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The Story of Same-Sex Marriage

From 2001 to today, we chart the story of same-sex marriage legislation across the globe.

In May, the Church of Scotland voted in favour of drafting a new church law allowing same-sex marriages. The new laws would give ministers the option of performing same-sex marriages. A fi nal vote is expected for 2021.

In June, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that EU member states should recognise same-sex marriages for the purpose of residency if at least one partner is an EU citizen. As a result, Slovakia announced that they will comply with this ruling, recognising gay marriages performed abroad, although the country itself does not have legislation for either same-sex marriage or civil partnership.

That same month, Bermuda took a wobbly step backwards, as a bill to ban same-sex marriage and establish domestic partnerships went into eff ect. Five days later the Supreme Court of Bermuda struck down the ban. A stay is implemented, allowing the Government time to respond and a hearing is scheduled for November 2018.

July saw the introduction of legislation in Jersey, making it the 26th jurisdiction in the world to allow same-sex marriage, while Cuba approved a draft constitution which recognises same-sex marriage, though the proposal will need to go to a referendum in 2019.

Here’s the story of gay marriage in the world so far…

2001: The Netherlands becomes the first country to legalise same-sex marriage

The legislation gave same-sex couples the right to marry, to divorce, and to adopt children. It requires either partner to have Dutch nationality or residency in the Netherlands.

2003: Belgium grants equal rights to same-sex married couples

After twelve years of further legal wrangling, female same- sex parents were finally treated equally to heterosexual parents from 2015. The co-mother married to the mother is automatically recognised as parent, and an unmarried partner can formally recognise the child at the civil registry. As yet, an equivalent solution for male same-sex couples has not been agreed upon.

2005: The Canadian Parliament passes legislation making same-sex marriage legal nationwide

The decision of the Ontario Government to recognise two marriages that took place in Toronto on January 14, 2001, retroactively makes Canada the first country in the world to have a government-legitimised same-sex marriage.

2005: A closely divided Spanish parliament agrees to introduce full marriage equality

The first same-sex marriage in Spain actually took place in 1901. Two women, Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez Loriga got married in Galicia. Elisa adopted a male identity, Mario Sánchez, which was listed on the marriage certificate.

2006: After South Africa’s highest court ruled that the country’s marriage laws violated the constitution’s guarantee of equal rights, parliament legalised same-sex marriage

South Africa was the first country in the world to safeguard sexual orientation as a human right in its Constitution. It forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation.

2008: Norway allowed gay couples to enter civil unions from 1993, but it took another 15 years for the country to pass a gender-neutral marriage law

In 2015, the Church of Norway voted to allow same-sex marriages to take place in its churches.

2009: The Swedish parliament votes overwhelmingly in favour of legalising same-sex marriage

The Church of Sweden also voted 176–62 in favour of allowing its priests to wed same-sex couples.

2010: Iceland’s parliament votes unanimously to legalise same-sex marriage

Iceland’s Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir married her longtime partner Jonina Leosdottir as the law came into effect.

2010: Portugal introduces same-sex marriage after legislation is challenged by the country’s former president

Portugal passed a measure legalising same-sex marriage, but Portugal’s former president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, asked the Constitutional Court to review the measure.

2010: Argentina becomes the first Latin American country to allow same-sex marriage

In July 2010, while the law was under consideration, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires (later Pope Francis), wrote a letter to Argentina’s cloistered nuns in which he said: “This is not a mere legislative proposal (that’s just its form), but a move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

2012: Denmark’s legalisation comes in after Queen Margrethe II gives her royal assent

Denmark was the first country to allow same-sex couples to register as domestic partners in 1989.

2013: Uruguay passes legislation allowing same-sex marriage

LGBT+ rights in Uruguay are among the most liberal in both South America and the world. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal with an equal age of consent since 1934.

2013: New Zealand becomes the first country in the Asia-Pacific to legislate for same-sex marriage

The New Zealand Parliament can enact marriage laws only in regard to New Zealand proper and Antarctica. The three other New Zealand territories —the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau—do not recognise same-sex marriage.

2013: President Francois Hollande signs a measure legalising marriage equality in France

In the five years since the French Parliament approved same-sex marriage law, it was approximated that 40,000 same-sex couples had married in the country.

2013: Brazil’s National Council of Justice rules that same-sex couples should not be denied marriage licences

According to a 2017 survey, the number of Brazilians who thoght homosexuality should be accepted by society was 74 per cent. However, Brazil is reported to have the highest LGBT murder rate in the world, with more than 380 murders in 2017 alone.

2014: England and Wales become the fi rst countries in the UK to pass marriage equality

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK not to have same-sex marriage legislation.

2014: Scotland’s parliament votes overwhelmingly in favour of legalising same-sex marriage

In addition to allowing same-sex couples to wed, the measure gave churches and other religious groups the option to decide whether or not they want to service same-sex marriages.

2015: Luxembourg overwhelmingly approves legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed and to adopt children

The bill was spearheaded by the country’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel. Bettel married his long-time partner Gauthier Destenay a few months after the legislation passed.

2015: Finland’s marriage equality bill, approved in 2014, goes into effect

Finland was the last Nordic country to introduce same-sex marriage. Although the change has brought it into alignment with its Nordic neighbours, this represents a signifi cant diff erence of approach to neighbouring Russia.

2015: Ireland becomes the fi rst country to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote

62 per cent of the referendum’s respondents voted Yes to amend the Constitution of Ireland to recognise same-sex marriage. Only one county in the entire country voted No.

2015: Greenland, the world’s biggest island, passes same-sex legislation

Although Greenland is an autonomous territory of Denmark, it was not subject to Denmark’s 2012 ruling.

2015: The United States Supreme Court makes marriage equality federal law

The Supreme Court decision did not legalise same-sex marriage on Indian lands, over which it has no legal authority.

2016: Colombia becomes the fourth Latin American country to legalise same-sex marriage

Same-sex couples who married abroad are also entitled to the same visa, healthcare benefi ts, inheritance and pension rights as heterosexual spouses.

2017: Germany becomes the 15th European country to allow same-sex couples to wed

Angla Merkel voted against the legislation, but said that she hoped the result “not only promotes respect between the diff erent opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace”.

2017: Malta’s parliament votes in favour of legalising same-sex marriage

Despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church on the small Mediterranean island, marriage equality was passed by a landslide 66-1 vote.

2017: Australian legislators enact the will of the majority of citizens who overwhelmingly voted in favour of same-sex marriage

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “It is time for more marriages, more commitment, more love, more respect, and we respect every Australian who has voted, those who voted yes, and those who voted no.”

2018: Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands introduces marriage equality

One of the changes to the law covers the status of transgender people in marriage, stating that trans people are able to get married as their true gender without the need for a Gender Recognition Certifi cate.

This article appears in the 346 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 346 Issue of GCN