Many countries and jurisdictions have legalized same-sex marriages, while others provide some forms of recognition and limited spousal rights to same-sex partners. Nearly two dozen governments in Europe and the Americas have introduced legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry, but Africa largely criminalizes gay relationships.
In fact, thirty-six African nations criminalizes same-sex relationships, four African nations allow for the death penalty against LGBTI people in all or some parts of the country, two African nations, Nigeria and Uganda, have implemented new laws against same-sex relationships recently while two African nations have laws against LGBT “propaganda.” Only about seventeen nations in Africa entertains some forms of recognition to gay marriage, even though they may not be fully recognized.
African countries who have not criminalized gay relationships in their countries are; Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda and South Africa. South Africa is the only African country that fully recognizes LGBTI relationships.
Take a look at countries around the world where it is fully legal for same-sex couples to wed and their relationships are recognized like a natural heterosexual marriage:
1. The Netherlands (April 1, 2001)
The Dutch parliament made history in 2000 when it made it legal for same-sex couples to marry, divorce, and adopt children by a 3-to-1 vote margin. Today, there are 16,000 married same-sex couples in the Netherlands, where gay marriage enjoys an approval rating of 82 percent – the highest in the European Union.
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2. Belgium (June 1, 2003)
Belgium became the second country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriages when a bill passed by the Belgian Federal Parliament took effect on 1 June 2003. While there wasn’t much of an uproar about the move, the Vatican was outraged, prompting Pope John Paul II to launch a global campaign saying that “homosexual unions were immoral, unnatural and harmful.”
3.Spain (July 3, 2005)
While Spain extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in 2005, the law has since faced fierce opposition from conservative politicians, including a court challenge that was defeated in 2012. In March, interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz remarked that gay marriage should be banned because it doesn’t guarantee the “survival of the species.” In 2013, Pew Research Center declared Spain the most tolerant country of the world with homosexuality.
4.Canada (July 20, 2005)
It took a two-year journey filled with court battles before Canada’s House of Commons voted to make gay marriage legal in the entire country, as opposed to just in nine out of the 13 provinces and territories. Social conservatives tried to overturn the law in 2006 but failed.
5.South Africa (November 30, 2006)
In 2005, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that preventing gay marriage violated the country’s young constitution, which was adopted not long after the end of Apartheid. The court-mandated law passed easily in parliament the following year.
6.Norway (January 1, 2009)
In 1993, Norway was the second country, after Denmark in the late ’80s to allow civil unions between same-sex partners. The Norwegian government later legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. The main controversy at that time was whether lesbian mothers had the right to artificial insemination; they won that right when the parliament voted to approve gay marriage by a margin of 2 to 1.
7. Sweden (May 1, 2009)
Same-sex marriage in Sweden has been legal since 1st May 2009, following the adoption of a new gender-neutral law on marriage by the Swedish parliament on 1st April 2009, making Sweden the seventh country in the world to open marriage to same-sex couples nationwide. Marriage replaced Sweden’s registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Existing registered partnerships between same-sex couples remained in force with an option to convert them into marriages.
8.Portugal (June 5, 2010)
Portugal’s conservative president Anibal Cavaco Silva signed the country’s gay marriage bill into law after initially asking the country’s highest court to review it, hoping to undo what Portugal’s Socialist-led parliament had passed. Same-sex couples in Portugal are still not allowed to adopt children but can adopt their partners children (step-child adoption).
9.Denmark (June 15, 2012)
Denmark was the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex couples through registered partnerships in 1989, but they fully legalized gay marriage in 2012, allowing same-sex couples to get married in churches and adopt children.
10.Iceland (June 27, 2010)
Every single one of the 49 members of Iceland’s parliament voted “Yes” on gay marriage. Shortly after the law was passed, the country’s prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, married her longtime partner, writer Jonina Leosdottir.
11. Argentina (July 22, 2010)
The predominantly Catholic country became the first Latin American nation to legalize gay marriage by the narrow vote of 33 to 27. Pope Francis, then known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, called the bill a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”
12.Brazil (May 16, 2013)
In May, Brazil’s National Council of Justice ruled 14-to-1 that notary public couldn’t refuse to perform same-sex marriages. While civil unions already gave gay couples access to government benefits, the ruling allowed partners to take each other’s surnames and adopt children more easily.
13.France (May 18, 2013)
France’s national assembly passed a bill to legalize gay marriage by a vote of 331 to 225, in the face of hundreds of thousands of protesters who overturned cars and fought off tear gas along the Champs-Elysees. The first gay marriage in France took place on May 29 in Montpellier between Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau.
14.England (July 17, 2013)
In September 2011, the Coalition government announced its intention to introduce same-sex civil marriage in England and Wales by the next general election in May 2015. By July 17, 2013 the bill received Royal Assent and became a law. The first same-sex marriages took place on 29 March 2014.
15.Wales (July 17, 2013)
16 Uruguay (August 5, 2013)
Uruguay’s Chamber of Deputies passed a bill on 12 December 2012, to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. The Senate passed the bill on 2 April 2013, but with minor amendments. On 10 April 2013, the Chamber of Deputies passed the amended bill by a two-thirds majority (71–22). The president promulgated the law on 3 May 2013 and it took effect on 5 August.
17.New Zealand (August 19, 2013)
New Zealand marriage law only applies to New Zealand proper and the Ross Dependency in Antarctica. Other New Zealand territories, including Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, have their own marriage law and do not perform nor recognize same-sex marriage. The bill received Royal Assent from the Governor-General on 19 April and took effect on 19 August 2013.
18.Luxembourg (June 18, 2014, effective January 2015)
The Parliament approved the bill to legalize same-sex marriage on 18 June 2014. The law was published in the official gazette on 17 July and took effect 1 January 2015. On 15 May 2015, Luxembourg became the first country in the EU that has a prime minister who is in a same-sex marriage, and the second one in Europe. Prime minister Xavier Bettel married Gauthier Destenay, with whom he had been in a civil partnership since 2010.
19.Scotland (December 16, 2014)
In a three-month-long consultation by the Scottish Government which ended on 9 December 2011, Scotland considered both civil and religious same-sex marriage, unlike the consultation held in England and Wales. On 4 February 2014 the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in that country. The law took effect on December 16, 2014, with the first same-sex weddings occurring for those converting their civil partnerships into marriage. Malcolm Brown and Joe Schofield from Tullibody, Central Lowlands, were scheduled to be the first to be declared husband and husband just after midnight on 31 December.
20. Finland (February 20, 2015, effective 2017)
Registered partnerships have been legal in Finland since in 2002. Minister of Justice, Tuija Brax tried to advocate for same-sex marriage by 2012 but the bill was rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament on a vote. The bill finally passed the second and final vote by December 12, 2014, and was signed by the President on 20 February 2015. The law will take effect on 1 March 2017. It was the first time a citizens’ initiative has been approved by the Parliament.
21.Republic of Ireland (May 23, 2015, effective October 2015)
Ireland made headlines in May after becoming the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage through a popular vote. More than 62 percent voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in the country. Greenland’s parliament has also unanimously approved same-sex marriage and adoption.
22. United States (June 26, 2015)
In the wake of a historic US Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage is now legal across the entirety of the United States on 26 June, 2015, 14 US states with bans on same-sex marriage can no longer enforce them.