Which countries allow gay marriage?

gay marriage around the world

In the lead up to Australia’s Marriage Law Postal Survey and the debate about gay marriage, we thought it would be interesting to understanding what countries allow gay marriage.

Which Countries Allow Gay Marriage?

World politics are changing at a fast rate and LGBT rights have been gaining traction worldwide over the last 20 years or so. While many countries still frown on and even outlaw homosexual practices, other nations are welcoming changes and passing anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT rights. While civil partnerships have been legal in many countries for over a decade, campaigns to allow gay marriage are getting results, with over 20 countries now allowing the practice.

While Australia is generally viewed as a liberal country, it has yet to follow the trend to institute same-sex marriage, recognizing such relationships as de facto. LGBT expats will find the friendliest welcome in Europe, especially Northern and Western Europe, which has by far the highest concentration of countries that allow same-sex marriage. If you’re looking to make your relationship “official,” check out this complete list of nations which allow same-sex marriage, arranged in alphabetical order by continent.  Also, if moving abroad or travelling overseas, you may want to understand which countries consider gay relationships illegal.


South Africa:

The only country in Africa to allow same-sex marriage, the Constitutional Court ruled in 2005 that it was unconstitutional to discriminate marriage laws based on gender. It gave legislators a year to alter the law, which was indeed changed in 2006.



The first South American nation to allow the practice, Argentinean parliament voted in 2010 to legalise same-sex marriage after a 2009 court ruling found it was unconstitutional to prohibit a marriage based on gender. The ruling allowed a male couple to marry and set a precedent which resulted in the controversial legal change in this Catholic country. Civil unions are concurrently allowed in some areas of the country.


The Justice’s National Council of Brazil voted strongly in favour to legalise gay marriage in 2013. The ruling was carried, making it the first country to enshrine the law into practice via court ruling.


The first country outside of Europe to allow same sex marriage, Canada’s parliament eventually enshrined the policy into legislation during 2005, after several provinces had gone ahead and legalized it through court rulings. An attempt to repeal the bill was made a year later, but defeated.


After some to-ing an fro-ing, the Constitutional Court eventually ruled against discriminating marriages on the basis of gender in 2016. All registrars and notaries are obligated to grant the marriage licenses, effectively legalizing the practice.


Gay marriage is legal in some regions of the country, but not nationwide. Mexico City has allowed gay marriages since 2009, with the states of Quintana Roo, Coahuila and Chihuahua following suit over the years.

United States:

Same-sex marriage licenses became available gradually as certain states began to allow the practice. Massachusetts and California were among the first to legalise such marriages in the midst of national controversy. In 2015, the Supreme Court case of Obergefell vs Hodges resulted in a ruling that legalized LGBT marriage across the entire country. While this ruling applies to most U.S. territories, American Samoa is yet to accept the decision.


A law to allow same-sex marriage was passed in 2013, though Uruguay was already very LGBT friendly, having already permitted same-sex child adoptions and been the first Latin America country to institute civil partnerships.

what countries allow gay marriage

Asia & Oceania

New Zealand:

A law for gender-neutral marriage was brought to parliament in a private member’s bill and was easily passed within a year, in 2013.


The only Asian country to propose gay marriage laws, Taiwan is known as the region’s most liberal voice when it comes to LGB rights. While not yet legal, gay marriage is pending, following a court ruling that the current laws unconstitutional. The ruling in May 2017, gave parliament a two-year period to change the law, meaning that gay marriage could be legal by 2019.



Belgian parliament voted to legalise gay marriage in 2003, adding the right to adopt children in 2006. While Belgium hosts the European Union headquarters, the law doesn’t stretch to all EU member states, which each have their own laws regarding marriage (13 out of 28 member states allow gay marriage).


Brought to parliament as a citizen’s initiative, gay marriage laws were passed in 2014. The legislation underwent several years of review before becoming active in 2017. Finland was the final Nordic country to adopt gay marriage laws.


The National Assembly of France voted in 2013 to allow gay marriage, after a similar bill was rejected in 2011.


After repeated attempts by minority parties to introduce a bill in support of gay marriage, the government eventually allowed a parliamentary vote in support of the change. The law passed in June 2017 and is expected to come into effect in October 2017.

Great Britain (except Northern Ireland):

Prime Minister David Cameron brought the legislation to vote in 2013. It was passed in England and Wales, then later enacted in 2014. Scottish parliament passed a similar bill, also in 2014. The Northern Ireland Assembly has not recognized same-sex marriage. While religious institutions are able to conduct ceremonies, the Church of England and Church of Wales have not sanctioned gay marriages and don’t permit their clergy to officiate such ceremonies.


Parliament voted unanimously to adopt LGB friendly marriage laws in 2015, following the example of Denmark, of which it’s a territory.


A gender-neutral marriage law was unanimously passed by parliament in 2010, replacing existing civil union legislation. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the country’s Prime Minister was among the first to make the most of the new law, soon marrying her partner Jónína Leósdóttir. The Church of Iceland voted to allow gay marriages in its churches n 2015.


The only country to date which has legalized gay marriage by popular vote, a referendum was held in 2015 that changed the constitution with 62 percent of the public’s support.


Parliament voted to introduce the law in 2014, and it was then enacted in at the beginning of 2015. This is another case where the Prime Minister utilized legislation, as Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married his partner Gauthier Destenay, only a few months later. Civil unions are also recognized ad have been available since 2004.


Parliament had an almost unanimous vote to allow gay marriage in July 2017, amid protest from the Catholic Church. The law is now pending.


The first country in the world to legalise gay marriage, Holland was home to the first such marriage in 2001, between Gert Kasteel and Dolf Pasker. Gay couples have full rights to marry, divorce and adopt children.


After several attempts to enact a gender-neutral marriage law, the move was eventually successful and replaced a pre-existing civil partnership law in 2009. The Church of Norway voted to allow gay marriage ceremonies within its churches in 2015, a decision which was ratified in 2016. In 2017, the church pastors were authorized to administer the ceremonies.


Gay marriage has been allowed since 2010, when it was passed through parliament by the Socrates Socialist government and other left leaning parties.


Despite opposition and a 2015 referendum which rejected a same-sex marriage bill, a law was instituted by parliament in 2016 to grant same-sex couples all the rights of marriage, minus access to IVF and adoption.


To much controversy, Spain’s parliament passed full marriage rights for gays in 2005. This Catholic country was heavily divided on the law, with protests from church officials and crowds in Madrid. In the end, the legislation passed by a narrow margin. Soon afterwards, Spain became the first country in Europe to accommodate same-sex partnerships in military and police barracks. In 2013 Spain was polled as one of the most pro-LGBT countries in the world, by the Pew Research Centre.


Swedish parliament voted by a large majority to legalise gay marriage in 2009, replacing previous civil partnership laws. The Church of Sweden also voted strongly in favour of allowing its clergy to administer same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Whether or not you feel the need to attain a legally-recognised status for your relationship, any country which allows gay marriages is likely to be LGBT friendly in general. May of these are great locations for expats looking for a liberal atmosphere, where the majority of people accept a spectrum of different lifestyles.


what countries allow gay marriage


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