Friday, February 07, 2020

Marriage Equality Around the World

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Amsterdam City Hall, April 1, 2001 - Photo by Rex Wockner
Article maintained with assistance from Evan Wolfson, Rob Salerno and Andrés Duque. Last update: Feb. 7, 2020.

Same-sex couples can marry in 28 nations and in 47 other jurisdictions around the world:

Netherlands (2001), Saba (2012), Bonaire (2012), Sint Eustatius (2012)

Belgium (2003)

Canada (2003-2005)

USA (2004-2015), Guam (2015), Northern Mariana Islands (2015), Puerto Rico (2015), U.S. Virgin Islands (2015)

Spain (2005), Canary Islands (2005), Ceuta (2005), Melilla (2005)

South Africa (2006)

Norway (2009)

Sweden (2009)

Argentina (2010)

Iceland (2010)

Portugal (2010), Azores (2010), Madeira (2010)

Mexico (2010-2020; full article here)

Denmark (2012), Greenland (2016), Faroe Islands (2017)

France (2013), French Guiana (2013), French Polynesia (2013), Guadeloupe (2013), Martinique (2013), Mayotte (2013), New Caledonia (2013), Réunion (2013), Saint Barthélemy (2013), Saint Martin (2013), Saint Pierre and Miquelon (2013), Wallis and Futuna (2013)

Brazil (2013)

Uruguay (2013)

New Zealand (2013)

England and Wales (2014), Akrotiri and Dhekelia (2014), British Indian Ocean Territory (2014, 2015), Scotland (2014), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (2014), Pitcairn Islands (2015), Ascension Island (2016), Isle of Man (2016), British Antarctic Territory (2016), Gibraltar (2016), Guernsey (2017), Falkland Islands (2017), Tristan da Cunha (2017), Saint Helena (2017), Jersey (2018), Alderney (2018), Bermuda (2017, 2018, see "Notes" below), Northern Ireland (2020), Sark (2020)

Luxembourg (2015)

Ireland (2015)

Colombia (2016)

Finland (2017)

Malta (2017)

Germany (2017)

Australia (2017), Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island

Austria (2019)

Taiwan (2019)

Ecuador (2019)

Final rulings issued

Costa Rica

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice struck down the nation's ban on marriage equality on Aug. 8, 2018, but delayed its ruling from taking effect until May 26, 2020 (18 months after it was published in the Judicial Bulletin). The ruling was a direct result of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' November 2017 marriage-equality ruling, which instructed Costa Rica and 14 other nations without marriage equality to let same-sex couples marry. Those nations, signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights, are Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Suriname. Five other signatory nations have marriage equality: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay. Mexico has full marriage equality in 18 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, the federal capital.

Costa Rica's April 2018 presidential election morphed into a referendum on marriage equality after evangelical Christian Fabricio Alvarado catapulted into first place in the first round by making resistance to the Inter-American Court ruling the centerpiece of his campaign. Although polls showed the runoff between the top two vote-getters to be too close to call, marriage-equality supporter Carlos Alvarado won the election 61% to 39%.

Fifteen Americas nations

"THE COURT DECIDES ... by six votes to one that: ... Under Articles 1(1), 2, 11(2), 17 and 24 of the [American] Convention [on Human Rights], States must ensure full access to all the mechanisms that exist in their domestic laws, including the right to marriage, to ensure the protection of the rights of families formed by same-sex couples, without discrimination in relation to those that are formed by heterosexual couples, as established in paragraphs 200 to 228."

In a binding ruling made on Nov. 24, 2017, and published Jan. 9, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights instructed 20 nations that are signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights to let same-sex couples marry: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay. Five of the nations — Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay — have marriage equality, and Mexico has marriage equality in 18 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, the federal capital.

"All countries are obligated to apply the Convention as the court applies it, so it is binding on all as precedent," said Hunter T. Carter, a partner at Arent Fox who has tried a case in the Inter-American Court and represents Chilean same-sex couples in the Inter-American system.


Dutch Caribbean

Overseas municipalities Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have marriage equality. Constituent countries Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten do not, though they partially recognize Dutch marriages from elsewhere.


Mexican states (there are 31) are a hotspot of the marriage-equality movement. To date, 18 states and the federal capital Mexico City have achieved marriage equality via three different pathways. My article is here.

French places

All overseas departments and collectivities — see the France entry above — have marriage equality. The links above show a same-sex couple marrying in nine of the 11 jurisdictions.

British places

See above for the lengthy list of British places with marriage equality. Five overseas territories — Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands — do not have marriage equality.


In June 2018, the Bermuda government became the first in the world to end marriage equality, which had been brought in by a court, replacing it with domestic partnerships. The repeal lasted until November 2018, when a court ruling took effect striking down the portion of the domestic-partnership law that re-banned marriage equality. The government has appealed that ruling to the British overseas territory's court of final appeal, the United Kingdom Privy Council. Same-sex couples may continue to marry during the appeal process.

There has been only one other repeal of marriage equality in history: California voters ended marriage equality via a ballot initiative (Proposition 8) in 2008. A court ruling overturning the voters' decision took effect in 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the initiative's sponsors. Voters in the U.S. state of Maine blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force in 2009, then reversed themselves and allowed marriage equality in 2012. Voters in Slovenia blocked a marriage-equality law from coming into force in 2015. A court ruling in the British overseas territory Cayman Islands allowed marriage equality for 13 days in 2019 before a higher court issued a stay. No same-sex couple married during that time.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands Grand Court legalized marriage equality on March 29, 2019, striking down the British overseas territory's ban. On April 10, 2019, the day the first marriage was to take place, the Court of Appeal issued a stay of the Grand Court ruling, blocking marriage equality until the government's appeal of the ruling ran its course. On Nov. 7, 2019, the Court of Appeal overturned the lower-court ruling but said legislators must provide the plaintiffs with a legal status equivalent to marriage. On Jan. 22, 2020, the plaintiffs said they will take the matter to the court of final appeal, the Privy Council in London, where Bermuda's marriage-equality case is already pending. Of the 25 British jurisdictions scattered around the globe, only five now don't have marriage equality: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands.


On May 22, 2015, Ireland became the first nation to bring in marriage equality by popular vote. Irish people amended their constitution by a landslide margin of 62.07% to 37.93%.

U.S. territories

Four of the five U.S. territories — Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands — were covered by the U.S. Supreme Court's nationwide marriage-equality ruling on June 26, 2015. American Samoa was not.

The United States Minor Outlying Islands — Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll and Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean, and Navassa Island in the Caribbean Sea — would have marriage equality. Their population nowadays is a small number of temporarily assigned scientists and military personnel.


Marriage equality exists in much of Antarctica, given the nations that claim portions of the continent as national territory: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom.

On the high seas

Same-sex couples can marry at sea on Celebrity Cruises ships, courtesy of the Malta Parliament's passage of marriage equality in July 2017.

U.S. Indian tribes

There are 574 of them and they are not covered by the June 26, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court ruling that brought in marriage equality nationwide. At least 28 tribes, listed below, have legalized same-sex marriage to date. A number of others follow the marriage law of the state in which they are located, so marriage equality is in place without additional tribal action.

• Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon (2009)
• Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut (2010)
• Suquamish Tribe in Washington (2011)
• Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe in Washington (2012)
• Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan (2013)
• Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington (2013)
• Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan (2013)
• Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California (2013)
• Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma (2013)
• Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota (2013)
• Puyallup Tribe of Indians in Washington (2014)
• Eastern Shoshone Tribe and Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming (2014)
• Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes in Alaska (2015)
• Oneida Tribe in Wisconsin (2015)
• Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan (2015)
• Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in Oregon (2015)
• Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon (2015)
• Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin (2016)
• Tulalip Tribes in Washington (2016)
• Menominee Indian Tribe in Wisconsin (2016)
• Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma (2016)
• Prairie Island Mdewakanton Dakota Community in Minnesota (2017)
• Osage Nation in Oklahoma (2017)
• Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin (2017)
• Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona (2017)
• Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota (2019)
• Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan (2019)
• Colorado River Indian Tribes in Californa/Nevada/Arizona (2019)

Watch list

This section is now a separate article: Worldwide Marriage Equality Watch List. Click here to read about the places on the planet most likely to see marriage equality next, as well as places where marriage equality has become a high-profile topic.

Geography lesson

Where are those 47 other jurisdictions of Australia, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and USA?

• Christmas Island » Indian Ocean
• Cocos (Keeling) Islands » Indian Ocean
• Norfolk Island » South Pacific Ocean

• Faroe Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Greenland » between North Atlantic and Arctic oceans

• French Guiana » South America
• French Polynesia » South Pacific Ocean
• Guadeloupe » Caribbean Sea
• Martinique » Caribbean Sea
• Mayotte » Indian Ocean
• New Caledonia » South Pacific Ocean
• Réunion » Indian Ocean
• Saint Barthélemy » Caribbean Sea
• Saint Martin » Caribbean Sea
• Saint Pierre and Miquelon » next to Newfoundland
• Wallis and Futuna » South Pacific Ocean

• Bonaire » Caribbean Sea
• Saba » Caribbean Sea
• Sint Eustatius » Caribbean Sea

• Azores » North Atlantic Ocean
• Madeira » North Atlantic Ocean

• Canary Islands » North Atlantic Ocean
• Ceuta » Africa
• Melilla » Africa

United Kingdom
• Akrotiri and Dhekelia » Cyprus
• Alderney » English Channel
• Ascension Island » South Atlantic Ocean
• Bermuda » North Atlantic Ocean
• British Antarctic Territory
• British Indian Ocean Territory
• Falkland Islands » South Atlantic Ocean
• Gibraltar » attached to Spain
• Guernsey » English Channel
• Isle of Man » Irish Sea
• Jersey » English Channel
• Northern Ireland » Island of Ireland
• Pitcairn Islands » South Pacific Ocean
• Saint Helena » South Atlantic Ocean
• Sark » English Channel
• Scotland » Great Britain
• South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands » South Atlantic Ocean
• Tristan da Cunha » South Atlantic Ocean
• Wales » Great Britain

• Guam » North Pacific Ocean
• Northern Mariana Islands » North Pacific Ocean
• Puerto Rico » Caribbean Sea
• U.S. Virgin Islands » Caribbean Sea