Same-sex union court cases
|Legal status of same-sex unions|
* Not yet in effect
Same-sex marriage is legal in fifteen countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay; as well as certain sub-jurisdictions (parts of Denmark,[nb 1] Mexico,[nb 2] the Netherlands,[nb 3] New Zealand,[nb 4] the United Kingdom[nb 5] and the United States[nb 6]). A similar law in Finland will be in force in 2017.
Same-sex marriage in Mexico is performed in the federal district of Mexico City and the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, Nayarit and Quintana Roo. Their marriage certificates are recognized in all 31 Mexican states. Same-sex marriage is recognized, but not performed, in Israel and Malta. Furthermore, same-sex marriages performed in the Netherlands are recognized in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
Several attempts have been made to establish a right to same-sex marriage at the international level through strategic litigation, at the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations and at the European Court of Human Rights, both of which currently have not yet recognized an equal right to marry for same-sex couples. The Human Rights Committee case was in 1999, with two same-sex couples as the plaintiffs/petitioners and the government of New Zealand as the defender/respondent. The ECHR case was in 2010, with a same-sex couple as the plaintiffs/petitioners and the government of Austria as the respondents. Although both New Zealand and Austria then responded against the petitions then in each case, both countries now legally recognize same-sex unions, New Zealand in the form of same-sex marriage and Austria in the form of a registered partnership.
|United States||1972||The Supreme Court of the United States dismissed Baker v. Nelson "for want of a substantial federal question". This decision was overturned in June 2015 by the same court in the case Obergefell v. Hodges.||No|
|Netherlands||1990||The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that is not discriminatory not to allow same-sex couples to marry, because marriage is open to procreation. However, the Hoge Raad stated that the Parliament is free to grant to same-sex couples most of marriage rights.||No|
|Israel||1994||An Israeli court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same common law benefits as opposite-sex couples.||Yes|
|Israel||1995||An Israeli court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to further benefits.||Yes|
|Israel||1996||An Israeli court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to even further benefits.||Yes|
|New Zealand||December 1997||The Court of Appeal of New Zealand ruled in Quilter v Attorney-General that marriage under common law was between one man and one woman, and the common law ban on same-sex marriage was not discriminatory under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.||No|
|South Africa||February 1998||The Transvaal Provincial Division in Langemaat v Minister of Safety and Security ordered a medical aid scheme to register the same-sex life partner of a member as a dependent, ruling that scheme regulations excluding same-sex partners were unconstitutionally discriminatory.||Yes|
|Canada||1999||The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in M. v. H. that cohabiting same-sex partners in a common-law marriage were entitled to the same rights as unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex partners.||Yes|
|South Africa||December 1999||The Constitutional Court ruled in National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Home Affairs that foreign same-sex partners of South Africans are entitled to the same immigration benefits as foreign spouses.||Yes|
|Israel||2000||An Israeli court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to pension benefits.||Yes|
|Israel||2001||Common-law status is once again expanded to allow a partner to claim guardianship of the other's child.||Yes|
|South Africa||July 2002||The Constitutional Court ruled in Satchwell v President of the Republic of South Africa that pensions and other financial benefits provided by an employer to spouses must also be provided to same-sex life partners who have undertaken a reciprocal duty of support.||Yes|
|South Africa||September 2002||The Constitutional Court ruled in Du Toit v Minister of Welfare and Population Development that same-sex partners are entitled to adopt children jointly and to adopt each other's children as if they were married.||Yes|
|Canada||2002-5||A series of court decisions progressively legalized same-sex marriage in Canada's provinces and territories prior to the passage of the Civil Marriage Act. Decisions in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia found that not permitting same-sex marriage violated the Charter of Rights. When the Court of Appeal for Ontario ordered that its judgment come into effect immediately, the courts in British Columbia and Quebec subsequently amended their recent decisions to do the same, enabling same-sex couples to marry in all three provinces. Further decisions in Yukon, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick extended same-sex marriage to those jurisdictions.||Yes|
|Venezuela||2003||The Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled that the government is free to introduce measures that provide for economic benefits to same-sex couples, though it is not bound by law to do so.||No|
|South Africa||March 2003||The Constitutional Court ruled in J v Director General, Department of Home Affairs that children born to lesbian life-partners through artificial insemination are to be regarded as legitimate in law and that both partners must be registered as the legal parents.||Yes|
|Austria||2003||The European Court of Human Rights ruled that same-sex couples must be recognized under common-law status equal to opposite-sex couples.||Yes|
|Yukon||July 2004||The Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory ordered in Dunbar & Edge v. Yukon (Government of) & Canada (A.G.), 2004 YKSC 54, that the Yukon common law definition of marriage be changed immediately to be "the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others."||Yes|
|South Korea||July 2004||A lesbian couple who have lived together for 20 years has made a palimony suit the property division by eliminating de facto marriage.||No|
|Israel||January 2005||The Supreme Court expanded the common-law status to include for adoption of a partner's child.||Yes|
|South Africa||December 2005||The Constitutional Court ruled in Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples was unconstitutional. The ruling, however, was suspended for one year to allow Parliament time to enact legislation to rectify the inequality.||Yes|
|Costa Rica||May 2006||The Supreme Court of Costa Rica ruled 5–2 that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples was not unconstitutional.||No|
|United States||July 2006||Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning unsuccessfully challenged the validity under the United States Constitution of Initiative Measure 416, Nebraska's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.||No|
|United Kingdom||July 2006||The High Court ruled that recognizing same-sex marriages performed abroad as "civil partnerships" over marriages was not discriminatory.||No|
|Israel||November 2006||The Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the government must recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad on par with opposite-sex marriages that have been performed abroad.||Yes|
|South Africa||November 2006||Days before same-sex marriage became legal, the Constitutional Court ruled in Gory v Kolver NO that a same-sex life partner is entitled to inherit automatically when the other partner dies without a will.||Yes|
|Brazil||2006||A 2006 decision issued by the Superior Tribunal de Justiça stated that same-sex couples qualify as de facto partners.||Yes|
|Colombia||February 2007||A Colombian court ruled that some common law benefits must be extended to same-sex couples.||Yes|
|Aruba||April 2007||The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that Aruba must recognize all Dutch marriages, including same-sex marriages.||Yes|
|Netherlands Antilles||April 2007||The Supreme Court of the Netherlands's ruling applied to the Netherlands Antilles in addition to Aruba.||Yes|
|Colombia||January 2009||The Constitutional Court of Colombia later ruled that benefits for cohabiting same-sex couples must be expanded to give them equality with cohabiting opposite-sex couples.||Yes|
|Slovenia||July 2009||The Constitutional Court of Slovenia ruled that the registered partnership law excluding registered partners from inheritance rights was discriminatory and gave the Parliament six months to respond to the ruling.||Yes|
|Portugal||July 2009||The Constitutional Court of Portugal ruled 3–2 that the statutory ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the Portuguese constitutional provision that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.||No|
|Russia||January 2010||Two lesbians who recently married in Canada have announced their intention to push for its recognition within Russia. Russian courts have ruled that the two are not legally able to marry, and thus the two women are seeking to use a loophole for recognition only.||No|
|Poland||March 2010||The European Court of Human Rights ruled that homosexuals have the right to inherit from their partners.||Yes|
|Italy||April 2010||The constitutionality of Italy's refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples was questioned before the Constitutional Court. In April 2010, the court rejected the bids from Italian couples.||No|
|Austria||June 2010||Schalk and Kopf v. Austria challenges the validity of Austria's marriage laws in the European Court of Human Rights.||No|
|Mexico||August 2010||After affirming the constitutionality of Mexico City's same-sex marriage law, the Supreme Court ruled that all Mexican states are required to recognize the marriages.||Yes|
|Germany||August 2010||The Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that the twenty-point higher inheritance tax for registered partners as opposed to married opposite-sex couples violated the constitution. The government had until 2011 to amend the law.||Yes|
|France||January 2011||France's highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation, on November 17, 2010, asked the Constitutional Council to decide whether Articles 75 and 144 of the Civil Code are inconsistent with the preamble and Article 66 of the French constitution. On January 28, 2011, the Council ruled that the law banning same-sex marriage is constitutional.||No|
|Brazil||May 2011||On May 5, 2011, the Supreme Federal Court ruled 10-0 (with one abstention) that same-sex civil unions must be recognized.||Yes|
|Brazil||June 2011||A judge in São Paulo converted a civil union into a civil marriage.||Yes|
|Colombia||July 2011||The Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that same-sex couples are at a legal disadvantage by being excluded from marriage and ordered Congress to rectify this issue by June 20, 2013. If the deadline is not met, same-sex couples would thenceforth be able to get married by a judge or a notary.||Yes|
|Brazil||October 2011||Brazil's Superior Court ruled that two women can legally be married. It's the highest court in Brazil to uphold a gay marriage. It overturned two lower courts' rulings against the women.||Yes|
|Chile||December 2011||A Court of Appeals in Santiago asked the Constitutional Court about the validity of Article 102 of the Civil Code that defines marriages only between a man and a woman, after three couples challenged the article. The Constitutional Court rejected their bids in a 9-1 vote, and subsequently, the Court of Appeals rejected the challenges.||No|
|Italy||March 2012||The Supreme Court of Cassation ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same common law benefits as opposite-sex couples.||Yes|
|Israel||December 2012||Ramat Gan family court allowed a gay couple to divorce.||Yes|
|Mexico||December 2012||The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation of Mexico ruled unanimously in favor of three same-sex couples who sued the state of Oaxaca for the right to marry. The ruling does not immediately eliminate marriage bans in other Mexican states, but it does set a legal precedent to begin challenging statewide marriage bans.||Yes|
|Italy||January 2013||The Supreme Court of Cassation ruled that gay couples can bring up children as well as heterosexual couples. It also said that it was "mere prejudice" to assume that living with a homosexual couple could be detrimental for a child's development.||Yes|
|Austria||January 2013||The Constitutional Court of Austria ruled that same-sex couples who want to register their partnership will have the same ceremony offered to opposite-sex couples who want to marry. In addition, gay couples will be able to bring the witnesses.||Yes|
|Australia||February 2013||Court held that the national ban on same-sex marriages did not constitute gender discrimination||No|
|Italy||May 2013||An Italian judge recognises a civil partnership contracted by two Italian men in the UK. The couple registered their partnership in the local (Milan) Civil union register. It is the first time that occurs in the Italian jurisprudence.||Yes|
|Brazil||May 2013||On May 14, 2013, the National Justice Council ruled 14-1 that every notary of Brazil must perform same-sex marriage and permit the conversion of any same-sex civil union into a marriage.||Yes|
|United States||June 2013||In United States v. Windsor the Supreme Court of the United States struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples legally married in their own state.||Yes|
|United States||June 2013||In Hollingsworth v. Perry the Supreme Court of the United States vacated the decision of the circuit court of appeals and reinstated the original decision of the district court. This has the effect that California's Proposition 8, a voter-approved referendum that took away the right of same sex-marriage that previously had been approved by the state's courts, is struck down and same-sex marriage will resume in California.||Case dismissed
Same-sex marriage in California resumes
|Colombia||July 2013||A Civil Court in Bogotá ruled that a male same-sex couple has the right to marry.||Yes|
|Greece||November 2013||In 2008 Greece passed a law which regulated cohabitation but excluded same-sex couples from enjoying the same benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples. On November 7, 2013, in Vallianatos and others v Greece the ECtHR ruled that is discriminatory excluding same-sex couples.||Yes|
|Australia||December 2013||The High Court of Australia reviewed the constitutionality of the Marriage Equality Bill approved in October by the Australian Capital Territory It declared on December 12 that same-sex marriage can only be legalised by the Federal government.||Marriage solely a Federal Jurisdiction|
|Italy||2014||The Civil Court of Grosseto ordered the recognition of a marriage contracted by two Italian men in New York. It is the first time that occurs in the Italian jurisprudence. In September 2014 an appellate court in Florence has overruled the lowers court decision. However, the court didn't rule on the constitutionality of the marriage, but insisted that the couple sued the wrong agency. The judges sent the case back to the Civil Court of Grosseto.|
|Paraguay||2014||A Paraguayan gay couple asked an Asunceño judge to register their marriage which they performed in Argentina. On 4 April 2013 the judge refused to register the couple's marriage because the Paraguayan Constitution establish that marriage can only be formed by a man and a woman. The couple said that the decision will be appealed.|
|Cyprus||2014||A Cypriot couple is taking the Republic of Cyprus to the European Court of Human Rights for not giving them the right to enter into a same-sex marriage.|
|Costa Rica||2014||Two gay couples asked a Costa Rican court on May 16 to be married in a civil union. The request of one couple was declined, but they said they have the intention to appeal the judgement.|
|Costa Rica||June 2015||A gay couple asked a Family Court in 2013 for the right to the benefits of de-facto unions afforded to heterosexual couples. On 2 June 2015, the court ruled for the plaintiffs granting them pension, visitation and inheritance rights in their verdict. The couple became the first in the nation to have a same-sex union recognised. The effects of the ruling are on hold while a judicial review of a law referenced in the judge's opinion is pending.|
|United States||June 2015||In Obergefell v. Hodges the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment require all states to license marriage between two people of the same sex and recognize those marriages performed in other jurisdictions.||Yes|
|Austria||April 2016||Austria's Constitutional court is expected to rule later this year over the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban.|
|Colombia||April 2016||The Constitutional Court unified the criteria after Congress did not meet its 2013 deadline and, in practice, only some judges were performing marriages. The 2016 ruling indicates that judges and notaries are obliged to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. ||Yes|
|South Korea||May 2016||After Seodeamun-gu office refused to grant marriage licenses to a same-sex couple, they asked a court on May 21, 2014 to be married. The first oral argument was held on July 6, 2015 in Seoul. On 25 May 2016, the district court ruled against the couple and declared that same-sex marriage can't be granted under the current laws. The couple quickly filed an appeal against the district court ruling.|
|Estonia||August 2016||A pair is challenging before the Administrative Court of Estonia on the right to enter into a civil union.|
|El Salvador||August 2016||The "Sala de lo Constitucional" is studying whether to admit or not a case against article 11 of the Family code which defines marriage as "the legal union between a man and a woman".|
|China||2016||The court in central Changsha dismissed the suit brought against the civil affairs bureau for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple. One of the plaintiffs, 26-year-old Sun Wenlin, said he would appeal the decision.|
|Bermuda||August 2016||A gay Bermudian and his fiancé have been granted leave to argue in the Supreme Court that they should be allowed to wed on the island.|
|Georgia||Litigation ongoing. Launched in 2016||A man is challenging that while the civil code of Georgia is explicitly between a man and a woman; the Constitution does not reference sex/gender in its section on marriage. The Orthodox Church is formally opposed to the lawsuit but believes he should not face violence for challenging the law.|
- Denmark proper and Greenland.
- Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nayarit, Quintana Roo and the Federal District (Mexico City).
- The Netherlands proper.
- New Zealand proper.
- England and Wales, Scotland and the Pitcairn Islands
- United States proper, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands and some tribal jurisdictions.
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