Marriage Equality Around the World

Filed under: International

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation tracks developments in the legal recognition of same-sex marriage around the world. Working with our network of alumni and partners, we lift up the voices of local advocates and share tools, resources, and lessons learned to empower movements for marriage equality. For more information about HRC’s work in support of marriage equality and the full equal rights for LGBTQ people--including protections from violence, discrimination and other issues, visit hrc.org/Global.

Current State of Marriage Equality 

There are currently 28 countries where same-sex marriage is legal: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Uruguay. On Feb. 10, Northern Ireland became the most recent place to get marriage equality.

Processes of Legalization

  • 20 countries have legalized same-sex marriage nationally through legislation. Among these, Australia and Ireland legalized same-sex marriage through legislation only after nation-wide votes.
  • 6 countries have legalized same-sex marriage nationally through court decisions — Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, South Africa, Taiwan and the United States of America.
  • 2 countries, South Africa and Taiwan, enacted legislation legalizing same-sex marriage after courts mandated them to do so.

Countries that Legalized Marriage Equality in 2019

Austria: The Constitutional Court of Austria ruled on December 4, 2017 that denial of marriage equality was discriminatory, legalizing same-sex marriage. Marriage equality took effect January 1, 2019.
Taiwan: The Taiwan Constitutional Court ruled in 2017 that marriage could not be restricted to opposite-sex couples and gave parliament two years to enact legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. Parliament passed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage which went into effect May 24, 2019, making Taiwan the first country to enact marriage equality in Asia.
Ecuador: Legalized after Ecuador’s Constitutional Court found on June 12, 2019 that its ban was unconstitutional, marriage equality took effect in Ecuador on July 8, 2019.

International Institutions & Marriage Equality 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an independent judicial institution of the Organization of American States. In 2018, it issued an advisory opinion to Costa Rica that signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights are obliged to make same-sex marriage legal. The Court’s guidance applies to 20 signatory countries and has proven a powerful tool in advocating for marriage equality in these countries.
 
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) serves as a high court in the European Union. In 2018, the ECJ determined that all EU countries were required to recognize the same-sex marriages of EU and non-EU citizens for purposes of immigration, regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal in those countries. In recognition of this decision, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria affirmed in 2019 that the country would recognize such same-sex marriages for the purposes of immigration.

Places to Watch for Marriage Equality in 2020

This list includes a few of the many countries where HRC Global is tracking developments in support of marriage equality in 2020. 

  • Costa Rica
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Switzerland
  • Philippines
  • Thailand

Methodology

This page is based on a review of legislation and judicial decisions recognizing same-sex marriage. It does not identify countries that recognize other kinds of relationships between same-sex couples, such as civil unions, registered partnerships or domestic partnerships.
 
We note that processes for obtaining a marriage license for same-sex couples in some countries differ across localities, such as in Mexico where, in light of a constitutional court ruling, some states have enacted marriage equality while, in other states, same-sex couples must seek an amparo from a federal court to obtain a license.
 
Same-sex married couples in many of these 28 countries do not share all of the same rights and benefits as different-sex married couples, such as the right to adoption. In some countries, same-sex couples also experience additional restrictions. For example, in Taiwan same-sex marriage is only available to Taiwanese citizens or a citizen of a foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage who seeks to marry a Taiwanese citizen.

 

For more information about HRC’s work around the world, subscribe to our quarterly newsletter and visit hrc.org/Global.