Monday, May 10, 2021

Worldwide Marriage Equality Watch List

» Tap here to read on phone

Amsterdam City Hall, April 1, 2001
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, as well as places where marriage equality has become a high-profile topic. Last update: May 10, 2021.

Andorra

Andorra is planning to erase the distinction between civil unions for same-sex couples and casaments (weddings) for opposite-sex couples and allow both to have casaments, and to define matrimoni (marriage) as a religious thing that happens in church. The vote in the General Council (parliament) is expected this year.

Bermuda

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 appealed that ruling to the British overseas territory's court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which heard the case Feb. 3-4, 2021. Same-sex couples have continued to marry during the appeal process.

The Privy Council ruling may have some effect in, or be precedential for, multiple British overseas territories and Commonwealth countries that use the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality. Those overseas territories are Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands. And those Commonwealth countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brunei, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu. The Cook Islands and Niue, associated states of New Zealand, also use the the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court and don't have marriage equality.

There was 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.

Bolivia

In May 2021, Bolivian Justice Minister Iván Lima Magne tweeted: "The issue of marriage equality is in process in our Plurinational Constitutional Court, which has requested 'amicus curiae' from the Catholic Church and other entities and experts. This is an issue that should have more debate in the nation and be decided now."

In December 2020, a Bolivian same-sex couple — David Víctor Aruquipa Pérez and Guido Álvaro Montaño Durán — won a two-year legal battle to register their "free union," a legal partnership that carries the same rights and obligations as civil marriage. In July 2020, the La Paz Court of Justice had given the Civic Registry Service (Serecí) 10 days to stop blocking the registration, citing the 2017 marriage equality ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is binding on Bolivia and 13 other nations that still haven't brought in marriage equality. Serecí proceeded to take five months to comply.

The Court of Justice emphasized that Bolivia's constitution explicitly states that when international treaties and instruments in the area of human rights have been signed, ratified or adhered to by Bolivia, and provide human rights beyond those provided under the Bolivian constitution, the international rights take precedence. This same sort of constitutional clause led to marriage equality in Ecuador in 2019.

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 the Legislative Assembly had to "expeditiously" provide the plaintiffs with a legal status equivalent to marriage. Nearly nine months later, on July 29, 2020, the Legislative Assembly voted down a domestic-partnership bill designed to do that. On Sept. 4, 2020, the United Kingdom's governor in the Caymans force-enacted the partnership bill.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in the marriage case took the case to the court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, where a ruling is expected this year, along with a ruling in Bermuda's marriage case. 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. (Marriage equality remains in force in Bermuda during the appeal of its case.)

Chile

Since President Sebastián Piñera took office in March 2018, Chile's government has resisted bringing in marriage equality and in October 2018, Piñera told TV viewers, "I believe that marriage, as we conceive it and by its nature, is between a man and a woman."

Under a settlement agreement Chile's previous government entered into at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2016, the government was required to promote marriage equality until it was achieved. But in September 2019, the new government declared it intended only to "monitor" a marriage-equality bill introduced in 2017 by the previous administration. In January 2020, that bill finally saw initial approval in the Senate, where it faces further discussion and votes.

Chile is also among the nations instructed to bring in marriage equality by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' November 2017 marriage-equality ruling.

In June 2019, Chile's Supreme Court upheld a ruling that said the Civil Registry did not have to process a same-sex couple's marriage application. The couple then took their case to the Inter-American Commission, where it is pending. In April 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled 5-4 against a same-sex couple who sued the Civil Registry for recording their Spanish marriage as a civil union rather than a marriage and against overturning the nation's ban on marriage equality.

China

China wrote a new civil code in 2019 and, during public comment periods, LGBTs submitted at least tens of thousands of recommendations that the code bring in marriage equality — a project coordinated by LGBT Rights Advocacy China via Weibo and WeChat, giant Chinese social-media apps. While the lobbying did not succeed, it demonstrated LGBTs' ability to create huge discussions on social media and advanced self-empowerment. The related Weibo hashtag had 200 million views before it was deleted. Ultimately, there is a decent chance the government will decide not to fight the tide and begin accommodating LGBT citizens' push for equality, but it could view the community's capacity for collective action as problematic and make efforts to curb it, said Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center.

Cuba

In July 2018, the National Assembly unanimously passed a first draft of a new constitution that contained marriage equality. A public consultation followed, which, the National Assembly reported, found that Cubans opposed putting marriage equality in the constitution. Marriage equality was then excised from the document before it was sent to a successful voter referendum.

Instead, the assembly said, the matter would be dealt with in a new family code, which itself would go to a public consultation and referendum. In December 2019, the justice minister said the new family code would be presented to the National Assembly for analysis and approval in March 2021, but in December 2020, local media reported the project had been delayed due to Covid-19 disruptions.

Curaçao

In September 2018, 17 years after the dawn of marriage equality in the Netherlands, activists in Curaçao, a Dutch constituent country in the Caribbean Sea, wrote a marriage-equality bill that was introduced into Parliament several months later by two MPs from the governing parties. The initiative was unveiled at a Curaçao Pride event and dubbed "the first marriage equality bill of the Caribbean to be drawn up by our own people." Dutch Caribbean overseas municipalities Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have marriage equality, while Caribbean constituent countries Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten do not, though they partially recognize Dutch marriages from elsewhere.

Czech Republic

Marriage equality passed first reading in the Chamber of Deputies on April 29, 2021, and was sent to committees. A proposed constitutional ban on marriage equality also cleared first reading and went to committees. It is unknown if either measure will clear the committees and return to the full chamber before October's general election. Only 93 of the chamber's 200 members were present for the marriage-equality vote.

El Salvador

There are multiple marriage-equality lawsuits before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice. In January 2020, Justice Aldo Cáder said the court planned to rule before April 2020.

Estonia

In October 2020, a petition for marriage equality created by the Greens party and signed by citizens cleared the signature threshold to force consideration by parliament.

Guatemala

An anti-marriage-equality bill cleared two of three readings in the unicameral Congress and remains pending. Even though marriage is already defined in law as between a man and a woman, Bill 5272, Law for Protection of Life and Family, explicitly bans marriage for same-sex couples — contravening the November 2017 marriage-equality ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is binding on Guatemala. Should the bill pass, activists say they would sue in the Constitutional Court and, if they were to lose there, in the Inter-American system. President Alejandro Giammattei opposes marriage equality.

The bill's page at CongressActivists' analysisAmnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch

Honduras

In May 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice accepted a lawsuit seeking to enforce the November 2017 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.

In October 2018, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández told reporters at a press conference: "Personally as a Christian I am against marriage of persons of the same sex; obviously, it is the judiciary that, according to Honduran law, has to rule on it. [Regardless of sexual preferences] people should be treated with dignity, no matter what their inclination. People should be treated with dignity and this issue is very important."

In November 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed a second marriage-equality lawsuit, an action of unconstitutionality filed by activist groups, saying the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate "their direct, personal and legitimate interest" in the matter and made technical errors in their filing. The original case, filed by activist Indyra Mendoza Aguilar, remains pending and in February 2019, local media said the court had accepted a third case filed by activists.

In January 2021, Honduras' Congress inserted a marriage equality super-ban into the constitution with a requirement that it can only be overturned by a 75% vote in Congress. Constitutional changes usually require only a two-thirds vote. Activists filed a lawsuit against the super-ban in February, saying it infringes multiple rights guaranteed by the Honduran constitution, that the process by which it was passed was unconstitutional, that it violates the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Honduras is a signatory and which Honduras' constitution incorporates into the constitution, and that it contravenes the Inter-American Court marriage equality ruling, which is based on the American Convention.

Hong Kong

In October 2019, the Court of First Instance of the High Court of Hong Kong ruled against a lesbian who sued for access to marriage, alleging that her constitutional rights to privacy and equality were being violated. The court said the word "marriage" in Hong Kong law refers to heterosexual marriage and the case did not present "sufficiently strong or compelling" evidence for ruling otherwise. It added that legislators should deal with recognizing same-sex relationships. In August 2019, single-issue activist group Hong Kong Marriage Equality launched.

India

Activists began pushing for marriage equality after a constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India unanimously legalized gay sex in September 2018, decriminalizing 18% of LGBT people on the planet. Multiple lawsuits are pending in the high courts of the union territory of Delhi and the state of Kerala, targeting separate laws that regulate secular marriages, religious marriages and marriages entered into abroad. The Delhi cases were supposed to be heard April 20 but apparently were delayed by the nation's current Covid-19 crisis. Regional high court rulings in India generally have national effect unless another high court has ruled the opposite way.

Jamaica

In July 2019, a legal case was launched at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking to bring marriage equality to Jamaica. It argues that Jamaica's constitution is in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights, which the nation signed 43 years ago.

Japan

Thirteen same-sex couples filed marriage-equality lawsuits nationwide on Feb. 14, 2019 (Valentine's Day), and a marriage equality bill was introduced in the legislature, the National Diet, in June 2019. In March 2021, the district court in Sapporo ruled that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is "unconstitutional." The ruling set an important precedent but did not have the effect of deleting the constitution's opposite-sex definition of marriage.

Mexico

Mexico can only get marriage equality state by state. Nineteen of the 31 states and the federal capital Mexico City have gotten there, leaving 12 states to go. I have a separate article with the details here.

Panama

Lawyer Iván Chanis Barahona, head of Panama's marriage-equality group, La Fundación Iguales Panamá, says the November 2017 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 in February 2018 because of the Inter-American Court ruling. In January 2018, Panamanian Vice President Isabel De Saint Malo said the Inter-American court ruling is indeed binding ("vinculante") on Panama.

In October 2019, the National Assembly passed a series of constitutional revisions that included a ban on marriage equality. Days of protests by students, LGBTs and others ensued and, on Nov. 8, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo said he will work to delete the ban before the revisions are finalized and sent to a voter referendum.

Paraguay

In the wake of the November 2017 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' November 2017 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 November 2020, Peru's Constitutional Court voted 4-3 not to force the National Registry to record a same-sex marriage entered into in Mexico. The plaintiff said he will take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In April 2019, the 11th Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Lima ordered the National Registry to register the marriage of a Peruvian same-sex couple who married in 2016 in Miami. In August 2019, the Sixth Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Lima ordered the National Registry to register the marriage of a Peruvian same-sex couple who married in 2015 in New York.

A marriage-equality bill was introduced in Congress in 2017 and is awaiting action by the Justice Committee.

Philippines

In September 2019, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed a marriage-equality case it had heard in June 2018. While acknowledging that the Constitution "does not define or restrict marriage on the basis of sex," the justices said the plaintiff lacked standing, violated the principle of hierarchy of courts, and failed to raise a justiciable controversy.

Romania

An attempt to obstruct marriage equality by rewriting the definition of "family" in the constitution failed in October 2018 when an inadequate percentage of voters showed up to vote in a nationwide referendum. Thirty percent of all voters needed to cast a ballot for the referendum result to be valid, but only 20.41 percent did. LGBT leaders and others had called on voters to boycott the referendum. In September 2018, Romania's Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples must have the same "legal and juridical recognition of their rights and obligations" as opposite-sex couples.

South Korea

In November 2019, LGBTs filed 1,056 complaints at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea demanding marriage equality. Gagoonet, the Korean Network for Partnership and Marriage Rights of LGBT, said the mass complaints target the president, prime minister, heads of ministries and local governments, and the National Assembly chair. "Korean same-sex couples are not guaranteed the rights of marriage and family life, which are basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Korea," Gagoonet said. "Because of the lack of recognition, same-sex couples in Korea suffer from an infringement of economic and social rights, including social security, access to healthcare and housing, and workplace benefits."

Switzerland

Switzerland's parliament passed marriage equality in December 2020, with an apparent start date of Jan. 1, 2022, but right-wing forces collected signatures to force a voter referendum on the law. The referendum likely will be held this year and likely will fail, given that polls show more than 80% of the Swiss support marriage equality. The referendum could, however, delay the start of marriage equality by up to an additional year.

The only nations in Western Europe without marriage equality are Andorra, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican City. Switzerland would become the 30th nation with marriage equality, which is also legal in 47 other discrete jurisdictions around the world.

Thailand

A marriage-equality bill was introduced in parliament in June 2020 by the Move Forward Party, the second-largest opposition party in the lower house. A civil-partnership bill was approved by the cabinet and introduced in parliament in July 2020. It appears to include most of the rights of marriage, including inheritance and adoption rights, but not the right to access a partner's work-based health coverage or pension. In December 2019, Thailand's Constitutional Court rejected a marriage-equality case on a technicality, saying it should have been filed in administrative court. The court is scheduled to rule in a newer marriage equality case on June 29, 2021.

Venezuela

Two marriage-equality lawsuits have long been at the final stage in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, according to Venezuela Igualitaria. 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. In October 2020, President Nicolás Maduro suggested the National Assembly should address marriage equality in its term that began in January 2021 but he later said it isn't a "priority."
[Newer] [Older]