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Whether you’re planning a destination wedding or just want to elope someplace magnificent, these 31 countries that allow same-sex marriage are a good place to start.

Prefer to avoid nations that nations that offer no protection (or worse, punish homosexuality by death)?

We’ll also take a look at the recent ILGA World maps showing which countries still have a very long way to go.

Take a look at 31 countries that currently allow same-sex marriage, as well as 70 nations where just being gay is completely illegal.

Countries That Allow Same-Sex Marriage

Each year, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA World, releases a series of updated world maps showing where it’s both legal and illegal to be LGBTQ+. 

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If you’re planning a destination wedding, these maps can help you make an informed- and safe- decision on where to go, so let’s start with the good news first.

In the world, there are 195 countries and within those countries, 31 of them have legalized same-sex marriage, between April 1, 2001 and January 13, 2020.

Here are those countries, along with dates the laws passed and when they actually took effect.

Netherlands  

 The Netherlands led the world by becoming the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. A law passed on December 19, 2000 and went into effect on April 1, 2001.

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The day that the law took effect, and just minutes after midnight,  4 same-sex couples wed at The Town Hall of Amsterdam, by Job Cohen, Amsterdam’s then-mayor.

The couples include: Peter Lemke & Frank Wittebrood, Ton Jansen & Louis Rogmans, Helene Faasen & Anne-Marie Thus and Dolf Pasker & Geert Kasteel.

Belgium

 Belgium’s law passed on November 28, 2002, and went into effect on June 1, 2003.

The first female and male couples married in Belgium both wed in the Belgian municipality of Kapellen, located in the Province of Antwerp.

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Marion Huibrecht & Christel Verswyvelen, the first female couple wed on June 6, 2003.

The first male couple that were married, Jan Thys & Tom Van Dessel, married on June 13, 2003.

Spain

A law, passed on June 30, 2005, went into effect on July 3, 2005. One of Spain’s most notable same-sex marriage took place in 1901.

While it is not an “official” same-sex marriage, it shows what determined same-sex couples would do to get married.

Two Spanish teachers, Marcela Ibeas & Elisa Loriga, were married, but Elisa Loriga dressed up as a groom, Mario, so they could get married.

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Canada

On July 20, 2005, the Canadian Parliament passed the Civil Marriage Act, which defined marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”

Prior to the nationwide legislation, same-sex marriages had already been legal in 7 Canadian provinces.

On June 10, 2003, Ontario became the first Canadian province to legalize same-sex marriage. Michael Stark & Michael Leshner were the first same-sex couple legally married in Canada.

The Toronto-based couple, who had been partners for 22 years prior to getting married, wed on June 10, 2003, just hours after the ruling.

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South Africa

 A law was passed on November 14, 2006, by the National Assembly, approved by the National Council of Provinces on November 28, 2006 and went into effect two days later, on November 30, 2006.

South Africa is the only country in Africa that allows same-sex marriage.

On December 1, 2006, game rangers- Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls– became South Africa’s first gay couple to be married.

The couple was married at the Department of Home Affairs Office in George, a town located in South Africa’s Western Cape province.

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Norway

A law was passed on June 11, 2008 and took effect on January 1, 2009. On October 30, 2015, the Church of Norway’s National Council voted to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in its churches.

On February 1, 2017, the Church of Norway’s new marriage liturgy went into effect.

Just after the clock struck midnight on February 1, 2017,Kjell Benjaminsen & Erik Skjelnaes, who had been living together for 36 years prior to their marriage, were the first gay couple married in Norway.

Sweden

 A law, passed on April 1, 2009, went into effect on May 1, 2009.

From 2009-2019, Eva Brunne, served as the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city.

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She was the world’s first openly lesbian bishop and she was also the first bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden to be in a registered same-sex partnership.

She and her partner, Gunilla Linden, are the parents of a young son.

Portugal

 A law was passed on May 17, 2010, which went into effect on June 5, 2010. On June 7, 2010, divorced mothers, who have been together since 2003, Teresa Pires & Helena Paixao, became Portugal’s first same-sex marriage.

On February 1, 2006, the couple were denied a marriage license in Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon.

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Iceland

On June 11, 2010, a law was passed, one that went into effect on June 27, 2010.

On June 27, 2010, then-Prime Minister of Iceland, Johanna Sigurdardottir, and her long-term partner, Jonina Leosdottir, transformed their 2002 registered partnership to a recognized marriage.

Johanna Sigurdardottir is the world’s first openly gay head of state.

Argentina

 A law was passed on July 21, 2010, which went into effect the next day. On July 30, 2010, in the northern city of Frias, Miguel Angel Calefato and his partner of 27 years,

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Jose Luis Navarro, became the first gay couple to be married in Argentina. Argentina is the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Denmark

A law, passed on June 12, 2012, took effect just 3 days later on June 15. In 1989, Denmark became the world’s first country to allow same-sex couples to register as domestic partners.

From June 15, 2012- December 31, 2012, Denmark saw 268 same-sex marriages. From January 1, 2019- December 31, 2019, there were 405 same-sex marriages that took place.

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Brazil

 A law, which was passed on May 14, 2013, took effect two days later. Prior to the law being passed, there were 13 Brazilian states that had already allowed same-sex marriages:

Alagoas, Bahia, Ceara, Espirito Santo, the Federal District, Mato Grosso Do Sul, Paraiba, Parana, Piaui, Rondonia, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo and Sergipe.

France

 A law was passed on April 23, 2013 and it took effect on May 18, 2013.

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The first same-sex marriage in France took place on May 29, 2013, in Montpellier, a city near France’s south coast, on the Mediterranean Sea.

Vincent Autin & Bruno Boileau exchanged vows at Montpellier’s City Hall, officiated by then-mayor, Helene Mandroux.

England/Wales

 A law, which was passed on July 17, 2013, went into effect on March 13, 2014.

One minute after the clock struck midnight on March 29, 2014, a London couple- Peter McGraith and David Cabreza– were the first same-sex couple to marry in the United Kingdom.

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The couple, partners for 17 years and parents of 2 young boys, were married at the Islington Town Hall in the London Borough of Islington.

Uruguay

A law was passed on April 10, 2013 and the law took effect on August 5, 2013.

In the first year after the law went into effect, 200+ same-sex couples were married in Uruguay, with 134 of them getting married in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital and largest city.

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New Zealand

On April 19, 2013, a law was passed, which took effect 4 months later on August 19.

In the year after the law went into effect, there were 926 same-sex marriages registered in New Zealand. Of those marriages, 532 couples were New Zealand couples and 237 were Australian couples.

Scotland

 A law was passed on February 4, 2014 and took effect on December 16, 2014. During the first full quarter of 2015 (January 1- March 31), there were 3,889 marriages performed in Scotland.

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Of those marriages, 462 of them were same-sex marriages, adding up to one in eight Scotland marriages being a same-sex marriage.

Luxembourg

 On June 18, 2014, a law was passed, but it didn’t go into effect until more than 6 months later, on January 1, 2015.

On the day that the law went into effect, Jean Olinger and Henri Huber became the first same-sex couple to get married in the country.

The marriage, which took place at the Town Hall in the commune of Differdange, was officiated by then-mayor, Roberto Traversini.

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Ireland

 A law, passed on October 29, 2015, went into effect on November 16, 2015.

On November 17, 2015, in the county town of Clonmel, a Dublin-based couple, Cormac Gollogly and Richard Dowling, were the first same-sex couple who were married in Ireland.

Colombia

 A law was passed on April 28, 2016 and went into effect that same day. On May 24, 2016, Fernando Quimbayo and Jose Ticora became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Colombia.

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The couple was married in Santiago de Cali, the capital city of Valle de Cauca, or Cauca Valley.

United States

 On June 26, 2015 (Obergefell Vs. Hodges), the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry, requiring all 50 states to recognize and perform same-sex marriages.

Prior to the ruling, there were 36 states that had already legalized same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.

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On May 17, 2004, a couple from the city of Malden, Massachusetts- Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey– became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the U.S.

The couple was married at the Cambridge City Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Greenland

 A law was passed on May 26, 2015 and went into effect on April 1, 2016.

On April 1, 2016, Laila Molgaard and Henriette Simonsen were the first gay couple to be married in a Greenlandic church. The couple was married at the Hans Egede Church, an evangelical Lutheran church in Nuuk, Greenland.

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Finland

A law took  effect on March 1, 2017. In the 30 days following the law taking effect, there were 857 same-sex marriages performed in Finland, according to figures from the Population Register Centre of Finland.

Of those marriages, 770 of them were registered partnerships transformed into marriages and 87 of them were totally new.

Malta

 A law  passed on July 12, 2017, which went into effect on September 1, 2017.

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Malta ranks top in Europe for LGBT rights. In fact, it was the first country in Europe to ban conversion therapy, “a psychological treatment intended to change people’s sexual orientation.”

Germany

A law  passed on July 20, 2017 and took effect shortly after on October 1, 2017.

On that day, Berlin-based couple, Karl Kreile & Bodo Mende, who had been together for 38 years, were the first same-sex couple to marry in Germany.

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The couple married at Rathaus Schoneberg, the city hall for the borough of Tempelhof-Schoneberg in Berlin.

Australia

A law, passed on December 7, 2017, went into effect two days later, on December 9, 2017. On December 15, 2017, Jill Kindt and Jo Grant, who had been together for 8 years, tied the knot in their garden.

The couple was exempt from Australia’s normal 30-day waiting period because Jo Grant was terminally ill with a rare cancer. Sadly, she died on January 30, 2018.

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Austria

On December 5, 2017, a law passed, but it didn’t go into effect until January 1, 2019. The first marriage of a same-sex couple in Austria took place on October 18, 2018.

The couple, whose names were not released, were married in Austria’s capital city of Vienna.

The reason that the couple didn’t have to wait until January 1, 2019 to get married was because the couple was one of the plaintiff couples who challenged the same-sex marriage ban and were able to marry right away.

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Taiwan

 A law passed on May 17, 2019, which went into effect on May 24, 2019. On the day it went into effect, 526 same-sex couples were married in Taiwan.

Taiwan is the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Ecuador

A law passed on June 12, 2019 and went into effect on July 8, 2019.

On July 18, 2019, in the port city of Guayaquil, Michelle Aviles and Alexandra Chavez became the first LGBTI couple to marry in Ecuador.

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Northern Ireland

A law passed on January 13, 2020. The first same-sex couple to get married in Northern Ireland was a Belfast couple- Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards.

The couple wed on February 11, 2020 at the Loughshore Hotel in Belfast.

Costa Rica

On August 8, 2018, Costa Rica’s Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban same-sex couples from getting married.

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As part of that ruling, it gave the Legislative Assembly 18 months, starting on November 26, 2018, when the ruling was published in the judicial bulletin, to reform or overturn the law, otherwise the ban would automatically be abolished.

This means that Costa Rica will officially legalize same-sex marriage on May 26, 2020, at the very latest.

Mexico

Throughout Mexico, only some jurisdictions have legalized same-sex marriage.

This includes Mexico City, which passed a law on December 21, 2009, which went into effect on March 4, 2010, as well as 17 states: 2011- Quintana Roo, 2014- Coahuila, 2015- Chihuahua & Nayarit, 2016- Jalisco, Campeche, Colima, Michoacan & Morelos, 2017- Chiapas, Puebla & Baja California and 2019- Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo & Baja California Sur.

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Now the bad news. 

Countries where being gay is punishable by death

According to the ILGA World map, 6 nations have death penalty laws in effect and 6 may choose to execute those who violate laws against being gay. 

The data presented in this map is based on State-Sponsored Homophobia, an ILGA World report by Lucas Ramón Mendos.

As you can see on the map above, many nations still have a long way to go before the LGBTQ community can feel safe within their borders. 

Currently, just being gay is punishable by up to 8 years in prison in 30 countries, and up to 10 years in 26.

Meanwhile, in 12 countries, same-sex relationships can carry the death penalty.  These include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Mauritania,  Yemen, Pakistan, UAE and Nigeria.

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What are your thoughts on the 31 countries that allow same-sex marriage? How can other nations learn from them? Share below. 

 

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