Same-sex civil unions: National timelines


In this post, Pink Families highlights a number of the countries that nationally recognize civil unions conducted in their own country. Some of these laws have been superseded by same-sex marriage laws.

In the 1980s


The first law in the world to allow same-sex civil unions was passed in Denmark. It was introduced in law in June 1989 and enacted in October 1989. Same-sex marriage became legal in Denmark in 2012.

In the 1990s

The Netherlands

The Netherlands passed a registered partnership law for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in 1998. Gay marriage was legalized in the Netherlands in 2001.


In France, civil solidarity pacts (pacte civil de soidarité or PACS) were enshrined in law in 1999. Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can form a civil solidarity pact. A civil solidarity pact provides less rights to those in a partnership than those who are married. Same-sex marriage became legal in France in May 2013.

In the 2000s

The US

The first civil union in the US was conducted in 2000 in the state of Vermont. Several US states now allow for civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not all states recognize these unions. The rights of those in a civil union or domestic partnership range from limited rights to rights that are comparable with, but not the same as, those who are married.

The US Federal Government recognized same-sex marriage as of June 2013. This means that same-sex married couples are entitled to the same federal rights and benefits as their straight married counterparts.


From June 2001 same-sex couples were able to register their relationship as a domestic relationship in Nova Scotia. This entitled couples to some, but not all of the rights afforded to those that were married.

In 2001 Manitoba allowed same-sex couples to register their relationship as a common-law relationship. This provided many benefits to same-sex couples, but not all of the rights that are provided to married couples.

In June 2002, civil unions became permissible to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in Quebec.

Adult-interdependent relationships were recognized by Alberta in 2003.

National legislation to legalize same-sex marriage was passed in Canada in 2005. Marriage licenses to same-sex couples were issued in Nova Scotia from 2004.


Germany was the fourth European country to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. This was in the form of a registered partnership (referred to as Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft). This was possible from August 2001.

The rights for these types of unions have evolved over time. From 2009 a federal court ruling sanctioned that those in a same-sex registered partnership should have the same rights and obligations as those who are married.


In 2003, the province of Rio Negro in Argentina and Buenos Aires allowed for domestic partnerships. The city of Villa Carlos Paz (Córdoba) allowed for domestic partnerships from 2008 and civil unions were allowed in Rio Cuarto (a city in a province of Argentina) since 2009. Argentina legalized gay marriage in 2010.

New Zealand

The first country in the Asia Pacific to grant civil unions for same-sex couples was New Zealand. This bill was passed in 2004 and it allowed for same-sex and different-sex unions. The first unions were able to be performed in 2005. Same-sex marriage was legalized in New Zealand in 2013.

The UK

The UK introduced their civil partnership bill in 2004. It became law in 2005. This was for same-sex couples only and not opposite-sex couples. From 2005 unions were able to be performed in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. The UK was the fifth European country to allow for civil partnerships. In 2013 same-sex marriage was legalized in the UK and the first wedding took place in 2014.


Same-sex and different-sex partnerships were legalized in Luxemborg through legislation in July 2004. The legislation came into effect November 2004.

Same-sex couples have many of the same rights as those who are married, but they are not assigned all of the rights.

South Africa

In 2006 South Africa legalized same-sex marriage. This allows same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register their union as a marriage or a civil partnership. The rights of those in a civil partnership and marriage are the same.


In 2006 Mexico City legalized same-sex civil unions through their law for co-existence partnerships (known as Ley de Sociedades de Convivencia). The law came into effect in 2008. Mexico City is a federal district in Mexico. This law recognizes property and inheritance laws.

A second state in Mexico, Coahuila, allowed for civil unions in 2007. The civil unions performed in Coahuila are recognized nationally. They are recognized throughout the whole of Mexico. A number of other states have been considering civil union laws since 2006.

Czech Republic

Same-sex registered partnerships became legal in the Czech Republic in 2006. The law was passed in March and came into effect July 2006. Their registered partnership act provides many rights to same-sex couples but not all, including for example joint adoption and property rights.


In 2007 Switzerland’s federal domestic partnership law for same-sex couples came into effect. In Switzerland same-sex couples are still unable to adopt and access reproductive technologies, such as IVF.


Same-sex civil unions became possible in Uruguay from January 2008.


In Ecuador same-sex couples were allowed to enter into a civil union from 2008. This provided same-sex couples with the same rights as married heterosexual couples, except for the right to adopt.


In Hungary same-sex partnerships could be registered from 2009. This provided most of the same benefits of marriage, but not all.


In Australia a registered partnership bill was approved in 2009 and came into effect January 2010. Throughout the whole of Australia same-sex couples were able to be recognized as de facto couples from 2009. However, there are many laws in Australia that do not recognize same-sex de facto couples.

Tasmania recognized same-sex significant relationships from 2004.

Victoria allowed for domestic partnerships from 2008 even though the city of Melbourne (the capital of Victoria) and the city of Yarra (in the metropolis of Melbourne) allowed for registered partnerships since 2007.

New South Wales allowed for registered relationships in 2010 although the city of Sydney (the capital of New South Wales) allowed for registered partnerships from 2004.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) allowed for civil unions in 2012. The ACT was the first state in Australia to legally recognize same-sex couples.

The ACT first tried to introduce civil unions in 2006 but the Commonwealth Government stopped this from happening. Other attempts to pass same-sex marriage laws in the ACT have also failed. In May 2008 the ACT started their civil partnership registry. This was allowed under the civil partnership act that was passed in the ACT in 2008. The first law to officially recognize same-sex couples in the ACT was the domestic relationship act in 1994.

Queensland allowed for registered relationships in 2012.


Republic of Ireland

A civil partnership bill was passed in the Republic of Ireland in July 2010. It came into effect in January 2011. It allows for many comparable rights as those who are married.


Same-sex civil unions became legal in Brazil in May 2011. This provided same-sex couples in a civil union the same financial and social rights as those in opposite-sex unions.


Liechtenstein recognized registered partnerships between same-sex couples in September 2011.


In Chile same-sex civil unions were legally approved in April 2013.

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