Where in the World Is Same-Sex Marriage Legal?

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

Where in the World Is Same-Sex Marriage Legal?


Byline: Uri Friedman Washington Post

If same-sex marriage were to become legal in the United States, what club of countries would it be joining? Let's take a tour of the 10 places in the world where same-sex marriage has been legalized -- all in roughly the last decade.

Country: The Netherlands

Year legalized: 2000

How it happened: The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage when the Dutch parliament passed the most sweeping gay rights legislation in the world at the time, overcoming opposition from the Christian Democratic Party and other right-wing parties to homosexual couples adopting children. Lawmakers were operating in a receptive climate, however; a poll at the time showed that 62 percent of Dutch people had no objection to gay marriages.

Country: Belgium

Year legalized: 2003

How it happened: Belgium's law enjoyed support from both the Flemish-speaking North and the French-speaking South, and afforded homosexual couples the same tax and inheritance rights as heterosexual couples.

Country: Spain

Year legalized: 2005

How it happened: In the face of vocal opposition from Catholic officials, the Spanish parliament narrowly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage by adding just one line to existing law: "Marriage will have the same requirements and results when the two people entering into the contract are of the same sex or of different sexes." Gay marriage advocates hailed the language, arguing that it did away with legal distinctions between same-sex and heterosexual unions, while the legislation in Holland and Belgium established a separate category of rights for same-sex couples.

Country: Canada

Year legalized: 2005

How it happened: Canada legalized same-sex marriage around the same time that Spain did, and with similar legislation. The parliamentary action came after a string of court cases had already made same-sex marriage legal in nine of the country's 13 provinces and territories. Conservative leader Stephen Harper vowed to revive the gay marriage debate if he was elected prime minister. But Harper has held that very position since 2006 and the law still stands -- despite attempts to overturn it.

Country: South Africa

Year legalized: 2006

How it happened: South Africa isn't just the first and only African country to legalize same-sex marriage -- it also managed this on a continent where homosexuality is frequently condemned and often illegal.

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