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Same-Sex Marriage Laws, Nationally And Globally

Marriage laws are changing as society and government at large adapt to reflect the rights of same-sex couples to matrimony. Where is it legal so far?

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case that gay couples have the right to marry nation-wide. The decision means that the states still enforcing bans on same-sax marriage are unlawful, and must be struck down.

Here’s a look at the long road that has lead to this decision, and where the rest of the world stands.

Same-sex marriage: a brief history

There are records of same-sex unions in ancient times – specifically in ancient Assyrian society, ancient India, and the pre-Christian Roman Empire. There are even marriage documents between two men dating to 1061, united by a priest in a small Spanish chapel.

Despite certain rituals, practices, and specific moments in history, for the most part homosexual unions were, if not prohibited, not practiced worldwide until the late 20th century.

While pointed bans on gay marriage and activity spread through U.S. states between 1973 and 1994 during the heights of AIDS terror, the Netherlands became the first country to grant same sex couples limited rights in 1979. Denmark was the first to legally recognize homosexual unions in 1989.

The first same-sex marriage bill was signed in 2001 by the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix, followed by Belgium and Ontario, Canada in 2003.

Today, laws related to homosexuality differ drastically by country, varying globally from full legal marriage rights to criminalization.

Same-sex marriage laws in the U.S.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges,  38 states had legalized same-se marriage in some form, and same-sex marriage was recognized by the U.S. Federal Government.

Recent years have seen a floodgate of legalization, culminating in the recent Supreme Court decision. Here’s a timeline of legalization in the U.S:

  • 2004: Massachusetts is first state to legalize same sex marriage.
  • 2008: California and Connecticut follow (though 2009’s Proposition 8 re-banned CA gay marriages until 2013.)
  • 2009: Iowa, New Hampshire, D.C. and Vermont
  • 2011: New York
  • 2012: Washington, Maryland, and Maine
  • 2013: Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, Minnesota, New Mexico, Hawaii
  • 2014: Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
  • 2015: Alabama, Texas, entirety of United States

Map and key from Wikipedia.

Gay marriage laws globally

World_marriage-equality_laws.svg Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 10.27.47 AM

Map and key from Wikipedia

On a larger scale, gay marriage is now legal in 18 countries, plus some jurisdictions of Mexico.

Here’s a timeline of global legalization:

  • 2001: The Netherlands
  • 2003: Belgium
  • 2005: Canada and Spain
  • 2006: South Africa
  • 2009: Norway and Sweden
  • 2010: Argentina, Iceland, Portugal
  • 2012: Denmark
  • 2013: Brazil, France, New Zealand, Uruguay
  • 2015: Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, the United States

All in all, 18 nations is a step for these historically marginalized people toward equal marriage rights, albeit a small and controversial one.

Originally published on January 31, 2014. 

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Jennifer Markert