- 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, a couple married in Costa Rica, becoming the first to do so in Central America.
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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.
The Netherlands, Canada, South Africa, and Spain started the movement in the early 2000s, with many countries following suit. Most recently, same-sex marriage became legal in Northern Ireland.
Keep reading to take a look at how same-sex couples have been saying “I do” around the world.
Most recently, Costa Rica became the first country in Central America to legalise same-sex marriage.
In August 2018, Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court ruled that laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. The court gave the government 18 days to enact laws that welcomed gay marriage. In May 2020, that law went into effect.
“Today, Costa Rica officially recognises same-sex marriage,” President Carlos Alvarado Quesada wrote on Twitter. “Today we celebrate liberty, equality and our democratic institutions. May empathy and love be the compass that guide us forward and allow us to move forward and build a country that has room for everyone.”
Among the first couples to get married in Central America was Alexandra Quiros and Dunia Araya who tied the knot in Heredia just as the law passed.
But the road to 2020 has been a long one. 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 Centre, 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 Centre. 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.
“The great step that we took in our relationship as a gay couple was introducing each other to our families,” Modisane told Mamba Online . “We are so blessed to have supportive families who care about us. Even though we are gay they still love us.”
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.
“This is an emotional moment with great symbolism,” Karl Kreile, one of the first to wed under the new law, told The New York Times. “The transition to the term ‘marriage’ shows that the German state recognises us as real equals.”
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.
In 2019, Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.
In 2017, the island’s high court made marriage discrimination illegal and said Taiwan had two years to change the law. Ahead of the deadline, in May 2019, the parliament legalised same-sex marriage.
But many same-sex couples in Asia are still tirelessly and heroically fighting for their rights.
But there are signs of progress. In a rare move that signified a small step forward, China’s National People’s Congress acknowledged petitions to legalise same-sex marriage, NBC reported in January 2020.
In 2019, Northern Ireland passed a bill that allowed same-sex marriage, and the following year the first couple tied the knot.
In February 2020, Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards became the first same-sex couple to say “I do” in Northern Ireland. The Belfast couple made history at the Loughshore hotel.
“We didn’t expect to be the first couple, it’s coincidental,” Edwards told The Guardian. “Today is our six-year anniversary so we wanted to go ahead with a civil partnership but when the bill was passed it was perfect timing and it was a complete coincidence, a happy coincidence. We couldn’t be more grateful.”
Sadly, many 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.
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.
- 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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