Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Worldwide marriage equality watch list

Amsterdam City Hall, April 1, 2001 - Photo by Rex
This is a companion article to my article Marriage Equality Around the World. Here we track the nations and other jurisdictions most likely to see marriage equality next. Last update: April 18, 2018.
The Constitutional Court struck down the ban on marriage equality on Dec. 5, 2017, and also extended the nation's same-sex registered-partnership law to opposite-sex couples. The ruling takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, if the government doesn't implement it sooner.
Marriage equality arrived in Bermuda on May 5, 2017, via a court ruling. On Feb. 7, 2018, the United Kingdom's governor in the British overseas territory, John Rankin, signed a bill passed by Parliament that repealed marriage equality and replaced it with domestic partnerships that included all the benefits of marriage. Then, on Feb. 28, 2018, while the partnership law was awaiting formalities that would bring it into force, the government announced that it would delay the law from taking effect until June 1. The timing is notable. On Feb. 16, 2018, former Bermuda Attorney-General Mark Pettingill filed suit on behalf of a gay man who wants to get married, arguing that Parliament's repeal of marriage equality was unconstitutional. The case will be heard in May and could see a ruling before June 1, potentially undoing Bermuda's repeal of marriage equality before it takes effect. In early April, a second lawsuit was filed by OUTBermuda with backing from cruise lines owner Carnival Corporation.
The only other place ever to repeal marriage equality was California, where voters halted it in 2008 and federal courts reinstated it in 2013. Voters in the U.S. state of Maine once blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force, in 2009, and then reversed themselves and allowed marriage equality, in 2012. Voters in Slovenia blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force in 2015.
Cayman Islands
A couple is suing the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean Sea between Cuba and Mexico, after being denied a marriage license because they are women, Cayman News Service reported April 18, 2018. "The lack of [legal recognition of same-sex couples] in the Cayman Islands is a clear and unequivocal breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is binding on the Cayman Islands government," said fiancée Chantelle Day. For lists of United Kingdom jurisdictions with and without marriage equality, see my article Marriage Equality Around the World.
A marriage-equality bill is pending in Congress and both houses have majority support for marriage equality. The new president, Sebastián Piñera, however, doesn't seem particularly eager. Chile is required to bring in marriage equality to comply with a 2016 settlement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The nation is also bound by the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling, which created binding precedent for 16 nations without marriage equality that are signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights. See the "Sixteen Americas nations" item in the "Final rulings issued" section of my article Marriage Equality Around the World.
Costa Rica
On Jan. 9, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Costa Rica to let same-sex couples marry. The ruling was immediately binding on Costa Rica but bureaucrats at the nation's Superior Notary Council have prevented marriage equality from starting.
Six marriage-equality cases are pending in the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica's Supreme Court of Justice — four of them filed since the Inter-American Court ruling. The cases include actions of unconstitutionality against the nation's Family Code, which prohibits marriage equality, as well as amparos — individuals' demands for protection from discriminatory government action. The amparos target the government for not complying with the Inter-American Court ruling, the Superior Notary Council for blocking couples' marriages after the Inter-American Court ruling, and the Constitutional Chamber justices themselves for not having ruled on the older cases.
Costa Rica's presidential election, held April 1, 2018, morphed into a referendum on marriage equality after an evangelical Christian, Fabricio Alvarado, catapulted into first place in the first round (besting 12 other candidates) by making resistance to the Inter-American Court ruling the centerpiece of his campaign. Polls showed the runoff between the top two vote-getters to be too close to call, but on election day, marriage-equality supporter Carlos Alvarado won in a landslide — 61% to 39%.
(The Inter-American Court ruling is also binding legal precedent for 15 other nations without marriage equality: Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Suriname.)
A marriage-equality case (an "extraordinary protection action") is pending before Ecuador's Constitutional Court and the ruling is, by law, overdue. In the wake of the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling, if the Ecuador decision doesn't come soon, plaintiffs say they will advance to the Inter-American system. On Jan. 15, 2018, the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations called on President Lenín Moreno to recognize marriage equality immediately.
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, doesn't have a government because the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin power-sharing agreement collapsed in January 2017 and hasn't been restored due to disagreement about marriage equality and local language rights. It is possible any resolution to the impasse could see introduction of equal marriage in the last major area of the United Kingdom that doesn't have it. It is also increasingly possible that, in the absence of a Northern Ireland government, marriage equality will be imposed by the UK Parliament in London. Meanwhile, a failed attempt to achieve marriage equality via the courts is on appeal.
Lawyer Iván Chanis Barahona, head of Panama's marriage-equality group, La Fundación Iguales Panamá, says the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling is "totally binding" on Panama. "Case closed." A Panama Supreme Court of Justice draft opinion rejecting marriage equality that had been circulating at the court was withdrawn on Feb. 15, 2018, because of the Inter-American Court ruling. On Jan. 16, 2018, Panamanian Vice President Isabel De Saint Malo said the Inter-American court ruling is indeed binding ("vinculante") on Panama.
According to activists, there's nothing in Paraguay's constitution that stands in the way of marriage equality. In the wake of the January 2018 marriage-equality ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, activist group SomosGay announced two new lawsuits at the nation's Supreme Court of Justice. As a first step, the suits seek recognition of two marriages of same-sex couples who married abroad.
In the wake of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' January 2018 marriage-equality ruling, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Duberlí Rodríguez, said, "Peru is part of the Inter-American system, and the organism that defends and protects these rights is called the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and ... if the court has taken a decision, I believe that all the parties are called to respect that decision." In March 2018, a court ruling that had forced the national registry to register veteran activist Óscar Ugarteche's Mexican marriage to his husband was overturned on a technicality related to the timing of the filing of his lawsuit. He is appealing that ruling. A marriage-equality bill was introduced in Congress in 2017 and is awaiting action by the Justice Committee.
The Supreme Court will hear a marriage-equality case June 19, 2018. President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed support for marriage equality.
The Constitutional Court declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on May 24, 2017, and gave the Legislative Yuan no more than two years to change laws. If it doesn't, marriage equality arrives automatically.
Opponents are trying to force public votes on the definition of marriage and on creating civil unions for same-sex couples instead of letting them marry. If opponents collect 281,745 valid voter signatures, per question, by the end of August, then on Nov. 24 voters will be asked: "Do you agree with using means other than the marriage regulations in the Civil Code to protect the rights of two people of the same gender to build a permanent life together?" and "Do you agree that the marriage regulations in the Civil Code should define marriage as between a man and a woman?"
If a voter referendum passes that conflicts with a Constitutional Court ruling, the law created by the referendum would have to be challenged in a new court case. Meanwhile, marriage-equality activists are urging the Legislative Yuan to stop delaying implementation of the 2017 Constitutional Court ruling and immediately bring in marriage equality by adding same-sex couples to the marriage regulations in the Civil Code.
Two marriage-equality lawsuits are in their final stage in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, reports Venezuela Igualitaria. The group said it expects rulings soon and expects to win. One lawsuit targets a Civil Code article that says, "Marriage cannot be contracted except between one man and one woman." The other lawsuit alleges a "legislative omission" resulting from the National Assembly's failure to take up the Equal Civil Marriage Bill (Proyecto de Ley de Matrimonio Civil Igualitario). "2018 looks to be a year with favorable judicial decisions on our ... cases for the rights of LGBTI people," Venezuela Igualitaria said.
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