- Same-sex marriage has been legal in some countries since the early 2000s.
- The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage in 2000.
- Most recently, Austria legalised same-sex marriage in 2019.
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While same-sex marriage is still relatively new across the US, there are some countries around the world where it’s been recognised for years.
Today, there are 28 countries that have legalised gay marriage. The Netherlands, Canada, South Africa, and Spain started the movement in the early 2000s, with many countries following suit.
Keep reading to take a look at how same-sex couples have been saying “I do” around the world.
In the year 2000, the Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage.
The new law allowed same-sex couples to get married, get divorced, and adopt children. According to the Pew Research Center, just one sentence was changed in the country’s marriage law, now stating, “A marriage can be contracted by two people of different or the same sex.”
In January 2003, Belgium followed suit, legalizing marriage for same-sex couples.
The Belgian government had already begun giving same-sex couples some legal rights in 1998, but gave them the same tax and inheritance rights as opposite-sex couples in the 2003 ruling, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2006, the Belgian government also enabled same-sex couples to adopt children.
In 2005, Spain legalised gay marriage.
The Spanish parliament passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage and giving same-sex couples the right to adopt.
“Spain is talking about total equality,” Kursad Kahramanoglu, then-co-secretary general of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, told The New York Times in 2005. “Lots of people 15 or 20 years ago would have thought it would be impossible for Catholic Spain to get to this moment.”
In 2018, Spain — a predominantly Catholic country — held its first same-sex wedding in a church, specifically.
“It’s a question of love, not a question of gender,” vicar Gunnar Sjöberg told The Local.“It’s a happy day when I can spread more love in the world.”
As same-sex marriage spread throughout Europe, couples were able to express their love in public ceremonies.
This lucky couple was the first to say “I do” in a northern part of Spain known as Asturias.
In 2006, South Africa became the first African country to legalise gay marriage.
Sadly, in 2011, GlobalPost named South Africa one of the worst countries in which to identify as LGBTQ, citing its high rates of murder and rape.
Ten years later, South Africa had its first traditional same-sex wedding.
Tshepo Cameron Modisane and Thoba Calvin Sithol were the first traditional men in South Africa to say “I do.” Their ceremony married Zulu and Tswana traditions, according to the Huffington Post.
In 2013, the New Zealand parliament passed the Marriage Amendment Bill, which made gay marriage legal across the nation.
“We have been together for 11 years and the fact that we’ll be the first to make a lifelong pledge to each other in somewhere as beautiful as New Zealand is both historically significant and an important step in our personal lives,” Paul McCarthy, one of the first to marry in New Zealand, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
In 2013, the National Justice Council of Brazil said the government cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, paving the way for gay marriage.
“This will reduce legal procedures and ensures more equality to Brazilian citizens. Before this, there were first and second class citizens. Now all families will be respected,” Marjori Machi, president of the Rio de Janeiro Association of Transvestite and Transsexual People, told The Telegraph.
The election of Brazil’s new president in 2018 put same-sex marriage in jeopardy, however.
“We got scared,” Carolina Zannata told The New York Times. “We need to take advantage of our hard-won rights because we might not have them afterward.”
Despite President Bolsonaro’s threat, the LGBTQ community is still marrying and proving that love trumps hate.
“We’re going to resist,” Victor Silva Paredes told The New York Times before walking down the aisle. “We fought for these rights and we’re not going back into the closet.”
England and Wales legalised same-sex marriage in 2013.
In July 2013, Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal ascent to a bill that would legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales.According to the BBC, the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat leaderships had all supported the proposal.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership Act in 2014 made same-sex marriage legal in Scotland.
“Today is both a day of celebration and a hugely important step forward for LGBTI rights in Scotland, both in terms of equality in the law and the way in which same-sex relationships are viewed in society,” Tom French of the Equality Network in Scotland told the BBC. “In recent years, Scotland has become a leading light on LGBTI equality, with one of the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world, helping to create the fair and equal society we all want to see.”
The “I” in LGBTI stands for intersex. According to Merriam Webster, intersexuality is the condition “of either having both male and female gonadal tissue in one individual or of having the gonads of one sex and external genitalia that is of the other sex or is ambiguous.”
The first same-sex wedding ceremonies in Scotland took place on December 21, 2014.
Since civil unions were legal in the country for several years,the new act allowed couples already in civil partnerships to officially wed.
Every same-sex wedding in the United Kingdom is a reminder of how powerful the LGBTQ community can be.
Andrew Wale and Neil Allard were the first same-sex couple to say “I do” in Brighton.
“Same-sex marriage is not about breaking up families,” Wale told The Telegraph.“There are all sorts of families in the world and for us this is just about creating a different type of family.”
The road to legalizing same-sex marriage across the US has been a long and complicated one.
In 1970, the first same-sex couple applied for a marriage licence in Minnesota, but they were denied, starting a decades-long movement to legalise gay marriage in America.
Same-sex marriage largely became a states’ right issue.
The cause suffered a real blow in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed the Defence of Marriage Act into law, which defined marriage as a union between two people of the opposite sex.
This changed in 2015 when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the United States.
“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” the court said in its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Now, same-sex marriage is a legal right in America, allowing for couples of all genders to celebrate their love.
Same-sex marriage is on the rise in the US. In fact, one in every 10 LGBTQ people in the country is married.
The US learned through numerous moving ceremonies that marriage is a right, not a privilege.
“LGBT Americans … are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a video in 2013.
Germany legalised gay marriage in 2017.
The new law in Germany granted equal rights to same-sex couples and enabled inspiring weddings to take place around the country.
Since 2001, same-sex couples were able to enter into civil unions, but they were not granted the same rights and protections as traditional marriages. This new law changed everything for Germans who identify as LGBTQ.
Just like traditional weddings, same-sex ceremonies in Germany — and all over the world — are filled with laughter, happy tears, and moving expressions of love.
Same-sex weddings are a reminder that we are all equal.
Gay marriage was legalised in Malta in 2017.
Although Malta is largely a Catholic nation, it has made strides towards becoming a more liberal state in recent years. The country has become one of the friendliest and welcoming in Europe for LGBTQ people.
For years, LGBTQ Australians would flock to New Zealand to wed because it was illegal in their country.
Over 400 LGBTQ New Zealanders and over 400 LGBTQ travellers wed in New Zealand in 2016.
Same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia in 2017.
Although same-sex marriage isn’t legal throughout Mexico, in some parts it is.
Places like Chihuahua, Quintana Roo, and Mexico City in Mexico all allow for powerful moments like this.
Sadly, most countries still put constraints on same-sex marriage. Italy is one of them.
The Catholic nation legalised civil unions (not marriage) in 2016. The Vatican, specifically, opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage in Italy for religious reasons.
Like Italy, most of Asia only allows LGBTQ people to enter into civil unions.
Taiwan is the one country in Asia that is making strides toward legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2017, the country’s high court made marriage discrimination illegal, and the deadline for the government to implement the ruling is May 2019.
Although there are campaigns in Asia against gay marriage, same-sex couples are still tirelessly and heroically fighting for their rights.
This year, Tokyo Rainbow Pride events, celebrating the city’s LGBTQ community, will take place in late April.
After decades of fighting for equal rights, countries all over the world are celebrating and embracing the power of diversity, love, and, most importantly, the LGBTQ community.
The acceptance doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, as Austria announced it has federally legalised same-sex marriage in 2019.
- Read more:
- The Democratic presidential candidates will have a debate about LGBTQ rights. Here’s what all 16 have said about the issues.
- A man was supposed to propose to his girlfriend, then he realised he’d slept with her dad
- Malaysia’s tourism minister claimed there are no gay people in his country, which has a population of 32 million
- A tiny Caribbean island just legalised same-sex marriage and it could have major implications
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