Marriage Equality Around The World

By Jerome West


Last December, Australia’s Federal Parliament voted in a landslide to legalize same-sex marriage after a public vote in November showed overwhelming support for marriage Equality. During a speech on the floor of Parliament, Tom Wilson asked his partner, Ryan Bolger, to marry him. This dramatic moment in the House of Representatives was the first time a politician proposed from the floor of the governing body (Bolger said yes). With this landmark legislation, Australia became the 26th nation in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry and the 3rd nation to do so in 2017 (along with Germany and Malta).

The World

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in December of 2000. Same-sex marriage is legal in the following countries:


Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, England & Wales, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay and the United States.

England and Wales are counted as one country and Scotland as a separate country because those part of the United Kingdom passed two separate pieces of marriage equality legislation. Northern Ireland, the other U.K. constituent state, has not yet legalized same-sex marriage. Certain regions of Mexico recognize marriage equality, but the nation, as a whole, does not (much like certain states legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. before the Obergefell opinion in 2015).

No country in Asia recognizes same-sex marriage; however, a constitutional court in Taiwan ruled in May of 2017 that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), at least 71 countries (37% of United Nation member states) outlaw same-sex sexual activity. The death penalty is used as punishment for same-sex sexual activity in eight nations: Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The United States

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land in Obergefell v. Hodges after a sweeping change in public opinion on the issue. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2001, 57% of American opposed same-sex weddings; in 2017, 62% supported it.

The potential landmark case now before the Supreme Court, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, brings the issue of marriage equality back into the courtroom as justices consider the legal relationship between gay rights and religious freedom. The ruling in this case could have wide-ranging implications for anti-discrimination laws for the LGBTQ community and other minorities across America.


This past February, Bermuda became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize and then repeal same-sex marriage. Many see this as an unprecedented rollback of civil rights by the British territory. Governor John Rankin signed into law a bill reversing the rights of gay couples to marry, despite a supreme court ruling last year that brought marriage equality to the island. According to the government, the legislation—which, replaced same-sex weddings with domestic partnerships—would balance opposition to same-sex marriage on the socially conservative island while complying with European court rulings that ensure recognition and protection for same sex couples.

Vociferously attacking the legislation, LGBTQ civil rights groups say that domestic partnerships amounted to a second-class status and that it was unprecedented for a jurisdiction to take away the legal right to marry after it had been granted.

Kevin Dallas, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), fears the new law will have crippling consequences for the territory’s tourism industry. Luxury tourism is one of the main sources of income for Bermuda. Dallas cites the very public controversies in the U.S. when Republican leaders in North Carolina and Indian attempted to roll back LGBTQ rights, only to face boycotts from businesses and suffer major financial losses from various segments of their economies.

Despite lobbying attempts by LGBT rights groups, lawyers and business groups like the BTA on behalf of marriage equality, February’s Domestic Partnership Act is now the law of the land in Bermuda.

The High Seas

In January, Celebrity Cruises held the first gay wedding on the high seas. Francisco Vargas and Benjamin Gray were wed in a ceremony officiated by Capt. Dimitrios Manetas. Celebrity Cruises, which is registered in Malta, has been allowed to legally recognize same-sex weddings performed at sea since that country legalizes same-sex marriages in July of 2017.

Jerome West