April 1st, 20 years ago, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise and marry same-sex couples. With the mayor of Amsterdam officiating the union of four couples in City Hall.
At the time, Mayor Job Cohen told the newlyweds, “There are two reasons to rejoice, you are celebrating your marriage, and you are also celebrating your right to be married.”
Today, same-sex marriage is legal in 29 countries; Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States Of America and Uruguay.
Below, a timeline of the progression of the legalisation of same-sex marriage across the globe.
2001: Netherlands – Dutch couple Gert Kasteel and Dolf Pasker made history when they tied the knot in the world’s first legally-recognised same-sex wedding in the Netherlands.
2003: Belgium – A bill for legalisation was passed by the Senate on 28 November 2002, and by the Chamber of Representatives on 30 January 2003. It entered into force on 1 June, after King Albert II gave his royal assent.
2005: Canada – In 2003, Ontario and British Columbia became the first two provinces to legalize same-sex marriage. The federal Civil Marriage Act came into force on 25 July 2005, making same-sex marriage legal across Canada.
2005: Spain – Same-sex marriage was introduced in several provinces by court decisions beginning in 2003 before being legally recognised nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on 20 July 2005.
2006: South Africa – South Africa is to date the only country in Africa to have legalised same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples can also adopt children jointly, and also arrange IVF and surrogacy treatments.
2008: Norway – Norway became the first Scandinavian country and the sixth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
2009: Sweden – Same-sex marriage in Sweden was legalised 1 May 2009, following the adoption of a gender-neutral marriage law by the Riksdag on 1 April 2009.
2010: Argentina – A bill to legalise same-sex marriage was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on 5 May 2010, and by the Senate on 15 July. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner gave her assent on 21 July, and the law went into effect the following day.
2010: Portugal – President Aníbal Cavaco Silva ratified the law, making Portugal the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage nationwide.
2010: Iceland – A bill providing for a gender-neutral marriage definition was passed by the Althing on 11 June 2010 with a unanimous vote.
2012: Denmark – The Danish Parliament voted on 7 June in favour of a gender-neutral marriage law, including marriages in the Church of Denmark.
2013: Uruguay – A bill for legalisation was passed by the Chamber of Representatives on December 12 2012, in a vote of 81–6. The Senate approved it with some minor amendments on 2 April 2013 in a 23–8 vote.
2013: Brazil – Legalised 16 May 2013, following a decision from the National Justice Council, which ordered notaries of every state to perform same-sex marriages.
2013: New Zealand – A bill for legalisation was passed by the New Zealand House of Representatives on 17 April 2013 by 77 votes to 44 and received royal assent on 19 April.
2013: England and Wales – Passed by the UK Parliament in July 2013 and came into force on 13 March 2014, with the first same-sex marriages taking place on 29 March 2014
2013: France – legalised on 18 May 2013, making France the thirteenth country worldwide to allow same-sex couples to marry.
2014: Luxembourg – A bill for the legalisation of same-sex marriages was enacted by the Chamber of Deputies on 18 June 2014 and signed into law by Grand Duke Henri on 4 July.
2014: Scotland – Legalised on 16 December 2014, with the first same-sex marriages occurring on 31 December 2014
2015: United States – On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalised it in all fifty states, and required states to honour out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses.
2015: Ireland – Republic of Ireland legalised same-sex marriage on 16 November 2015. A referendum on 22 May 2015 amended the Constitution of Ireland to provide that marriage is recognised irrespective of the sex of the partners.
2015: Finland – A bill for the legalisation of same-sex marriages was approved by the Finnish Parliament on 12 December 2014 and signed by President Sauli Niinistö on 20 February 2015. The law took effect on 1 March 2017.
2015: Greenland – legalised on 1 April 2016.
2016: Colombia – legalised on 28 April 2016, when the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled by a 6-3 vote that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional under the Colombian Constitution of 1991.
2017: Malta – legalised on 1 September 2017, following the passage of legislation in the Parliament on 12 July 2017. The bill was signed into law by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca on 1 August 2017.
2017: Australia – legalised on 9 December 2017. Legislation to allow same-sex marriage, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, passed the Australian Parliament on 7 December 2017, following a nationwide plebiscite, and received royal assent from the Governor-General the following day.
2017: Germany – legalised on 1 October 2017. A bill for legalisation passed the Bundestag on 30 June 2017 and the Bundesrat on 7 July. It was signed into law on 20 July by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and published in the Federal Law Gazette on 28 July 2017.
2019: Austria – Same-sex marriage in Austria was legalised on 1 January 2019, following a decision of the Constitutional Court on 4 December 2017.
2019: Taiwan – legalised on 24 May 2019. This made Taiwan the first country in Asia to perform same-sex marriages.
2019: Ecuador – legalised on 8 July 2019, following a Constitutional Court ruling that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional under the Constitution of Ecuador. The ruling took effect upon publication in the official registry. Ecuador became the fifth South American country to allow same-sex couples to marry.
2019: Northern Ireland – legalised on 13 January 2020, following the enactment of the Northern Ireland Act 2019.[ The first marriage ceremony took place on 11 February 2020.
2020: Costa Rica – legalised 26 May, 2020 as a result of a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice. Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to recognise and perform same-sex marriages.
In 2021, the countries that appear to be close to achieving marriage equality include Chile, Czech Republic, Japan, Philippines and Thailand.