Sunday, August 01, 2021

Worldwide Marriage Equality Watch List

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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: Aug. 1, 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 and Cayman Islands

The court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, is expected to rule this year on marriage equality in these British overseas territories. Bermuda has marriage equality during the final appeal but it is blocked in the Cayman Islands.

The Privy Council ruling could 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.

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.

The Court of Justice emphasized that Bolivia's constitution 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.

Chile

On June 1, 2021, conservative President Sebastián Piñera embraced marriage equality, saying, "I think the time has come for marriage equality in our country." He said he will proceed with a "sense of urgency" in getting his predecessor's 2017 marriage equality bill through Congress. Chile's Supreme and Constitutional courts have ruled against marriage equality despite the 2017 marriage equality ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which binds Chile. And Piñera's government had de-emphasized a 2016 settlement agreement between his predecessor's government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in which the Chilean government agreed to promote marriage equality until it was achieved. (Update: The marriage equality bill passed the Senate in a 28-14 vote on July 21. It now goes to the Chamber of Deputies.)

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. The assembly is now expected to put marriage equality in a new family code, which also will go to a public consultation and referendum.

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 citizens' petition for marriage equality 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 Congress

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 are scheduled to be heard Aug. 27. 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 four decades 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. Twenty of the 31 states and the federal capital Mexico City have gotten there, leaving 11 states to go. I have a separate article with the details here.

Namibia

In May 2021, the Windhoek High Court said it will rule on recognition of foreign same-sex marriages on or before January 20, 2022.

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 will be held Sept. 26 and likely will fail, given that polls show more than 80% of the Swiss support marriage equality.

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 was scheduled to rule in a newer marriage equality case on June 29, 2021, but there is no indication it did.

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."
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