Governments that have
recognized same-sex relationships
The Netherlands were the first country to extend equal marriage rights to homosexuals.
Belgium was second. Spain, South Africa, Canada, and the American
states of Massachusetts and
California legalized same-sex marriage later.
Other jurisdictions grant some legal privileges to same-sex couples, often called
partnerships, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.
Countries which have given some recognition to same-sex marriages:
The status as of 2003-JUL:
In North America:
Same-sex couples, from any country, could be married in the Canadian
provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. [In 2005-AUG, same-sex
marriage was legalized across Canada.]
The states of California, Hawaii, and Vermont in the United States
and the provinces of Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada allowed gays and lesbians to apply for registered
partnerships or civil unions. This gives them some of the rights and
obligations that are automatically enjoyed by heterosexual married
couples. For example, Vermont "civil unionized" couples pick up almost
500 rights and privileges -- all the state has to offer -- but are
denied over 1,000 federal rights and privileges.
Gay and lesbian couples in California became able
to register their relationship with the state government and obtain some
Some American cities have partnership registrations. However,
they grant few, if any, rights.
Same-sex couples in the Netherlands and Belgium can marry. These
countries do not differentiate between same-sex and opposite-sex
couples, except that there are restrictions on same-sex couples where
one spouse is from another country.
A few European countries -- Denmark, France, Iceland, Norway and
Sweden -- offer similar legal status to civil unions.
Many cities in France and Spain have systems for gay and lesbian
couples can register. However, they grant few, if any, rights.
Current recognition of same-sex relationships:
Belgium: On 2003-JAN-30, Belgium became the second country in the world to allow gay
and lesbian couples to marry. However, the legislation does not allow
them to adopt children.
Brazil: Marta Suplicy is a legislator representing the Workers Party. He brought
forward a gay-partnership bill which "assures rights to inheritance, succession,
welfare benefits, joint-income declaration, right to nationality in case of a foreign
partner and joint income in order to buy a house." to gay and lesbian couples.
The bill passed a Senate committee in 1996-DEC by a vote of 11 to 5.
religious elements were able to delay a vote on the bill until 1997-OCT when the Pope will
be visiting the country. They may be motivated by the belief that the Pope may be able to
sway some legislators to vote against the bill.
Canada: The federal marriage act was amended on 2005-AUG to
define marriage as a union of two persons. One exception to this law is
in British Columbia where the polygamous marriages of members of a small
Mormon splinter group are known to the government and allowed to exist. More details.
Cambodia: On 1995-MAR-12, two lesbians (Pum Ethwere & Khav
legally married in Kro Bao Ach Kok village in Kandal province. 95% of Cambodians follow
Theravada Buddhism. This appears to have been a fluke; same-sex marriages
are not allowed by the country's constitution.
Denmark: The first movement towards same-sex partnerships occurred in 1968 with a
proposal by the Socialist People's Party to recognize gay and lesbian
relationships. A committee rejected the idea in 1973 because it would change the
institution of marriage and adversely affect the way that people in other countries viewed
Danish marriages. A commission was formed in 1984 to restudy the matter. Their Parliament
amended laws covering inheritance and tax laws to give same-sex couples equality with
married couples. The Social Democratic Party and the Socialist People's Party
cosponsored a bill in 1989 which would create registered partnerships. On June 7, 1989,
and with the support of about 60% of the population, Folketing (parliament) passed the law
by a vote of 71 to 47. It became effective on 1989-OCT-1.
The Danish gay newspaper Pan-Bladet
reported (circa late 1995) that there have been about 1,449 gay and 634 lesbian registered
partnerships registered under the law. 23% of the lesbians and 14% of the gay couples have
since divorced; 11% have been terminated by the death of one partner. The divorce rate is
lower than for married couples.
Partnership guarantees certain rights that were previously restricted to married
couples: inheritance, insurance plans, pension, social benefits, income tax reductions,
unemployment benefits and social benefits. It also makes them responsible for alimony
payments if they divorce. But they originally were not allowed to have their
partnership ceremony within the state Church of Denmark,
or adopt children or receive free artificial insemination services. The law will probably
be amended in the future to grant some of these rights. Opponents to the law were
concerned that it would generate an influx of gays and lesbians into the country, seeking
benefits. This did not occur, perhaps partly because the law requires one spouse to be a
Danish resident. Not all gays and lesbians supported the law. Some, particularly lesbians,
objected because of past negative experiences while married. Kim
information manager for Denmark's Tourism Department said: "It's had only a
positive effect. It's showing we're an open-minded society." Per Stig
member of the legislature who abstained from voting on the bill, regards the bill as a
success because it has helped stabilize homosexuals in committed relationships. "Now
they live officially..."It works."
In 1997, the bishops of the state church (Danish Lutheran Church) voted to accept
same-sex partnerships. Gay and lesbian couples can now have their
partnership ceremony conducted in the state church.
Starting in 1999, gay and lesbian couples were allowed to adopt
their partner's children. However, they are still not able to adopt
children from outside of their partnership.
France: They have a national health insurance plan which covers the partners of
civil servants (and perhaps others). The French government introduced Civil
Solidarity Pacts (PACS) in 1998. They would give unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex
couples the same tax breaks and legal benefits that are currently enjoyed only by married couples. It would
also make it easier for unmarried heterosexual couples to adopt children; it does not
extend the same option to homosexual couples. Pastor Jean Tartier, president of the Protestant
Federation of France favors the proposed law: "The PACS must be seen as a
contract of solidarity, not a marriage in disguise. If that is the case, this proposition
seems to me clear and positive." Fr. Olivier de la Brosse, spokesperson for the
permanent council of the Roman Catholic bishops took a negative view: "Marriage
and the family are fundamental sacred institutions essential for society. Legislation that
places other unions at the same level creates a serious problem for the structure of
society." Jewish and Muslim spokespersons also took negative views.
A massive demonstration was held in opposition to the
bill by about 100,000 individuals on 1999-JAN-31. The bill was
passed in the National Assembly, and became law on 1999-OCT-13. Under the
law, couples can register at their local courthouses after "three
years of stated fidelity." According to the Feminist Majority
Foundation, "Couples registered under the new law can file
joint tax forms, take simultaneous vacations, are subject to lower
inheritance taxes, and are responsible for each others debts. There is
speculation that the law...will eventually lead to easier adoption and
artificial insemination for gay couples. The law also makes separation
Germany: The Federal government has passed a law which would
allow gay and lesbian couples to exchange vows at a local government
office. They would need to apply to a court for a divorce. They would
receive some of the benefits that are automatically given to heterosexual
married couples -- e.g. inheritance rights and health insurance coverage.
However they are not granted the right to adopt and will not receive the
same tax benefits as heterosexual married couples. The law was championed
by the Green party -- a group devoted to the environment. It was supported
by the ruling Social Democrat coalition partners. passed in the lower house of parliament in the year 2000.
However, the upper house, stripped the law of some tax privileges that are
granted to heterosexual married couples. The states of Bavaria and Saxony
applied to the Federal Constitutional Court for an injunction to prevent
the law from taking effect on 2001-AUG-1. They argued that the law breaks
constitutional provisions that protect heterosexual marriage and the
"family." The court turned down the request for an
injunction but has yet to rule on the complaint. 4
Angelika Baldow and Gudrun Pannier, both 36, became the first couple to
exchange vows in Berlin. Pannier said "I feel great. This is very
symbolic -- a message that Berlin is a tolerant city. It is the
fulfillment of a dream, but it is just the beginning. We haven't got equal
rights yet." Manfred Bruns, spokesperson for the German Lesbian and
Gay Association said: "The registration of life partnerships still does
not being equality, but is a great leap forward in the right direction."
Greenland: is a dependency of Denmark. They adopted the Danish law in 1994.
Hungary: Their Constitutional Court on 1995-MAR-8, declared that: "It is
arbitrary and contrary to human dignity ... that the law withholds recognition from
couples living in an economic and emotional union simply because they are
same-sex...Despite growing acceptance of homosexuality [and] changes in the traditional
definition of a family, there is no reason to change the law on [civil] marriages,".
The court gave Parliament one year to introduce legislation which would recognize same-sex
partnerships and give them the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as have long
been given to opposite-sex common-law couples. Parliament voted 207 to 73 in favor of the
legislation during 1996-MAY. Registered gay and lesbian partnerships now have all of the
privileges of common-law marriages, except for the right to adopt. Some reaction by gay
Laszlo Rusvai: "This will help homosexuals to live together in a legal
framework...I hope this ruling will help the further demolition of social
Rainbow spokesperson Geza Juhasz: "We welcome the fact that parliament
passed this law but I don't think this proves that most MPs are more enlightened. The law
was...imposed on parliament by the Constitutional Court."
Iceland: On 1996-JUN-27, their Althing (Parliament) approved a bill (44 in favor,
1 opposed, 1 abstention, 17 not present) which gives gays and lesbians the right to unite
in a civil ceremony which is recognized by the state. Margaret Olafsdottir, who leads the Association
of 78 (the country's gay rights movement), said "This will revolutionize the
lives of the gay couples in Iceland who have, until now, had to suffer great inequality in
matters regarding insurance, taxes and the rights to inherit from one's partner....This
injustice has, in the past, led to many personal tragedies.". Later, she said: "Iceland
is now in the forefront of countries giving lesbians and gay men the legal right to have
their cohabitation recognized with mutual rights and responsibilities."
custody of children is permitted if one of the spouses has a child when they are married.
But the law does not allow them to adopt children or practice artificial insemination.
They also do not have the right to a church wedding. But they have all of the other rights
and obligations of a married couple.
Three couples (two gay and one lesbian) were married in the Reykjavic central registry
office immediately after the bill was passed. Anna Sigridur Sigurjonsdottir said "We
look upon this as a recognition of our existence." Her new wife, Solveig Magnea
Jonsdottir, added: "This brings with it an unbelievable feeling of freedom."
Whether by accident or intention, the bill was approved during Gay Pride week.
2000-DEC-19, the upper house of the Dutch government passed
a bill that enlarges the concept of marriage in the Netherlands. Since
2001-APR, gay and lesbian couples, who are either citizens of
the Netherlands or who have residency permits, have been able to marry and
adopt. This makes the Netherlands the first western country in recent history to
have legalized gay and lesbian marriages. More details.
New Zealand: They have a Federal law which bans discrimination based on sexual
orientation. Their marriage act does not specifically prohibit same sex marriages; it only
disallows marriages which would "damage the gene pool." However, three
lesbian couples were denied the right to marry. They appealed to the High Court. In
1996-MAY, they lost the case. High Court Justice Kerr apparently did not view their
petition as a civil rights matter, believing that the majority of the people should favor
same-sex marriage before it is legalized. he said: "To give marriage a meaning
which the plaintiffs seek would require me to interpret the law in a way which I do not
perceive Parliament to intend...Community attitudes in 1996 are much more relaxed to gay
and lesbian couples ... but whether that relaxation would extend to supporting marriage of
such couples is difficult to gauge." [The same argument could have been used to
continue a ban on inter-racial marriages in 1967]. One of the plaintiffs, Lindsay Quiltrer
commented: "I refuse to take no for an answer. This is not just about queer
rights. It shows that the Bill of Rights doesn't have the teeth it claimed to have."
Norway: Same as Denmark. Their Odelsting Chamber voted 58-40; their Lagting
Chamber voted 18 to 16. The law came into effect on 1993-AUG-1
South Africa: The country's most senior court legalized
same-sex marriages on 2005-DEC-01. However, their ruling was delayed for
twelve months to allow the government to modify the Marriage Act.
Sweden: Similar to Denmark. The vote was 171-141 with 5 abstentions and 32
absences! The law became effective on 1995-JAN-1. Their Prime Minister, Carl
Bildt, said "We
accept homosexual love as equivalent to heterosexual,"
Spain: Same as Denmark (since 1996).
Slovenia: The Federal Government's Bureau for Women's Politics announced
on 1996-MAR-23 that same sex marriages should be available within two years.
Cities: About 20 cities offer registration of same-sex relationships.
However, they carry little or no legal worth.
Hawaii: Gay and Lesbian marriages were legal for a
few hours during early 1996-DEC in Hawaii after a court ruling.
A stay of the ruling was obtained by the state of Hawaii shortly afterwards.
The people of Hawaii later passed a constitutional amendment
prohibiting same-sex marriages.
The Supreme Court of Vermont ruled in favor of three same-sex couples
and required the Vermont legislature to pass a law that allows
homosexual couples to enter civil unions.
grants same-sex couples the same rights, obligations and benefits that
the state automatically gives to heterosexual married couples.
Massachusetts: On 2003-NOV-19, in a split 4-3 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court
ruled that the state constitution allowed same-sex marriage, and that
the state had to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting on
2004-MAY-17. More details.
California: On 2008-MAY-14, by another split 4-3, Proposition 22 was
overturned as being unconstitutional. California became the second state in
which both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples can now marry.
Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples is a "national resource
for same-sex couples, supporting the diverse community of committed gay and lesbian
partners through a variety of media." Actually, they are an international
resource. See: http://www.buddybuddy.com Their
postal address is Box 9685, Seattle, WA 98109-0685, USA. Their phone is (206) 935-1206.
E-mail them at [email protected]