regional high court rulings in India generally have national effect unless another high court has ruled the opposite way.

Jamaica

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.

Japan

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. In March 2021, the district court in Sapporo ruled that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is "unconstitutional." The ruling set an important precedent but did not have the effect of deleting the constitution's opposite-sex definition of marriage.

Liechtenstein

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. One report said opposition party Democrats pro Liechtenstein opposes marriage equality because surrogacy allegedly is not in the best interests of children.

Mexico

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

Namibia

In May 2021, the Windhoek High Court said it will rule on recognition of foreign same-sex marriages on or before January 20, 2022.

Panama

Marriage equality cases have been stalled for several years at 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 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 Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo later said he would work to delete the ban before the revisions are finalized and sent to a voter referendum.

Paraguay

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.

Peru

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 November 2020, Peru's Constitutional Court voted 4-3 not to force the National Registry to record a same-sex marriage entered into in Mexico. The plaintiff said he will take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 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 but did not see a vote. A new bill was introduced in October 2021.

Philippines

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.

Romania

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."

Thailand

In November 2021, the Constitutional Court upheld the nation's ban on marriage equality. A marriage equality bill introduced by the opposition and a civil-partnership bill backed by the cabinet are both stalled in parliament.

Venezuela

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."

Western Europe

The only nations in Western Europe without marriage equality are Italy and the microstates Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.