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Same-sex marriage now legal in 30 countries

Published Dec 08, 2021 10:16 am

With Chilean lawmakers approving a same-sex marriage bill Tuesday, we look at the situation across the globe. While the right to marry has been legalized in 30 countries, homosexuality remains banned in many parts of the world. 

Europe, gay marriage pioneers

On Oct. 1, 1989, for the first time in the world, several gay couples in Denmark tied the knot in civil unions, which while giving their relationships a legal standing fell short of full marriage. 

It was the Netherlands that first allowed gay marriages, giving more rights in April 2001. 

Since then 16 European countries have followed suit in accepting gay marriages: Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and most recently Switzerland. 

Other European countries allow only weaker civil partnerships for the LGBTQ community—including Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia, which rejected gay marriages in a 2015 referendum. 

The Czech government has backed draft legizlation that would make the country the first post-communist member of the European Union to legalize same-sex marriage, but its fate is uncertain. 

In Romania a referendum aimed at enshrining a ban on gay marriage in the constitution failed in 2018 because of a low turnout. 

Progress in the Americas 

Canada was the first American country to authorize same-sex marriage in 2005.

In 2015, the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide at a time when it was banned in 14 out of 50 states. 

However the United States' first gay marriage actually took place in 1971, when a Minnesota couple obtained a marriage licence thanks to an overlooked legal loophole. The marriage was officially recognized in March 2019, after a five-decade legal battle. 

In Latin America, six countries allow same-sex marriages: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Costa Rica, which rubber-stamped it last year. 

Mexico's federal capital authorized gay marriages in 2009. Half of its 32 states have followed.

Chile legalized gay civil unions in 2015, and its congress on Tuesday passed a bill legalizing full-blown same-sex marriage. 

Cuba left changes that would have paved the way for legal same-sex marriage out of its new constitution adopted in 2019. In 2021, a draft of a new family code opened the door to same-sex marriage, but it will be put to a referendum. 

Taiwan, first in Asia 

While much of Asia is tolerant of homosexuality, in May 2019 Taiwan became the first in the region to allow gay marriage. 

In Japan, a court in northern Sapporo ruled in 2021 that the country's failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, in a landmark first verdict on the issue. 

Australia (2017) and New Zealand (2013) are the only places in the wider Asia-Pacific region to have passed gay marriage laws. 

In the Middle East, where homosexuality is repressed, Israel leads the way in terms of gay rights, recognizing same-sex marriages that are sealed elsewhere although not allowing such unions in the country itself. 

Several countries in the conservative region still have the death penalty for homosexuality, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

Africa: marriage in one country

South Africa is the sole nation on the African continent to allow gay marriage, which it legalized in 2006. 

Around 30 African countries ban homosexuality, with Mauritania, Somalia and Sudan having the death penalty for same-sex relations. (AFP)