Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions
2013-APR: Current status: in
Canada, South America, Europe, etc.
This essay is believed to be accurate as of 2013-MAY. However, legal recognition of same-sex relationships is in a continual state of flux. In the seven months between 2012-NOV and 2013-MAY, three states have attained marriage equality and a fourth -- Rhode Island -- is expected to as well. Do not rely on the following essay to make personal decisions.
Worldwide SSM status as of 2013-APR:
Fourteen countries have legalized SSM. In addition, same-sex marriage (SSM) is available in some states in Mexico, and the U.S.
There is currently a great deal of activity to legalize SSM in
English-speaking countries that have not already achieved marriage equality.
Current status of same-sex marriages in the U.S.:
As of 2013-JUN-30: SSM has been legalized in 13 states [California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusets, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washinton state] and the District of Columbia. About 30% of Americans live in a place where same-sex couples can marry. Same-sex marriage (SSM) is forbidden by state constitutional amendments in 30 states and by state laws only in about 7 states. The state Constitution and marriage laws in New Mexico are silent on the issue..
The federal Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) once prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages anywhere in the country. Same-sex married couples and their children received none of the federal benefits, recognitions, protections etc., that are automatically given to opposite-sex married couples. A critical section of DOMA was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2013-JUN. Some same-sex married couples now receive some federal benefits, depending on where they were married, and where they currently reside.
At the moment, the United States is a bit of a patchwork quilt and is liable to remain as such for years. A same-sex couple who had married, say, in Massachusetts, can go on a trip with their children, wander
through a number of states, briefly enter Canada, and change their status repeatedly:
|In Canada: they would be regarded as married. |
||In the U.S. depending upon the state they were in, they might be:
||Considered married, and having full state rights but no federal rights, or|
||Recognized as being in a civil union, and having full state rights but no federal rights, or.|
||Recognized as being in a domestic partnership or some type of beneficiary relationship. They would have some state
rights, but no federal rights, or|
||Being temporarily divorced against their will, considered roommates, having their children
regarded as illegitimate, having no guaranteed access to each other if one enters a
hospital, unable to make medical decisions if their partner is
Most states do not recognize same-sex relationships -- even if the couple was legally married elsewhere. Such couples are regarded as "legal strangers" -- as mere roommates.|
Loving, committed couples need to plan their vacations carefully in case they
have a medical emergency or other problem.
Lambda Legal maintains a "national and state-by-state snapshot" of laws and constitutional amendments that affect LGBT persons. It is titled: "An Unfulfilled Promise:
Lesbian and Gay Inequality Under American Law." It covers the following topics of concern for LGBT couples and individuals:
- Same-sex marriage
- Employment discrimination
- Discrimination in accomodations.
The snapshot, which is a PDF file, can be viewed at: http://data.lambdalegal.org/ The document has a disclaimer: "This document offers general information only and not legal advice about specific situations."
Current status of same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships in the U.S.:
Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow couples to register their relationships. They are called by different names: civil union, domestic partnership, designated beneficiary agreement, or reciprocal beneficiary relationship. These give same-sex couples some, most, or all of the state's legal benefits of marriage. However all are missing what many same-sex couples consider the most important right of all: to be able to refer to their relationship as a marriage.
As of 2012-APR: The jurisdictions are: California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington state, and Wisconsin. 5,6
In a few political jurisdictions like California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, and Maine, same-sex couples can either register their relationship as a civil union, etc., or be married.
About 46% of the U.S. population resides in a state where same-sex couples can marry, or register their relationship as a civil union, etc., or do either.
Interracial couples had a similar situation back in the 1960's before the
1967 U.S. Supreme Court's ruling -- Loving v. Virginia -- declared
racially bigoted laws in 16 contiguous states in the deep South to be unconstitutional, and made
interracial marriages legal across the country.
According to Wikipedia on 2013-JUN-39, the status of SSM in the U.S. is:
Not shown in the above map is a temporary legalization of SSM in New Jersey, effective on 2013-OCT-21, by the Superior Court. This makes New Jersey the 14th state (the 15th jurisdiction including DC) to have attained marriage equality. That is expected to be made permanent in early 2014 by a ruling of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
In comparison, a similar map for opposite-sex marriage would be
a sea of dark blue. Married opposite-sex couples are recognized throughout the US, Canada and other countries as married.
A more detailed map is available on the Wall Street Journal web site. It consists of a separate image for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In each case, recent developments are listed. See: http://online.wsj.com/
Colors used in the above map:
Same-sex marriage available now or about to become into effect
Civil Unions, etc granting some of the state rights to marriage
Legislation granting limited/enumerated rights
California: SSM not available; previous SSMs recognized
Legal SSMs performed elsewhere recognized (New Mexico)
No specific prohibition or recognition of same-sex marriages or
civil unions (New Mexico only)
State law bans SSM. Either the legislature or state
supreme court could legalize SSMs.
State Constitution bans SSM. Either a constitutional
amendment or decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could legalize SSMs.
State Constitution bans both SSM and other kinds of same-sex
unions; loving committed same-sex couples have the legal status of roommates.
Either a state constitutional amendment or a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court would be needed to
|States typically provide a few hundred benefits, protections and rights to
all married couples and their children. |
|| Since 2013-JUN, when part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was declared unconstitutional, the 1,038 federal rights, benefits and
privileges automatically given to married opposite-sex couples are now available to some same-sex couples in those states that recognize same-sex marriages. |
Current status in Canada:
Since 2005-JUL-20. all loving, committed couples -- both same-sex and
opposite-sex -- have been able marry in nine out of ten province and in all three
territories of Canada, The one exception was Prince Edward Island (PEI). Their provincial government
initially couldn't figure out a process that would enable them to marry same sex
couples. Their motivation to find a solution quickly increased when they faced a lawsuit from a
lesbian couple. Realizing that they had absolutely zero chance of winning at court, the
province quickly devised a mechanism to
marry the couple and subsequent same-sex couples.
Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can marry in Canada whether they are Canadians or citizens of
another country if they meet age and genetic requirements.
Late 2009 public opinion polls indicate that about two in three Canadian adults
approve of marriage equality. The topic is very rarely discussed in the media,
with the exception of wedding announcements.
Status in South America at 2013-APR:
In different countries in the world, holding a same-sex marriage ritual can involve anything from a great celebration to a risk of arrest, trial and execution. The latter is the law in six predominately Muslim countries. Countries in South America do not go quite to these extremes. Reaction ranges from celebrations and marriage registration in Argentina, to an arrest, trial, and a potential life sentence in Guyana.
Other type of partnership recognized
No recognition, SSM banned by the constitution
Same-sex sexual activity criminalized (one country, Guyana)
- Year 2000: * Netherlands: Gay and lesbian couples, who are either citizens of
the Netherlands or who have residency permits, are able to marry and
adopt. This was the first country in the world to make same-sex marriages
available. More details.
- 2003: Belgium: Same-sex couples couples who are residents or
citizens can marry, but cannot yet adopt. More details.
- 2005: Spain: The country legalized SSM in 2005-JUN.
- 2005: Canada: The country legalized SSM in 2005-JUL-20.
More details. Because of Canada's closeness to the
U.S. in terms of culture and geography, we have covered events leading up to
SSM in detail.
- 2006: South Africa: Their Constitutional Court -- South Africa's
highest court -- ruled on 2005-DEC that same-sex marriages must be legalized
within a year. On 2006-NOV-15, their legislature passed a law legalizing
same-sex marriage, by a vote of 230 to 41 with three abstentions.
- 2008: Norway: Enabling legislation was passed during
2008-JUN; since 2009, same-sex couples have been able to marry.
- 2009: Sweden: Enabling legislation was overwhelmingly passed by
Parliament on 2009-APR-01. It took effect on 2009-MAY-01.
- 2009: Mexico City: The city became the first jurisdiction in Latin
America to legalize SSM on 2009-DEC-21.
- 2009: Argentina: Ushuaia, the southern-most city in the world saw
the first SSM in Latin America. It is located in Tierra del Fuego province at
the southern tip of Argentina. More info.
- 2010: Portugal: Amazingly, this country in which 97% of the population identifies with the Roman Catholic Church, turned its back on the Church's teachings and legalized SSM. The first same-sex couple were married on JUN-07
- 2010: Iceland: The first same-sex couple to be married was Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir and her long-time female partner Jonina Leosdottir.
- 2010: Argentina: By mid-July, both houses in the Government had passed a same-sex marriage bill amid intense opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Christian groups. It was signed into law; same-sex marriages have been available since 2010-JUL-22. More details.
- 2013-JUN: The governments of three countries have approved SSM:
* Years cited are when enabling legislation was passed. Most
legislatures passed laws that only took effect months later.
|Europe: Many countries in Europe have created a type of civil
union for same-sex couples which grant them most or all of the benefits and
obligations of marriage. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to
convince European countries who have no same-sex marriage or civil union law
to recognize those same-sex couples' civil unions contracted in Britain. He
"We want countries where that hasn't been the case - especially in Eastern
Europe - to recognize them. We're negotiating agreements with France and then
with Spain. ...If we could show eastern Europe as well as western Europe, that
this respect for gay people is due, that would be really important. Of course
it will be tough, and will take many years, but that has never ever been a
good reason not to fight." 2
||Israel: This country is unique in the world, in that many of its citizens are unable to marry within their own country. Marriages in Israel are performed under a "confessional community" system. There are a total of 15 recognized religious communities, none of which recognize same-sex marriage. Jewish couples must be from the orthodox community in order to be eligible to be married in the country. Reformed Jews, Jews from other traditions, couples from an unrecognized religious community, and couples who are unaffiliated with any religion cannot marry in Israel. They must leave the country, get married elsewhere,
return to Israel, and register their foreign marriages. Due to a loophole in
the law, this applies also to same-sex couples. However, although same-sex couples can register their marriages, their registration carries no legal weight. The loophole is expected to
be plugged eventually. Their relationship can be recognized as a type of cohabitation and they can receive most of the rights of marriage. More details.|
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink are not necessarily still active today.
- The large graphic is copied from Wikipedia at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/ This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.
You are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it,
and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. See:
Image updated from Wikipedia periodically.
- Hilary White, "UK Prime Minister Pledges to Force Gay Civil Union
Recognition in Eastern Europe," LifeSiteNews.com, 2009-DEC-18, at:
- "Argentine Senate backs bill legalizing gay marriage," BBC News, 2010-JUL-15, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk
- "Same-sex marriage in Argentina," Wikipedia, as on 2011-JAN-10, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Domestic partnership," Wikipedia, as at: 2013-APR-15, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Civil union," Wikipedia, as at: 2013-APR-14, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Copyright © 2003 to 2013 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2013-PCT-19
Author: B.A. Robinson