Same-sex marriage: How many countries allow gay marriage?


A number of countries have legalized same-sex marriage. Others allow for same-sex civil partnerships.

1. The Netherlands

The first legal gay marriage in the world took place in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on April 1, 2001.

2. Belgium

Belgium legalized gay marriage shortly after the Netherlands in 2003.

3 and 4. Spain and Canada

The first same-sex couple married in Spain in 2005. National legislation was passed in Canada to allow for same-sex marriage in 2005.

5. South Africa

South Africa was the first African country to legalize gay marriage in 2006.

6 and 7. Norway and Sweden

Norway and Sweden legalized gay marriage three years later in 2009.

8, 9, 10. Portugal, Iceland and Argentina

In the following year (2010) three more countries legalized gay marriage: Portugal, Iceland and Argentina. Argentina became the first Latin American country in the world to legalize gay marriage.

11. Denmark finally past the post

Same-sex marriage became legal in Denmark in June 2012. This law was passed 23 years after their civil partnership act in 1989.

12 and 13. Uruguay and New Zealand

The second Latin American country to legalize gay marriage was Uruguay. This happened in April 2013. The marriage equality law was approved by the Senate 23 votes to eight.

The second country to legalize gay marriage in 2013 was New Zealand. The bill passed with a wide majority. Seventy votes in favor and 44 against. New Zealand was the first country in the Asia Pacific region to legalize gay marriage.

14. France

France’s upper house of parliament voted to legalize gay marriage in April 2013. They approved the bill with small changes. The bill was passed in the lower house in May 2013. France was the fourteenth country to legalize same-sex marriage.

15. Brazil

Brazil also legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. This happened in May. This development followed years of having the rights of same-sex couples in the spotlight. In 2011 same-sex couples were legally entitled to legal recognition of their relationship but only if they lived together. It wasn’t until May 2013 when a ruling required civil registers in Brazil to perform same-sex marriages.

16. The UK

In 2013 the UK government backed a bill to legalize gay marriage. The Queen’s Royal Assent was granted to the bill on July 18th 2013. The bill became law once its Royal Assent was announced in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The House of Lords formally approved the bill on July 15th 2013. The bill went back to the House of Commons for final approval on July 16th 2013 to ensure protections for transgender couples. The new law enabled married individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage.

Established Churches of England and Wales are still banned from conducting same-sex marriage. Regardless, the first gay wedding took place one minute past midnight on Saturday March 29th 2014.

17. Luxembourg

A Partenariat (PACS), which is a legal alternative to marriage, was available to heterosexual and same-sex couples in Luxembourg in 1994. Ten years later lawmakers in Luxembourg approved same-sex marriage in June 2014. The same-sex marriage bill passed with a majority of 56 votes to four votes.

18. Ireland

Ireland was the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage by a referendum. Voters were asked whether to add to the Constitution that “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” The referendum took place on May 22nd 2015. All major political parties supported the change. It was approved by over one million voters (1,201,607 people or 62% of voters).

19. The USA

The US Supreme Court ruled on Friday June 26th 2015 that all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, are legally allowed to marry. The ruling passed five votes to four. The change followed decades of campaigning to ensure civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. Campaigning for this started in the US in the seventies.

The 2015 ruling stated that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They must also recognize same-sex unions that have been legally performed in other states. The ruling followed on from the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) two years earlier in June 2013. The repeal of DOMA meant that the US federal government recognized same-sex marriage. However, US states were still able to make their own decisions regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage.

The justices presiding over the 2015 ruling said that same-sex marriage protects families as “without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser.”

Recognition in countries

In some countries same-sex marriage can only be legally performed in some states or it is only recognized in some states. This is the case in Mexico where same-sex marriages are recognized by all states and the federal government, but same-sex marriages can only take place in Mexico City and Quintana Roo. Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other countries. Since June 2014, same-sex couples have been able to use British law to marry in Australia. But, Australians in same-sex relationships can’t marry under Australian law. Same-sex civil unions are allowed in Malta. The first civil union in Malta took place in 2014.

Growing support for same-sex marriage

The number of countries that legalize gay marriage keep growing. In Slovenia, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been pending since March 2015. A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Finland was approved in 2014 and is due to take effect in 2017.

The number of countries that legalize same-sex civil unions is  increasing. The body of research that shows the benefits of these developments is growing. These changes are, in part, due to the tireless efforts of all the campaigners who champion LGBTI rights around the globe. Pink Families acknowledges their contribution. These changes make a tangible difference to the lives of many families and individuals.

Watch one of our favorite films that supports the legalization of same-sex marriage. This film is from Australia, a country where same-sex marriage isn’t legal. The film is from Get Up! Action for Australia.

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