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Same-sex marriages (SSM) and civil unions

Snapshot of governments' recognition of
same-sex relationships as of mid-2005

The status of government recognition of same-sex relationships as of 2005-JUN:

In Europe:

  • Denmark introduced the first civil partnership law for same-sex committed couples in 1989.

  • Two European countries, The Netherlands (since 2001) and Belgium (since 2002), allowed same-sex marriage (SSM). That is, committed, same-sex couples can simply marry just as opposite-sex couples can, and thereby gain the same responsibilities, protections, rights, status, etc. for themselves and their children.

  • A total of eight countries in "the European Union...have provision for legally recognizing those in committed same sex partnerships." 1 They are:
    • Denmark: Registered partnerships since 1989.

    • Finland: Registered partnerships since 2001.

    • France: Civil Solidarity Pacts since 1999.

    • Germany: Partnership registration, since 2001

    • Portugal: Partnership rights since 2001

    • Spain: Partnership recognition in some states.

    • Sweden: Registered partnerships since 1994.

    • Switzerland: Registered partnerships since 2005. On 2002-SEP-22, Zurich adults voted 63% to 37% to give same-sex couples the right to marry. This only applied to the canton of Zurich in Switzerland. More details

    "The rights and responsibilities attached to the different arrangements vary." 11

In the United States:

The LA Times has a fascinating dynamic map showing changes to same-sex marriage and civil unions across the U.S., starting in on 2000-JAN-01 and extending to election day on 2012-NOV-06. See:

As of the middle of 2005:

  • California gradually phased in certain restricted benefits for same-sex couples in 2001. They made domestic partnerships available to same-sex couples in 2005-JAN-01. These are similar to Vermont's civil unions. More details.

  • Connecticut's legislature approved a civil union bill on 2005-APR-20. It was signed into law by the governor within hours. It took effect on 2005-OCT-01. More details

  • Vermont: The state Supreme Court determined that the existing marriage laws in the state violated the state constitution. The legislature approved a system of civil unions for same-sex couples which became effective on 2000-JUL-1. The rights and privileges granted under this law are similar to those given by the state to all married couples. The 1,138 Federal rights and obligations are denied couples who enter civil unions. The rights given to couples in civil unions are not transportable to other states in the U.S. Thus, if a civil unionized couple in Vermont steps over the state line, they are regarded simply as roommates. More details.

  • Massachusetts: The Supreme Judicial Court ruled on 2004-MAY that the state constitution requires same-sex marriage, and that the state had to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Committed same-sex couples have been able to marry in the state since 2004-MAY-17. However their marriages are not recognized by the Federal government, so they do not receive any of the over 1,000 federal rights and obligations of opposite-sex marriage. More details.

  • Developments after 2005-JUN

In Canada:

The provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, and Nova Scotia had civil-union-type arrangements in place.

  • 2003-JUN: Ontario, Canada: The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses and register their marriages in the province. They obtain full provincial and federal rights. More details

  • 2003-JUL: British Columbia, Canada: The British Columbia Court of Appeal had ordered implementation of same-sex marriages in the province starting in 2004-JUL-12. On 2003-JUL-08, they issued a supplementary ruling ordering the government to start issuing licenses immediately. More details

  • 2004-MAR: Québec, Canada: On 2004-MAR-20, the provincial Court of Appeal upheld the Quebec Superior Court's decision to permit SSM. They became available immediately. More details

  • 2004-JUL: Yukon, Canada: The Yukon Supreme Court ruled on 2004-JUL-14 that SSM was legal. More details.

  • 2004-SEP: Manitoba, Canada: On 2004-SEP-14, The Court of Queen's Bench noted that 12 or more other Canadian judges had already decided that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is a violation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- the country's constitution. The court declared the marriage act in Manitoba to be unconstitutional and ordered the definition of marriage to be immediately "reformulated to mean a voluntary union for life of two persons at the exclusion of all others."  More details

  • 2004-SEP: Nova Scotia, Canada: The province's Supreme Court ruled on 2004-SEP-24 that "civil marriage between two persons of the same sex is therefore lawful and valid." More details

  • 2004-NOV: Saskatchewan, Canada: The Family Law Division of the Court of Queen's Bench ruled that: "The common-law definition of marriage for civil purposes is declared to be 'the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others'."  More details

  • 2004-DEC: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: The Supreme Court of Newfoundland ordered the province to recognize same-sex marriages. The lawsuit was heard on DEC-19 and 20; the ruling was handed down on DEC-21. More details

  • 2005-JUN-23: New Brunswick, Canada: Court of Queen's Bench Justice Judy Clendenning determined that the civil definition of marriage in the province should be broadened to include same-sex couples. She gave the province ten days in which to make the necessary administrative adjustments. More details

However, these arrangements were largely superseded by the availability of marriage across the entire country (except for Prince Edward Island) on 2005-JUL-20. PEI later followed the federal law, but only when threatened by a lawsuit which they had a 100% certainty of losing.

In other countries:

  • Argentina: Partnership registration since 2003 in Buenos Aires city and Rio Negro province.

  • Australia:  The country has implemented cohabitation rights since 1994 in the Capitol Territory, 1999 in New South Wales, and 2001 in Victoria.

  • Hungary: Registered partnerships since 1996.

  • Iceland: Registered partnerships since 1996.

  • Liechtenstein: Registered partnerships since 2002.

  • New Zealand: A civil union bill came into effect on 2005-APR. More details

  • Norway: Registered partnerships since 1993.

  • Developments after 2005-JUN
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References used:

  1. "Civil Partnership: A framework for the legal recognition of same sex couples," Women & Equality Unit, at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  2. J.S. Spong, "Three cheers for the New Jersey Supreme Court," A new Christianity for a New World newsletter, 2006-NOV-01.

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Copyright © 2005 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-27
Latest update: 2013-APR-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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