Wednesday, June 20, 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: June 22, 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.
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. The government said it will appeal the strikedown, which was stayed from taking effect for six weeks, to the Court of Appeal.
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.
A marriage-equality bill is pending in Congress, where it has majority support in both houses — and on April 30, 2018, the administration of new Chilean President Sebastián Piñera signed off on the project. Chile is required to bring in marriage equality to comply with a 2016 settlement at 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.
Multiple marriage-equality cases are pending in the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica's Supreme Court of Justice — against the nation's Family Code, which prohibits marriage equality; against the National Directorate of Notaries and the Superior Notary Council, for blocking couples' marriages after the Inter-American Court ruling; and against the national government, for not complying with the Inter-American Court ruling.
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.)
Cuba is reworking its constitution, starting in July, and National Assembly member Mariela Castro, daughter of former President Raúl Castro, will push to replace the man-woman definition of marriage with marriage equality.
Czech Republic
On June 22, 2018, the Czech Republic government threw its support behind a bill to modify the Civil Code 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.
A marriage-equality case 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.
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 in October. 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.
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 appealed to the Constitutional Court, which heard the case June 20 and must 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.
The Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in a marriage-equality case on June 19, 2018. Several justices expressed concerns about the case: Agence France-PresseInquirerGMA NewsGMA News. Arguments continue on June 26. President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed support for marriage equality.
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 mid-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.
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.
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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