Same-sex marriage

marriage of persons of the same sex

Same-sex marriage (also known as gay marriage)[1] is a relationship in which two people of the same sex (same gender) live together as a family in a governmentally, socially, or religiously recognized marriage. Access to same-sex marriage is sometimes called marriage equality, especially by supporters.[2][3]

Map showing the legal status of same-sex unions in the countries of the world.
  Same-sex marriage is recognized
  Same-sex unions are available that are similar to marriage
  The country/state affords some minimal recognition of same-sex couples
  Marriage licenses for same-sex couples, that were issued in other states or countries, are fully recognized
  Marriage licenses for same-sex couples, that were issued in other states or countries, are given minimal recognition
  Same-sex marriage is pending: the government has passed legislation, or the supreme court has ordered that same-sex marriage should be legal, but no law is in effect
  The state or country is subject to an international court that has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage
  Same-sex unions are not recognized

Current status


Marriage under civil law is presently available to same-sex couples in the following countries: Andorra Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark (including Greenland and Faroe Islands), Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands (Netherlands proper; pending in Aruba and Curaçao), New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay. In Ecuador, Taiwan and some states in Mexico, same-sex married couples are not allowed to adopt children the way other married couples are.

The Netherlands was the first country in modern times to allow marriages of two people of the same sex, in 2001.[4] Same-sex marriage became legal everywhere in the United States in 2015. The Supreme Court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry was unconstitutional.[5] There are various faiths that practise same-sex marriages, including Eckankar, Wicca, Unitarian Universalism, Raelism, and Native American religions with a two-spirit tradition.

Legalization of same-sex marriage: summary table
State Dates
First jurisdiction
National ruling or
final jurisdiction
  Netherlands 2001 (to be determined)
  Belgium 2003
  Canada 2003 2005
  United States* 2004 2015
  Spain 2005
  South Africa 2006
  Norway 2009
  Sweden 2009
  Mexico 2010 2022
  Portugal 2010
  Iceland 2010
  Argentina 2010
  Brazil 2012 2013
  Denmark 2012 2017
  France 2013
  Uruguay 2013
  New Zealand* 2013
  United Kingdom* 2014 2020
  Luxembourg 2015
  Ireland 2015
  Colombia 2016
  Finland 2017
  Malta 2017
  Germany 2017
  Australia 2017
  Austria 2019
  Taiwan 2019
  Ecuador 2019
  Costa Rica 2020
  Chile 2022
  Switzerland 2022
  Slovenia 2022
  Cuba 2022
  Andorra 2023 (pending)

* This state controls one or more territories where same-sex marriage is not legal.



In the Netherlands, a same-sex marriage law does not actually exist. Back in 2001, the existing (normal) marriage law was 'only' changed, so that it now includes marriage of same-sex partners. This means that same-sex marriage in the Netherlands is not different from a normal marriage; it's exactly the same. The Dutch law says the following:

A marriage is possible between two persons of different or same sex

—Dutch civil law, book 1, article 30[6]

That is consistent with the first article of the Dutch civil law, and with the Dutch constitution:

All who are in the Netherlands, are free to benefit from civil rights

Dutch civil law, book 1, article 1[7]

All who are in the Netherlands, are to be treated equal in equal circumstances. Discrimination by religion, philosophy, political preference, race, gender, or by any means possible is forbidden.

Dutch constitution, article 1[8]

Civil unions


The first same-sex union in modern history was recognized by the government in Denmark in 1989. It provided many of the right of marriage, but not all.

Civil unions, civil partnership, domestic partnership, unregistered partnership/unregistered co-habitation or registered partnerships that offer some of the benefits of marriage are available in the following countries and territories that do not provide same-sex marriage: Andorra, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary (unregistered co-habitation since 1996; registered partnership from 2009), Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Veracruz in Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Aruba in the Netherlands, San Marino, Slovenia, and the UK possession of the Cayman Islands.


Adoption laws and same-sex marriage:
  A couple in a same-sex union is allowed to adopt an unrelated child
  If one person in a same-sex union has a child, the other is allowed to adopt and be the second parent of that child
  Countries with no adoption or marriage for same-sex couples
  Countries with same-sex marriage, but where adoption by those couples is not allowed, even if one person in the marriage is already the parent of that child

Same-sex marriage does not always mean marriage equality. In many countries, adoption law and reproductive rights are independent of marriage law. For example, same-sex couples may be allowed to marry, and "married" couples may be allowed to adopt children, but same-sex married couples may not be allowed to adopt. This was the situation in Portugal for several years. Currently (2023), same-sex married couples are prevented from adopting children in Ecuador, Taiwan, and several states of Mexico. On the other hand, a few countries have allowed same-sex couples to adopt children, even while they do not allow them to marry. Usually these countries have civil unions. An example in 2022 is Croatia.



The controversy over recognition of same-sex unions as marriages is a very important part of a larger debate about the definition of a family. Same-sex marriage is not considered as valid by many religions. Many others, however, see same-sex marriage as important for all people to be equal. They sometimes say that religions and law (Defense of Marriage Act, for example) who do not support same-sex marriage are intolerant (they do not show respect to other peoples' beliefs). Additionally, people married in civil unions usually do not enjoy all the benefits (lower taxes, health insurance etc.).

Organizations involved in same sex marriage


Various organizations exist in part to support the rights of homosexual or gay men and women to marry people of the same sex. One organization is the Human Rights Campaign or HRC.

  1. "gay marriage". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  2. 2010, Tracy Baim, Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage, page 139: said that he would vote for a federal marriage amendment if laws already banning marriage equality were to be struck down by federal courts
  3. Australian gay politician travels to Spain in order to marry partner retrieved 6 January 2012
  4. Norwegian Matrimony law
  5. "US Supreme Court rules in favour of same-sex marriage nationwide in win for gay rights movement". ABC News. ABC. 27 June 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  6. Burgerlijk wetboek Artikel 30 (in Dutch)
  7. Burgerlijk wetboek Artikel 1(in Dutch)
  8. Nederlandse grondwet, artikel 1 (in Dutch)



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