The countries where gay marriage is legal

Taiwan becomes the latest place to legalise same-sex marriage, prompting dispute with the government of China

gay marriage Germany
Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende embrace after becoming Germany’s first married gay couple in October 2017
(Image credit: Steffi Loos/Getty Images)

Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage following a landmark vote by lawmakers last Friday.

In 2017, the island’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry, and gave the parliament a two-year deadline to pass the changes.

CNN reports that “thousands of people” took to the streets in the Taiwanese capital Taipei to celebrate the outcome after the decision was announced.

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“It's important to note that Taiwan really is at the forefront of Asia on these sorts of issues,” says NPR. “If you look at things that are sort of like measures of traditional society structure - family structure - such as childbearing outside of marriage, cohabitation, Taiwan is way out in front.”

However, the move has also paved the way for an ugly dispute between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory despite having no control over the island.

The Japan Times notes that the Communist Party of China has “shown no interest in legalising same-sex marriage” and “launches periodic crackdowns on gay content online or elsewhere”.

Taiwan is one of 30 countries that have either legalised gay marriage or are planning to in the near future.

Which country was the first to legalise gay marriage?

Although the Danish are officially the pioneers of marriage equality, the Scandinavian nation’s Registered Partnerships Act of 1989 did not treat same-sex unions as “marriages” and therefore cannot qualify.

The Netherlands was actually the first country to put same-sex marriage on a par with heterosexual partnerships, with legislation introduced in 2001.

A spokesperson for the Dutch Embassy told The Washington Post: “We were always a bit ahead of other countries. We had those discussions years before other countries even started.”

Marriage equality achieved another major milestone in 2015 when the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage would become legal nationwide. At the time, 14 US states had bans on same-sex marriage. The announcement was met with joy by campaigners outside the court, who responded with “tears, hugs, and cheers of ‘USA USA USA!’”, the BBC reported.

Have there been any repeals?

While nations across the globe have followed suit, the road towards same-sex marriage has not always been a smooth one.

Bermuda became the first nation to repeal gay marriage rights last year, when the government announced that it would overturn a 2016 court decision that legalised same-sex marriage and introduce domestic partnerships for gay couples instead.

The decision prompted international criticism and calls for boycotts on travel to Bermuda. Cruise line Carnival Corp, one of several Bermuda-registered ships that had been performing same-sex marriages, provided “financial, public relations and civic support to [campaign group] OutBermuda in its efforts to challenge the island’s same-sex marriage ban”, according to NBC News. Amid mounting pressure, the ban on gay marriage was swiftly overturned.

So where is gay marriage legal?

Here is a complete list of the countries where same-sex marriage has been or is soon to be legalised:


Australia (2017)

Malta (2017)

Germany (2017)

Columbia (2016)

United States (2015)

Greenland (2015)

Ireland (2015)

Finland (2015)

Luxembourg (2014)

Scotland (2014)

England and Wales (2013)

Brazil (2013)

France (2013)

New Zealand (2013)

Uruguay (2013)

Denmark (2012)

Argentina (2010)

Portugal (2010)

Iceland (2010)

Sweden (2009)

Norway (2008)

South Africa (2006)

Spain (2005)

Canada (2005)

Belgium (2003)

The Netherlands (2000)

Austria (2019)

Taiwan (2019)

To become legal:

Costa Rica (2020)

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