Foreign Laws Regarding Same Sex Marriage and Civil Unions


Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of same sex marriages.  I thought it would be interesting to look at what other countries have done with regard to this issue in the 21st century.

Below you will find a listing of foreign countries which have recognized same-sex marriages or civil unions.  Included is the effective, passage date or approval date of the legislation and links to official texts or news sources which discuss the legislation and may include links to the text.

National jurisdictions which have legalized same-sex marriage:

The Netherlands – April 1. 2001 Parliament voted to eliminate discrimination from their marriage laws for Dutch nationals and residents. See:

Belgium – February 13, 2003, King Albert II approved the bill legalizing equal marriage which became law on June 1, 2003. Gender neutral statutory cohabitation had been legal in Belgium since 2000.

Spain – July 3, 2005, Ley 13/2005 to legalize same-sex marriages for citizens and legal residents went into effect. It was passed by the legislature on June 30, royal assent was given on July 1, and the law was published in the Official Journal on July 2.  The law was upheld by the Constitutional Court in 2012.

Canada - July 20, 2005, The Civil Marriage Act received Royal Assent allowing same-sex residents and non-residents to marry in Canada. Same-sex common law marriages had been recognized since 1999.

South Africa – November 30, 2006, almost a year after the Constitutional Court of South Africa had ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples was unconstitutional, Parliament enacted the Civil Union Act ending exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.

Norway – January 1, 2009, the gender-neutral bill ending marriage exclusion to same-sex couples passed by Parliament went into effect. See news story:

Sweden – May 1 2009, bill ending exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage went into effect. Starting in 1995 same-sex couples had been allowed to form civil unions known as registered partnerships.  See:

Portugal – June 5, 2010,  Lei 9/2010  passed by the Parliament, ratified by the President and upheld by the Constitutional Court ending exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage went into effect.

Iceland – June 27, 2010, Parliament’s unanimously enacted bill to end exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage went into effect. See Jurist posting:

Argentina - - July 21, 2010, President signed into law same-sex marriage equality law – see news story re: passage of the bill at

Denmark – June 15, 2012, the gender-neutral marriage bill legalizing same-sex civil registry marriages and marriages in the Church of Denmark went into effect. In 1989, Denmark had been the first country to pass a registered partnership act recognizing legal and fiscal rights of same-sex couples. See Jurist posting:

Brazil – May 14, 2013, the National Council of Justice ruled that government offices that issue marriage licenses cannot reject same-sex couples applying to marry.  Civil unions had been recognized since 2011. See Jurist posting:

France – May 29, 2013, the bill passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by the President to allow same-sex couples to marry went into effect. See Jurist posting:

Uruguay – August 5, 2013, the bill approved by the legislature and signed into law by the President Ley No. 19.075 (Marriage Equality Law) went into effect.

New Zealand – August 19, 2013, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples passed by Parliament in April went into effect.

United Kingdom – July 17, 2013, Royal Assent was given to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

Luxembourg – January 1, 2015, the bill allowing same-sex marriage that the Chamber of Deputies approved June 18. 2014 and published in the Official Gazette on July 15, 2014 went into effect.

Civil Partnerships had been allowed since 2004.

Finland, November 28, 2014, Parliament approved an amendment legalizing marriage between same-sex couples, signed by the President in February 2015 that will become effective in 2017. See news story at:

Ireland – May 23, 2015 – Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by national referendum.  The results of the referendum were published in the official gazette on May 26, 2015 which publication begins the period of time within which the results may be challenged, so there is no firm effective date at this time. 

National jurisdictions which have legalized same sex civil unions but not same sex marriage:

Chile – April 13, 2015, President signed into law Acuredo de Union Civil  which is to go into effect on October 22, 2015.


More information can be found at;

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. See  opinion at:


Sarah Cox
Foreign, International, and Comparative Law Librarian,UConn Law

Sarah Cox is the foreign, international and comparative law subject specialist in the Law Library.  She is the primary library liaison for the LL.Ms in the U.S. Legal Studies program, for the members of Connecticut Journal of International Law and the other J.D.s who take foreign and international law courses, as well as carrying out regular reference department duties.  Sarah received her J.D. from UCONN Law, her Masters in Library and Information Studies and a Certificate in Bibliography from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a B.A. and M.A. in European History.