Monday, August 13, 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: August 13, 2018.
Austria
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.
Bermuda
A law repealing marriage equality and replacing it with domestic partnerships that offer the benefits of marriage took effect June 1, 2018, making the Bermuda government the first in the world to end marriage equality. On June 6, 2018, the portion of the law that re-banned marriage equality was struck down by the same court that had legalized marriage equality in May 2017. On July 5, 2018, the goverment appealed the new strikedown to the Court of Appeal, which meets three times a year and is composed of three foreign judges. After that court rules, there could be one final appeal to the United Kingdom Privy Council.
There has been only one other repeal of marriage equality in history: California voters ended marriage equality via a ballot initiative (Prop 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 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 sued the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean Sea, on June 20, 2018, after being denied a marriage license because they are women. The Grand Court lawsuit says the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights guarantees the rights to private and family life, freedom of conscience and non-discrimination.
These United Kingdom jurisdictions have marriage equality: 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).
These United Kingdom jurisdictions do not have marriage equality: Northern Ireland, Sark (part of Guernsey) and the overseas territories Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands.
Chile
Chile's leading LGBTI organization, Movilh, said July 31, 2018, that it will return to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights after Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick confirmed that Chilean President Sebastián Piñera aims to impede the arrival of marriage equality. If another marriage-equality bill is introduced, Piñera "will exercise all the powers that the Constitution gives him, as he has indicated, to impede that this becomes law," Chadwick said. "We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, because we believe that there is the foundation that lies not only in a faith or a religious belief [but] obeys human nature."
Chile is required to bring in marriage equality to comply with a 2016 Inter-American Commission settlement between Movilh and the government of former president Michelle Bachelet. In May 2018, the Piñera government signaled that it would move forward with the settlement but then quickly appeared to backtrack.
Chile is also bound by the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling, which instructed 20 nations that have signed the American Convention on Human Rights to bring in marriage equality. Four of the signatory nations already have marriage equality. On July 19, 2018, the president of Chile's Supreme Court said that Inter-American Court consultative opinions, such as the marriage ruling, are indeed binding on Chile.
The Bachelet government's marriage-equality bill remains sitting in Congress, where it is said to have majority support in both houses.
Costa Rica
The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice struck down the nation's ban on marriage equality Aug. 9, 2018, but delayed its ruling from coming into force until 18 months after it's officially published. The court told the Legislative Assembly to bring in marriage equality in the meantime but if it doesn't, the ruling will take effect anyway. In response, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado said he will use an extraordinary session of the National Assembly to pass marriage equality. LGBT activists denounced the delay and said they will file a complaint at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The Costa Rican ruling was a direct result of the Inter-American Court's January 2018 marriage-equality ruling, which obligates Costa Rica and 15 other Americas 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, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Suriname. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay also are covered by the ruling; they already have marriage equality. Mexico has full marriage equality only in 12 of its 31 states and in Mexico City, a federal district.
Evan Wolfson, the architect of marriage equality in the U.S., told Wockner.com: "The Inter-American Court ruling mandating the freedom to marry was clear, binding, and months ago. The people of Costa Rica went to the polls and repudiated the anti-gay, anti-marriage candidate in favor of the current president, who campaigned in support of the freedom to marry. This week Costa Rica's Supreme Court got the what right, but the when wrong. Every day of delay is a day of real injury, indignity, and injustice for real families. It's time for the freedom to marry in Costa Rica — now."
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%.
Cuba
On July 22, 2018, the National Assembly unanimously passed the first draft of a new constitution containing marriage equality. A three-month public consultation began Aug. 13 and ends Nov. 15. Suggestions and opinions submitted during the consultation, including from Cubans living abroad, will be considered for the second draft, which will go to a voter referendum on Feb. 24, 2019, after clearing the National Assembly.
Czech Republic
On June 22, 2018, the Czech Republic government threw its support behind a bill to modify the Civil Code to bring in marriage equality. Czechia would be the first former-Eastern-Bloc nation to let same-sex couples marry. The bill will have to proceed from the Chamber of Deputies to the Senate to the president.
Ecuador
In July 2018, the Constitutional Court president, Alfredo Ruiz, met with LGBTI leaders and told them a majority of the court's justices will vote for marriage equality and gay adoption when a case gets there, the LGBTI leaders said.
In June 2018, a family court in Cuenca ruled in two cases that two same-sex couples will be allowed to marry as soon as the court issues its ruling in written form. The judges based their decisions on the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights marriage-equality ruling and Ecuador's constitution. The local civil registry appealed the rulings to a higher court, but the appeal does not stay the original decisions. Experts say these cases likely will give the Constitutional Court the opportunity to issue its nationwide ruling.
Honduras
In May 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice accepted a lawsuit filed by activists seeking to enforce the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling that instructed 20 Americas nations to bring in marriage equality and modern gender-identity laws. The lawsuit aims to strike down an article of the Constitution that bans marriage equality and recognition of same-sex couples' foreign marriages and civil unions. It also targets a Family Code article that extends marriage rights to opposite-sex de facto unions but not same-sex unions, and the Law on the National Registry of Persons, which effectively prevents transgender people from changing their name.
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, local language rights and other issues. 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. An attempt to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland via the UK Parliament in London was blocked May 11 but could be reconsidered this year. A failed attempt to achieve marriage equality via the courts is on appeal.
Panama
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.
Paraguay
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.
Peru
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 appealed to the Constitutional Court, which heard the case June 20 and was supposed to rule within 30 days. It is the court's first-ever case related to marriage equality. A marriage-equality bill was introduced in Congress in 2017 and is awaiting action by the Justice Committee.
Philippines
The Supreme Court finished hearing oral arguments in a groundbreaking marriage-equality case on June 26, 2018. Multiple media reports have speculated that the justices will find a way to rid themselves of the case without legalizing marriage equality. President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed support for marriage equality but the government more recently suggested the nation is not ready for it.
Switzerland
Switzerland is taking its time moving from same-sex civil partnership to marriage equality. The issue is next scheduled to be considered by parliament in 2019. The only nations in Western Europe without marriage equality are Andorra, Austria (coming soon), Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, Vatican City, and the UK's Northern Ireland.
Taiwan
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 attempting 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.
Venezuela
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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