Uruguay and New Zealand are the most recent nations to legalize same-sex marriage, following similar new guidelines in France that were signed into law in May. The first same-sex marriage was conducted in France in June.
Though polls consistently showed that a majority of French voters agreed with the move, the legislation stirred up considerable controversy. There were anti-gay protests in Paris and other cities in France before and after it was made official.
France follows the trend set by several other nations that enacted similar legislation since the start of the century. Here are the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Netherlands became the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000. The law gave Dutch same-sex couples the right to get married, to divorce, and to adopt children.
Amidst surprisingly little controversy, Belgium became the second European nation to fully sanction same-sex marriage in 2003.
Canada extended the legal benefits of common law marriage to same-sex couples in 1999, and in subsequent years, same-sex marriage was recognized by courts in most Canadian provinces. In 2005, the Canadian parliament officially legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
A law allowing same-sex marriage in Spain was narrowly approved by parliament in 2005. Catholic officials protested the legislation and demonstrations were held in Madrid, but all further legal challenges were eventually struck down by the nation’s constitutional court.
South Africa (2006)
In 2005, South Africa’s courts ruled that traditional marriage laws were unconstitutional, and in the following year, the South African parliament revised the law to allow for same-sex marriages. The law does, however, allow government officials to refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies if they so choose.
Civil unions were permitted in Norway as early as 1995, but it wasn’t until early 2009 that same-sex marriages were officially legalized. The Church of Norway prohibits its pastors from conducting same-sex weddings, but they are permitted to bless same-sex unions.
Same-sex marriage was approved by landslide margins in the Swedish parliament in 2009. The governing board of the Church of Sweden voted to allow its pastors to conduct same-sex marriages in the same year.
Same-sex couples were permitted to register as domestic partners in 1996, and in 2006, to adopt children. Members of Iceland’s parliament voted unanimously to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010, and the country’s prime minister became one of the first to take advantage of the new law, marrying her longtime partner in the same year.
Despite some controversy, the legality of same-sex marriage was approved by the nation’s parliament and president, and upheld by its courts in 2010. The law does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
Ignoring strong opposition by the Catholic Church, Argentina’s president signed a measure allowing same-sex marriage in July 2010. The law grants same-sex couples all the rights and responsibilities of heterosexual couples.
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