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Same-Sex Marriage History

Around The World

(Marriage, Unions, Domestic Partnership, Etc.)

Information As Of 2007


Same-sex couples in the capital city of Buenos Aires can register for a civil union. The bill was approved 29-10.

Colombia To Allow Gay Rights , AP, 06/15/2007


Austria does not legally recognize or grant rights to same-sex couples.


Belgium Senate approved a bill recognizing same-sex marriage in November, 2002. In 2003, Belgium started to allow full same-sex marriage. Originally, the couple's countries of citizenship had to recognize same-sex unions but that changed October 1, 2004. There are no longer any restrictions based on nationality and recognition of the marriages and they removed all references to gender from their marriage laws.

Legal Requirements & Restrictions:

bullet No residency restriction based on nationality or the home country's recognition of same-sex unions


The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul has legalized same-sex civil unions.


Colombia To Allow Gay Rights , AP, 06/15/2007


December 2005 - Same-sex partners will be allowed to register as civil partnerships. The "Civil Partnerships Bill" was passed by Parliament in 2004. It allows same-sex couples the right to form legally binding partnerships. It requires signing a partnership document in front of witnesses after notifying the local council register's office and waiting for 15 days. The Department of Trade & Industry estimates more than 42,000 same-sex partnership agreements by 2020. Brighton will become the first city to perform gay marriages one second after midnight on December 21, 2005.

Britain lifted its ban on homosexuals serving in the military in 2000. The armed services already allows equal pension rights for same-sex couples, and after the Civil Partnerships Bill goes into effect it will allow same-sex couples to share family quarters. In 2004 the air force advertised for recruits by joining a pride parade, and the Royal Navy in 2005 announced its first efforts to publicly recruit homosexuals.

Legal Requirements & Restrictions:

bullet Notifying the local council register's office
bullet 15 day waiting period
bullet Signing a partnership document in front of two witnesses
bullet Dissolution allowed in a form of divorce settlement

Advantages Include:

bullet Legally binding partnerships
bullet Next-of-kin status
bullet Exemption from paying inheritance tax on partner's home
bullet Rights to a deceased partner's pension
bullet Some of the same tax rights as married couples
bullet Armed services will allow same-sex couples to share family quarters
bullet Maintenance paid to each other or for children after a divorce

"Britain To Allow Gay Civil Unions", Washington Times, 02/22/2005

"City To Pioneer Gay Marriages", BBC, 03/15/2005


The 81-year-old King Sihanouk of Cambodia announced he thought same-sex marriages should be allowed in Cambodia. He said that as a liberal democracy, "I think that this kingdom should allow, if they wish it, marriage between man and man or between woman and woman." As a constitutional monarch he does not have executive powers but is said to be very well respected in the country.

"Cambodian King Backs Gay Marriage", BBC, 02/20/2004

"Cambodia King Back Gay Marriage", GMax News, 02/23/2004


In June of 2003, Canada legally approved same sex marriage. The Canadian Cabinet approved a national policy to recognize marriage as a committed relationship between two adults. There is no residency requirement. Provinces that issue same-sex marriage licenses include British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Legal Requirements & Restrictions:

bullet No residency requirement
bullet Affects civil weddings only; churches are not required to perform same-sex weddings


Gay marriage is not legal in Chile.

In winter of 2004, a Chilean gay rights group celebrated a legal victory against a Catholic conservative movement. After a 2 year legal battle, the Catholic conservative group "Opus Dei" lost the fight trying to force a Chilean newspaper for homosexuals called "Opus Gay" to change their name. The intellectual property authorities ruled both names could "co-exist peacefully".

"Chile Settles Row Over Gay Paper", BBC, 12/31/2004


It is not technically illegal to be homosexual in China, but the "psychiatric community" still considers it an illness.


Colombia does not yet allow same-sex marriage, but gays in the military can reveal their sexual orientation and live on base with their partner. In June 2007 it was announced the Colombia may become the first Latin American country to grant full rights to gay couples for health insurance, inheritance and social security. In February, 2007 the Constitutional Court recognized same-sex rights to inheritance and shared property. Then in April 2007 a bill for many rights was passed 49-40 by the Senate (after failing 4 times since 1999), then a similar bill was passed 62-43 by Congress in June 2007. The next step is unifying the language of the bills and sending it to the President Alvaro Uribe, who has already indicated his support.

Activists hail Mexico City's new same-sex civil union law, Monica Campbell, Chronicle Foreign Service, 11/23/2006

Colombia To Allow Gay Rights , AP, 06/15/2007

Costa Rica

Costa Rica does not recognize same-sex unions, but reportedly the President Oscar Arias stated on "International Day Against Homophobia" that he was committed to ending discrimination against gays. Costa Rica decriminalized homosexuality in the 1970s.

Costa Rica: Political Progress, Cultural Lag, Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide , 07/01/2001

Gays in Costa Rica Call for End to Discrimination, Daily News, 05/18/2007

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic does not yet allow same-sex marriage, but does provide legal registered partnerships. The law went into effect in July 2006 after several back-and-forths. The Senate and Chamber of Deputies approved the bill in 2005, the Czech President Vaclav Klaus vetoed it in February 2006 and then the legislative branch overrode that veto in March 2006.

According to the results of a poll released in June 2007, while 69% of 1,132 Czech Republic respondents supported same-sex registered partnerships, 57% of Czech Republic respondents still opposed same-sex marriage and 67% opposed gay/lesbian adoptions.


Czechs Back Civil Unions, Not Same-Sex Marriage, Angus Reid Global Monitor, 06/11/2007


Cuba's constitution specifically states that marriage is the "voluntary union between a man and a woman" (Article 36) and thus does not allow for legalized same-sex marriage. However, as reported in June 2007, if a draft reform of the Family Code is approved it will give substantial rights to same-sex couples. While the proposal would not legalize gay marriage, it would give same-sex couples the same civil, housing, inheritance and adoption rights as heterosexual couples.

Historically Cuba has not been kind to homosexuality, where "ostentatious public displays of homosexuality" were illegal for decades. In the 1960s hundreds of gays were placed in forced labor camps, and in the 1980s being gay was a sufficient basis for exclusion from university studies or certain job positions.

CUBA: Proposed Reform Would Give Gay Couples Equal Rights, IPS, Dalia Acosta, 06/15/2007


On 07 June 1989, Denmark became the first country to legalize civil unions through registered partnerships called "registreret partnerskab". The law went into effect in October 1989. Between 1989 and 1996 about 3,000 same-sex couples have taken advantage of this union. As of 01 January 2002 there are said to be 2,000+ partnerships living in Denmark, with children in the families of 220 of the couples.

Also, in 2000 Denmark passed a law that allows same-sex couples the right to obtain custody of children from previous heterosexual marriages.

Legal Requirements & Restrictions:

bullet While some sources say at least one partner must have been born in Denmark, others say that any citizens of countries allowing same-sex unions can apply
bullet Same-sex couples cannot adopt, though one party can adopt their partner's biological child.
bullet Adoption is the only allowed joint custody of a child
bullet If a law specifically references the sex of a married couple it doesn't apply to partnerships
bullet Church weddings are not allowed, though some priests from the Danish state church bless the couple (not the marriage itself)
bullet Partnership divorces have the same rules as marriage divorce

Advantages Include:

bullet Virtually equal benefits to heterosexual couples


In 2002, Finland's Parliament approved a law legally granting same-sex unions many of the same rights as heterosexual couples.


In 1999, France passed laws to legally grant a civil contract called "Civil Solidarity Pacts" to give cohabiting couples (gay or straight) many of the same rights as heterosexual couples. It went into effect during October 2000. There is some disagreement about whether the rights do or do not extend to taxes, inheritance or adoption. A religious or civil ceremony can follow afterwards. Thousands of couples have registered since it went into effect.

In 2004, a mayor conducted France's first gay marriage which was later declared invalid by Justice Minister Dominique Perben. The appeals court in Bordeaux ruled "a difference of sex is a condition of marriage".


In 2001, Germany legally allowed same-sex couples to register "life partnerships". However, the rights are limited only to the same inheritance and tenant rights as heterosexual couples. As of 2002, it did not cover same-sex adoptions.


Same-sex marriage is not legal in Ghana, where homosexuality itself is illegal.

Same-Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect in S. Africa, Washington Post, Clare Nullis, 12/01/2006


Greece does not legally recognize or grant rights to same-sex couples.


In 1989 when Denmark legalized same-sex unions, Greenland declined to participate - it is a self-governing dependency of Denmark. However, in 1994 the Parliament requested a royal decree for the Danish law to be in effect for them as well. In 1996, Greenland started legally granting same-sex couples many of the same rights as heterosexual couples.


In March 1995, Hungary ruled same-sex couples could have the benefits of common law marriage through "unregistered cohabitation". Couples are not permitted to adopt, use artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization. Inheritance and pension rights are specifically allowed. It is speculated the case was approved for political reasons to help their acceptance into the EU. One source lists 1996 instead of 1995.


In 1996, Iceland legally granted same-sex couples many of the same rights as heterosexual couples through registered cohabitation. Same-sex adoption is included.


Same-sex marriage is not legal in Ireland. Ireland's 1937 Constitution does not specifically define marriage as between a man and a woman, though that definition was probably presumed. On November 9, 2004 the High Court of Dublin ruled a same-sex couple can challenge the tax authority on the issue of recognizing same-sex couples. The 2001 Irish census reported about 1,300 same-sex couples out of the 77,600 unmarried couple households.

In 2004, a lesbian couple started a legal challenge for equal rights to heterosexual couples in Ireland. After the couple legally married in Canada, the Dublin Revenue Commissioners rejected their application to file their tax returns as a married couple. Later, the High Court (Ireland's second-highest court) ruled the couple would get a "full hearing to seek a judicial review". Ms. Gilligan is a philsophy lecturer and Ms. Zappone is on Ireland's Human Rights Commission.

Couple Profile: Louise Gilligan is a philosophy lecturer and Ms. Zappone is on Ireland's Human Rights Commission. They live in Brittas of county Dublin and legally married in Canada.

The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern made the following statements about the same-sex family issue: "They say: 'We want more equality and we want to be treated fairer.' I agree with that...I totally agree with that. These people who are in relationships which are not illegal, they're not immoral, they're not improper...We should try to deal with some of the issues they have to surmount in their daily lives...And I think that's the fairest, caring and Christian way to deal with this." At the same time, he acknowledged that legal same-sex marriage was a "long way off".

"Better Rights For Gay Couples", BBC, 11/15/2004

"Gay Couple Granted Legal Review", BBC, 11/09/2004


While same-sex unions and marriage are not legal in Israel, in November 2006 Israel did recognize the validity of same-sex marriage conducted abroad. It ruled five Canadian-wed gay couples could be registered as married.

Activists hail Mexico City's new same-sex civil union law, Monica Campbell, Chronicle Foreign Service, 11/23/2006


Italy refuses to recognize gay couples due to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. A few cities allow a symbolic register for unmarried couples but it carries no civil or legal rights.


Homosexuality is no longer considered a mental illness in Japan. Japan is considered more progressive than most of Asia. But many gays have sham marriages to cover their orientation.


Same-sex marriage is absolutely not legal in Kenya, as homosexuality itself is considered illegal.


Same-Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect in S. Africa, Washington Post, Clare Nullis, 12/01/2006


Luxembourg does not legally recognize or grant rights to same-sex couples.


Mexico City and the Mexican state of Coahuila legalized same-sex civil unions. The law was passed November 9, 2006 by the Mexico City assembly 43-17, signed by Mayor Alejandro Encinas November 13, 2006 and went into effect in March 2007. The rights  granted include inheritance, property rights, pensions, health vcare, insurance and medical decisions but does not legalize same-sex marriage or adoption.

Colombia To Allow Gay Rights, AP, 06/15/2007

Activists hail Mexico City's new same-sex civil union law, Monica Campbell, Chronicle Foreign Service, 11/23/2006


Same-sex marriage is not legal in Namibia. President Sam Nujoma has been quoted attacking Western gay rights issues pushed on his country, saying "When you talk about human rights, you include also homosexualism and lesbianism, its not our culture, we Africans. And if you try to impose your culture on us Africans, we condemn it, we reject it".


On 01 April 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to allow full same-sex marriage (as opposed to "civil unions"). There is a long residency requirement. It is said there were 2,400 same-sex marriages during 2001, compared to 1,500 in 2003. Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen performed the first marriages.

New Zealand

In December 2004, New Zealand's parliament passed legislation to recognize same-sex civil unions.


Same-sex marriage and unions are not legal in Nicaragua, and as of 2007 it remains the last Latin American country to criminalize sodomy.

Activists hail Mexico City's new same-sex civil union law, Monica Campbell, Chronicle Foreign Service, 11/23/2006


Same-sex marriage is not legal in Nigeria and homosexuality itself is illegal. The born-again Christian Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004 praised African Anglican bishops for their "principled stand against the totally unacceptable tendency towards same-sex marriages and homosexual practice". He also also added that "Such a tendency is clearly un-Biblical, unnatural and definitely un-African." Traditionally conservative Anglicans believe homosexual Anglicans should repent and remain celibate.

Nearly 18 million of Nigeria's 120 million people belong to The Church of Nigeria, which is one of the 36 churches of the Anglican Communion. Nigeria accounts for about 25% of the world's 70-million Anglicans throughout 164 countries. A full half of Anglicans are found in Africa where homosexuality is illegal and condemned. While the Anglican church is the third-largest Christian denomination, it has been torn apart by arguments over homosexuality. The church seems for a lasting split from the North American churches after the ordination of gay American Bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003 and the Canadian bishops supporting same-sex marriage in Canada. The African Anglican leaders are concerned that if they condone homosexuality the Africans will leave the Anglican church or convert to Islam. On February 24 2005, the United States and Canadian branches were asked to the leave the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) for three years. As a response, on March 17 2005 the United States Anglican Church conceded not to appoint new bishops (gay or straight) or bless same-sex unions for at least a year.

Same-Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect in S. Africa, Washington Post, Clare Nullis, 12/01/2006

"US Church Moves To Avoid Splits", BBC, 03/17/2005

"Lasting Split Looms For Anglicans", BBC, 02/25/2005

"Obasanjo backs bishops over gays", BBC, 10/27/2004

"Bishops Find Agreement Elusive During Conference", Salt Lake Tribune, Robert Barr, 08/08/1998


On 01 August 1993, Norway passed laws to create the "Registered Domestic Partnership". In 1996, Norway legally granted same-sex unions many of the same rights as heterosexual couples similar to Sweden and Denmark. Same-sex marriages are not allowed in the Norwegian church, but the church did support passing the law.

Legal Requirements & Restrictions:

bullet Only allowed for same-sex couples

Advantages Include:

bullet Full rights and responsibilities of marriage


In March 2001, Portugal legally granted same-sex couples that have cohabitated at least 2 years many of the same rights as heterosexual couples in common law marriages.


Male homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but same-sex marriage is not legal yet. In 2003, in the Nizhny Novogorod region, The Russian Orthodox Church dismissed a priest who registered a church same-sex marriage for two men.

In January 2005, two men in Moscow unsuccessfully registered for a same-sex marriage. The application was accepted, but the state registration agency told them to return 10 days later for an official written rejection. The Russian Family Code forbids gay marriage, so the unsuccessful attempt gave them the legal grounds to challenge it in the Russian Constitutional Court. The Constitution does ban sex, race and religion-based discrimination, but does not specifically say same-sex couples cannot be married.

People Profile: Ed Mishin and Edvard Murzin filed for gay marriage in Moscow. Mr. Mishin is the editor-in-chief of Kvir (Queer) magazine. Mr. Mishin Mr. Muzin says he is not gay, just a defender of gay rights. He is an MP from the Bashkortostan autonomous region.

"Russian Men Attempt Gay Marriage", BBC, 01/18/2005


While same-sex marriage is not legal, the Scottish Parliament passed the "Adults With Incapacity Bill" that gives same-sex couples the right to be consulted about an incapacitated partner.

South Africa

South Africa bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in their post-apartheid constitution (1994), and became the first African country to legalize same-sex couple adoptions (2002) and to legalize gay marriage (2006).

South Africa became the first African country to legalize same-sex couple adoptions on September 10, 2002 after the Constitutional Court ruled "the rights to equality and dignity were infringed by specific sections of the un-amended Child Care Act...permanent, same-sex partnerships could provide children with a stable home and the support and affection necessary". The Child Care Act did not allow same-sex couple adoptions until it was ruled unconstitutional by the Pretoria High Court, then confirmed by the Constitutional Court. Since the legalization, the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) announced its decision to allow marriage between same-sex Jewish couples.

Jewish union okays same-sex marriage, iAfrica, 05/28/2007

Same-Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect in S. Africa, Washington Post, Clare Nullis, 12/01/2006

"South Africa's Gays Target Marriage", BBC, 09/11/2002


In 2004, a draft law was approved that legalize same-sex marriage and give same-sex couples the ability to adopt children. The legislation has not yet gone to effect (March 2005) and many Spanish Catholics are fighting it. Currently, in the Navarra and Basque regions same-sex couples who live together long enough can receive the benefits of heterosexual marriage through common law unions.


In January 1995, Sweden legally granted "registered partnerships" to same-sex couples. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics of Sweden, during the first year 330 couples registered; 250 male and 80 female couples. As of 07 June 2002, registered same-sex couples can jointly adopt children within Sweden or from abroad.

Legal Requirements & Restrictions:

bullet Only allowed for same-sex couples

Advantages Include:

bullet Full rights and responsibilities of marriage


Same-sex marriage is not legal in Tanzania, where homosexuality itself is considered illegal.

Same-Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect in S. Africa, Washington Post, Clare Nullis, 12/01/2006


Uganda's President Museveni outlawed homosexuality, calling it "carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature". It continues to be illegal as of 2007.

"Homosexuality in Africa", BBC, 06/28/2002

Same-Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect in S. Africa, Washington Post, Clare Nullis, 12/01/2006

United States

The United States is having a lot of issues with same-sex marriage.

The United States "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy" was put into place by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The policy means the military does not ask about sexual orientation and service members do not discuss their sexual orientation, but if a member does reveal or discuss it they are discharged. A 2005 report by Government Accountability Office (GAO) described the policy as "costly". It concluded the military had spent nearly $200 million dollars to recruit and replace at least 9,488 gays and lesbians lost to the service due to the policy. At least 757 were interpreters and intelligence analysts, and 322 had proficiency in languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Korean that are considered important skills for the War on Terror. The Pentagon downplayed the impact of the policy, saying less than 1/2% of military personnel discharges were related to homosexual conduct.

On 26 June 2002, President George W. Bush signed a bill allowing death benefits to be paid to domestic partners of firefights and police officers who die in the line of duty.

In 2003, the United States Supreme Court struck down laws banning consenting same-sex between adults in their home.

In November 2004, eleven states passed amendments to their state constitutions defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. President George W. Bush announced his support for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, but that individual states can make their own arrangements.

California: In February 2004, San Francisco's mayor defied state law by issuing marriage licenses to more than 3,400+ same-sex couples before the California Supreme Court ordered an end in March 2004. In August 2004 they nullified the unions, saying the mayor exceeded his authority. The following year on March 14 2005, after a case brought by Gavin Newsom and 12 same-sex couples a judge ruled California state law was unconstitutional and violated the right to equal treatment. This punts it back to the Supreme Court.

Massachusetts: On 17 May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to offer regular marriage licenses for gay couples. Same-sex marriage is allowed only to residents. In 2001, seven same-sex couples denied marriage licenses sued the MA Department of Public Health. In November 2003, the state's Supreme Court ruled their ban of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. It upheld the decision the following year in February 2004. State legislators proposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages and allowing civil unions that may be put to a referendum in late 2006.

New Mexico: In February 2004, Sandoval county of New Mexico started issuing about 2 dozen marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the state's attorney general Patricia Madrid urged that it stop. In March 2005, the State Senate approved a bill defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Oregon: On March 3 2004, the county of Multnomah followed by Benton county started issuing about 3,000 same-sex marriage licenses until a judge ordered a freeze. Oregon voted to reject same-sex marriage in November 2004 with a change to their state constitution defining marriage as between a man and woman.

Vermont: In 2000, Vermont became the first state to offer "civil unions" to same-sex couples. The same-sex union license allowed similar benefits to heterosexual marriage, including life insurance, health care and child custody. It has not been recognized at a national level.

"US military's gay policy 'costly'", BBC, 02/25/2005

"The Gay Marriage Map", BBC, 03/16/2005


While same-sex marriage is not yet legal, in 2006 Uruguay legalized same-sex civil unions. The Senate passed the bill, and then Congress was set to pass it. It will allow heterosexual and same-sex couples to form civil unions after cohabiting for at least five years, and grant rights such as inheritance, shared parental rights and pension benefits.

Activists hail Mexico City's new same-sex civil union law, Monica Campbell, Chronicle Foreign Service, 11/23/2006

Uruguay to pass gay union, Reuters, 09/14/2006


Same-sex marriage is not legal in Zimbabwe, and homosexuality itself is in fact illegal. President Robert Mugabe has been quoted as calling homosexuals "worse than pigs and dogs" and accused the British Government of setting "gay gangsters" on him. 1999 was a turbulent time for gay rights when the country worked on replacing their 20 year-old constitution. In November 1999 the President had the chance to veto the Constitution.

"Mugabe: UK set 'gay gangsters' on me", BBC, 11/08/1999

"Zimbabwe Gay Rights Face Dim Future", BBC, 11/17/1999

Same-Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect in S. Africa, Washington Post, Clare Nullis, 12/01/2006

Other Sources

"About.Com Same-Sex Marriage FAQ", Accessed 03/23/2005

"A Little Sensitivity When Dealing With Same-Sex Issues", Minnesota Daily, Zac Handlson, 03/03/2005

"Global View of Gay Marriage", CBS News, Toby Sterling, 03/04/2004

"Gay Marriage Around The Globe", BBC, 12/09/2004

"Gay Laws Around The World", usmarriagelaws.com, 2002, Accessed 03/25/2005


Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and beyond! By Molly Kalafut