New Map Shows Marriage Equality Worldwide

Human Rights Watch has updated our marriage equality map, which provides an overview of countries with marriage equality, civil unions or registered partnership; links to the relevant legislation; and, where possible, a brief explanation of the path – legislative, judicial, or other – that these countries took to achieve marriage equality or to provide for same-sex civil unions or registered partnership.

As legal situations change in countries, this map will be further updated.

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to open civil marriage to same-sex couples. Other countries followed. Today there are 28 countries with marriage equality—most recently, Austria, Ecuador and Taiwan– with Costa Rica expected to join the list soon.

An additional fourteen countries have made civil unions or registered partnerships available for same-sex couples. In some cases, civil unions or registered partnership provide all the same rights and responsibilities of civil marriage and differ in name only; countries with such laws include Croatia, Greece, Slovenia and Switzerland. In other cases, civil unions provide some, but not all, of these rights. 

In 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an advisory opinion on the interpretation of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights in respect of marriage equality. The Court encouraged member states to take actions towards eliminating discrimination and achieving marriage equality.

There are causes to celebrate during Pride Month, as laws and policies continue to improve LGBT rights around the world.

We hope this map will assist those who are looking for this type of information. We decided to only mark independent countries on our map and not overseas territories, regions, departments or possessions. That’s why we did not include Bermuda, Greenland or Aruba for instance. If you have additional information, you can contact Human Rights Watch via lgbt@hrw.org    

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Click on each country for a snapshot of current legislation. For more information and Human Rights Watch reporting on LGBT rights, click on the country name in the black pop-up box.

  • Legislative
  • Judicial
  • Marriage
  • Referendum/Legislative
  • Judicial/Legislative
  • Civil Union

Andorra

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2014HOW IT CAME TO BE:Same-sex registered partnerships were first recognized in 2005. In 2014, Parliament (General Council) adopted a law establishing same-sex civil unions, carrying more of the rights associated with marriage.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Argentina

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2010HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2010, the Argentinean legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill, including the right to adopt children. Since 2015 the law has also provided for civil unions as an alternative to marriage for both same-sex and different-sex couples. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Australia

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2017HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2017 the government held a non-binding postal vote (referendum) on marriage equality which won the support of 61.6% of the voters. Parliament passed marriage equality legislation at the end of 2017.ROAD:Referendum/LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Australia: ‘Yes’ Vote to Marriage Equality”“Time for Marriage Equality in Australia”

Austria

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2019HOW IT CAME TO BE:The Constitutional Court of Austria issued a ruling on December 4, 2017 holding that same-sex couples should have the right to marry from January 1, 2019.ROAD:JudicialJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Austria: Court Allows Marriage Equality”

Belgium

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2003HOW IT CAME TO BE:Since 2000 both same-sex and different-sex couples can enter in to civil unions. In 2003 Belgium became the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalize same-sex marriage, through legislation passed by parliament.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Brazil

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2013HOW IT CAME TO BE:A ruling by the Supreme Court of Brazil made civil unions (stable unions) available for same-sex couples in May 2011. These unions grant most of the rights of marriage. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since May 2013, following a National Justice Council decision, which orders notaries of every state to perform same-sex marriagesROAD:JudicialJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Canada

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2005HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada declared that same-sex couples are entitled to the rights and benefits enjoyed by married different-sex couples. Marriage equality first became available in several provinces in Canada by court decisions in 2003. In 2005 the Civil Marriage Act recognized same-sex marriages nationwide.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Chile

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2015HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2015 the national congress approved a bill recognizing civil unions for same-sex and different-sex couples. It offers some of the rights of marriage. A bill to recognize same-sex marriage was introduced by then-President Michelle Bachelet in 2017. It remains pending in Congress.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Dispatches: Chile Poised to Recognize Same-Sex Unions”“Chile Takes First Step Toward Marriage Equality”

Colombia

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2016HOW IT CAME TO BE:Marriage equality exists since 2016 by virtue of a Constitutional Court ruling. In 2011 the court gave the legislature two years to pass marriage equality legislation, or else to allow same-sex couples marry by default after that period. Congress failed to pass such legislation, and same-sex couples proceeded to get married. In 2016 the Constitutional Court affirmed the validity of same-sex marriages. Marriage equality exists since 2016 by virtue of a Constitutional Court ruling. In 2011 the court gave the legislature two years to pass marriage equality legislation, or else to allow same-sex couples marry by default after that period. Congress failed to pass such legislation, and same-sex couples proceeded to get married. In 2016 the Constitutional Court affirmed the validity of same-sex marriages. ROAD:JudicialJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Colombia: Constitutional Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage”

Costa Rica

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:to be in effect in 2020 (Court ruling issued in 2018)HOW IT CAME TO BE:In response to an advisory opinion issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica issued a ruling in 2018 striking down the country’s ban on same-sex marriage. The court stated that the ban would automatically be nullified within 18 months in the absence of any legislation proactively legalizing same-sex marriage. ROAD:JudicialJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Croatia

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2003HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2013, based on a referendum, Croatia defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Croatia recognizes registered partnership for same-sex couples through the Life Partnership Act. The rights are similar to those of married couples, but do not include adoption. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Cyprus

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2015HOW IT CAME TO BE:The Cypriot parliament approved a bill in 2015ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Czech Republic

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2006HOW IT CAME TO BE:The registered partnership law was passed in 2006ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Door Opens to Achieving Marriage Equality in Czech Republic”

Denmark

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2012HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 1989 Denmark became the first country in the world to grant legal rights to same-sex relationships by introducing registered partnership legislation. In 2012 Denmark replaced that law with marriage equality legislation.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Ecuador

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2019HOW IT CAME TO BE:The Constitutional Court of Ecuador issued a ruling on June 12, 2019 holding that the nation’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. ROAD:JudicialJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Estonia

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2016HOW IT CAME TO BE:Parliament passed legislation creating same-sex civil unions in July 2016. A court ruling, in December 2016, mandated that a same-sex marriage performed abroad be recognized in Estonia.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Finland

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2017HOW IT CAME TO BE:Finland introduced registered partnership for same-sex couples in 2002. In 2013, a same-sex marriage bill was voted down by Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee. Activists responded by putting forward a similar bill as a “citizens’ initiative,” under legislation that requires parliament to consider initiatives signed on to by more than 50,000 citizens. Parliament voted in favor of the initiative in December 2014, and an amended Marriage Act came into effect in 2017. ROAD:Citizens’ Initiative/ LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Finland to Allow Same-Sex Marriage”

France

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2013HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 1999, parliament introduced civil unions in the form of PACS (“pacte civil de solidarité”)., which provide certain rights to couples irrespective of their sex. In 2013 the legislature adopted same-sex marriage legislation. Opponents challenged the bill before the Constitutional Tribunal, which held it to be compatible with the constitution, and the president signed it into law. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“France: Approve Marriage Equality”“Letter to Members of the French Parliament”“France: First Marriage of a Same-Sex Couple”

Germany

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2017HOW IT CAME TO BE:From 2001 until 2017, only registered partnership was available to same-sex couples. Through several rulings by the Federal Constitutional Court, registered partnerships came to provide almost the same rights as marriage. In 2017, 62.4% of the members of parliament in the Bundestag (House of Representatives) voted in favor of introducing marriage equality. Registered partnership also remain available to same-sex couples.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Germany, Malta on Verge of Marriage Equality”“Germany: Join the Move to Marriage Equality”

Greece

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2015HOW IT CAME TO BE:Parliament legalized same-sex civil unions in December 2015.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Hungary

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2010HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2009, parliament adopted a law on registered partnerships, which the Constitutional Court upheld in 2010. In 2011, parliament approved a new constitution that expressly defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Iceland

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2010HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 1996 Iceland’s parliament introduced registered partnership legislation for same-sex couples. This law was replaced by same-sex marriage legislation in 2010.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Ireland

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2015HOW IT CAME TO BE:From 2011 until 2015, same-sex couples could enter a registered partnership with almost the same rights as marriage. In 2015 62% of Irish voters voted in favor of marriage equality in a binding constitutional referendum. Subsequently, the legislature amended the Irish constitution and the Marriage Act of 2014 to ensure all couples irrespective could marry. Registered partnerships are not available anymore, but existing ones are respected.ROAD:Referendum/LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Ireland: Marriage Equality Affirms Inclusion”

Israel

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Unregistered cohabitationRECOGNIZED SINCE:2010HOW IT CAME TO BE:Marriages in Israel can only be performed by religious marriage courts, not by the secular institutions, and none of the 15 recognized religious marriage courts allow for same-sex marriage. Israel’s legislature has rejected numerous bills proposing same-sex civil marriage – most recently, in June 2018 – and same-sex civil unions. In August 2017, Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition to recognize same-sex marriage. However, many rights are granted to same-sex couples in Israel through the recognition of unregistered cohabitation, similar to common-law marriage. Same-sex couples can adopt children, and same-sex marriages performed abroad can be registered in Israel. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Italy

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2016HOW IT CAME TO BE:Civil union legislation passed by Parliament in 2016 provides most of the same rights as marriage, but excludes adoption rights. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Italy: Same-Sex Civil Unions Made Possible After Vote”

Liechtenstein

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2011HOW IT CAME TO BE:Parliament adopted legislation in 2011 to allow civil unions for same sex couples. An unsuccessful referendum to challenge the new legislation was held in June 2011, with 68.8% voting in support of recognizing same-sex partnerships.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Liechtenstein: Say ‘Yes’ to Same-Sex Partnerships”

Luxembourg

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2015HOW IT CAME TO BE:Registered partnerships for same-sex couples and different-sex couples are available since 2004. These partnerships provide many of the same rights as marriage, but not adoption. In 2014 parliament approved same-sex marriage legislation. The law came into effect on January 1, 2015. Registered partnership is still available. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Luxembourg: Marriage Equality Approved”

Malta

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2017HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2014, Malta introduced legislation to allow civil unions, granting the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. In 2017, the legislature passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Germany, Malta on Verge of Marriage Equality”

Mexico

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2015HOW IT CAME TO BE:17 of Mexico’s 31 states (Mexico City and the states of Aguascalientes, Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacá n, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla Quintana Roo and San Luis Potosí) have marriage equality. In the other 14 states, same-sex couples also can marry, but only after going to a federal court and getting an injunction (amparo). The court cannot deny the amparo, following a June 2015 ruling by the Supreme Court that all bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional. In addition, laws in Mexico City and in the states of Campeche, Coahuila, Jalisco, Michoacán and Tlaxcala provide for same-sex civil unions.ROAD:Legislative/JudicialJURISDICTION:Partial

Netherlands

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2001HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 1998 the Dutch law on registered partnership, proposed by the government, came into force. In 2001 a marriage equality law came into effect, making the Netherlands the first country in the world with marriage equality legislation. Registered partnership is still available for same-sex and different-sex couples.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

New Zealand

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2013HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2005, the Civil Union Act 2004 came into force opening civil unions for both same-sex couples and different-sex couples. In 2013 the legislature legalized same-sex marriage. New Zealand became the first country in Oceania to do so.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“New Zealand: Letter to Members of Parliament Regarding Marriage Equality Bill”

Norway

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2009HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 1993, Norway allowed registered partnership for same-sex couples. In 2009, parliament passed marriage equality legislation. Since then no new registered partnerships are allowed. ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Portugal

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2010HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2001, Portugal extended “de facto unions,” a form of non-registered civil union under which couples can claim certain rights after living together for two years, to same-sex couples. In 2006, a lesbian couple applied for and was denied a marriage license and took the case to court. In 2009, the Constitutional Court decided that the Constitution does not demand recognition of same-sex marriage. The judges ruled the legislature should decide whether to allow same-sex marriage. The law opening civil marriage to same-sex couples came into effect in 2010. Civil unions are still possible.ROAD:Legislative/JudicialJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Slovenia

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2016HOW IT CAME TO BE:In March 2015, parliament passed a law to recognize same-sex marriage. However, voters rejected marriage equality in a referendum on the law held in December of that same year. Parliament then authorized civil unions under the Partnership Act in 2016, which the Constitutional Court upheld after it was challenged in court.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Slovenia: Marriage Equality Under Threat”“Slovenia: Extend Civil Marriage to Same-Sex Couples”“Dispatches: Slovenia’s Rejection of Same-Sex Marriage is No Victory for Kids”

South Africa

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2006HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2005 the Constitutional Court in the case of Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie ruled that to exclude same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional, extended the common-law definition of marriage to include same-sex spouses and gave the legislature one year to introduce marriage equality legislation. In 2006 parliament approved the law, making South Africa the first and only African country with marriage equality.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“South Africa: Grant Full Civil Marriage Rights to Lesbian and Gay Couples, No ‘Civil Unions’ ““South Africa: Separate is Still Unequal in Access to Marriage”

Spain

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2005HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 2005 the legislature passed a law on same-sex marriage. A new government, following elections in 2011 sought an opinion from the Constitutional Court as to whether it could abolish marriage equality. In 2012 the Court upheld marriage equality and since then the law has remained intact.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Sweden

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2009HOW IT CAME TO BE:In 1995, registered partnership was legalized for same-sex couples, granting them the same rights as married couples. In 2009, the legislature introduced and passed marriage equality legislation. No new registered partnerships are allowed.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Switzerland

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Civil UnionRECOGNIZED SINCE:2006HOW IT CAME TO BE:Parliament passed a law providing for civil unions for same-sex couples in 2005. The opposition called a referendum on the law that same year. 58% of voters approved the law, and the first partnership was celebrated in 2006.ROAD:Referendum/LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide

Taiwan

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2019HOW IT CAME TO BE:On May 24, 2017, the Constitutional Court declared Taiwan’s existing marriage law unconstitutional on grounds of discrimination and gave parliament two years to amend it to include same-sex couples. On May 16, 2019, Taiwan’s parliament passed legislation to allow same-sex couples to get married.ROAD:Legislative/JudicialJURISDICTION:Territory-wide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“#LoveWins in Taiwan”

United Kingdom

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:Marriage and Civil UnionsRECOGNIZED SINCE:2005 and 2014HOW IT CAME TO BE:Since 2005, the Civil Partnership Act, applicable throughout the United Kingdom, has provided for civil unions for same-sex couples, giving them all the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. In England and Wales, parliament legalized same-sex marriage through the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013, which came into force in 2014. The Scottish parliament then passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 to legalize same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Northern Ireland, where only civil unions for same-sex couples are allowedROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Marriage equality in England, Scotland, Wales. Civil Partnership only in Northern Ireland. 


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Gay Marriage Does Not End Discrimination”

United States of America

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2015HOW IT CAME TO BE:Initially marriage equality was established on a state-by- state basis, through both legislation and court rulings, starting with Massachusetts in 2004. By 2015, 36 states had marriage equality. In June 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that same-sex couples have the right to marry on the same terms and conditions as different-sex couples.ROAD:JudicialJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage Will Resonate Globally”“US: Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage”“Dispatches: June to be a Pivotal Month for LGBT Rights”“US: Supreme Court to Hear Marriage Equality Case”

Uruguay

AVAILABLE INSTITUTION:MarriageRECOGNIZED SINCE:2013HOW IT CAME TO BE:Civil unions for same-sex couples were legalized in 2008. In 2013, marriage equality legislation passed by Congress came into effect.ROAD:LegislativeJURISDICTION:Countrywide


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTING:“Uruguay: Marriage Equality Approved”