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Where is Gay Marriage Legal?

Updated on April 22, 2013

Whilst several countries had previously recognized same-sex relationships under various names, it wasn't until 2001 that The Netherlands became the first country to officially recognize same-sex marriage. Since then a number of other countries have followed their lead and passed legislation.

In some countries, because of the way governments are structured and laws about marriage set, same-sex marriages have different status in different regions. Examples of these countries include the USA and Mexico.

Which Countries Have Legalized Gay Marriage?

The year when legislation took effect is in brackets.

  • Argentina (2010)
  • Belgium (2003)
  • Canada (2005)
  • Denmark (2006)
  • Iceland (2010)
  • Netherlands (2001)
  • New Zealand (2013)
  • Norway (2009)
  • Portugal (2010)
  • Spain (2005)
  • South Africa (2006)
  • Sweden (2009)

Which US States Have Legalized Gay Marriage?

  • Connecticut (2008)
  • Iowa (2009)
  • Maine (2012)
  • Maryland (2013)
  • Massachusetts (2004)
  • New Hampshire (2010)
  • New York (2011)
  • Vermont (2009)
  • Washington (2012)
  • Washington DC (2010)

Same-Sex Marriage in the USA

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

In 1996 DOMA was signed into law at the federal level. It defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and stated that states do not need to recognize a union which is not between a man and a woman. The act did not restrict individual states from allowing same-sex marriage however.


California has had more complex recent history surrounding gay marriage than other states. In June 2008 same-sex marriage was effectively legalized following a ruling from the supreme court of California, however in November 2008 an amendment to the state constitution was passed defining marriage to be between a man and a woman. California is unique among the states however, because despite not allowing same-sex marriages to take place within their state they will recognize marriages performed in other states where they are legal.

Trends in Opinion

Popular support across America for the legalization of same-sex marriages appears to be growing, with Gallup, CBS News and Washington Post polls, showing 53%, 51% and 51% of the US population in support of gay marriage in November 2012.

Where in the World is Next For Marriage Equality?

As support for LGBT rights grow in the community worldwide it is expected for more countries to pass laws on marriage equality. Great Britain and Uruguay are both currently considering legislation to legalize same sex marriage, which seem likely to be passed into law.

Will Countries Recognize Same-Sex Marriages From a Different Juristiction?

It is up to each government to choose when they recognize marriages of any sort performed in other jurisdictions. Generally most countries will only recognize marriages which could also have been performed within their system. There are exceptions to this however, Uruguay for example recognizes foreign same-sex marriages. Sometimes this can happen because of legal loopholes or lack of legislation rather than deliberate policy.

Do you support same-sex marriage?

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