Same-sex marriage
December 7, 2017

On Thursday, Australia's House of Representatives approved a measure to redefine marriage as "a union of two people," not just a man and a woman, paving the way for the first same-sex marriage in February. The Senate had passed the measure last week, 43-12. The lower house of Parliament rejected all amendments, including ones on freedom of speech and religion, meaning the bill will become law as is, after royal assent and a few other formalities.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull's government had introduced the bill after 62 percent of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in an eight-week national poll; turnout was 79.5 percent of eligible voters, or 12.7 million people. Peter Weber

July 12, 2017

Malta has voted to legalize same-sex marriage, six years after the island permitted divorce.

Malta's official religion is Catholicism, and the Catholic Church opposed the amendment, but just one of Malta's 67 parliamentarians voted against it, the BBC reports. Parliament amended the marriage act so it now says "spouse" instead of "husband" and "wife" and "parent who gave birth" and "parent who did not give birth" instead of "mother" and "father."

Hundreds of people celebrated outside Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's office, who said it was a "historic vote. This shows that our democracy and society have reached a level of maturity and we can now say that we are all equal." Catherine Garcia

June 30, 2017

On Friday, Germany's Bundestag, or parliament, voted to legalize same-sex marriage, in the last session before parliament's summer break and September national elections. Chancellor Angela Merkel had paved the way for the snap vote on Monday when she told lawmakers in her conservative coalition that they could vote their conscience, though she herself voted no on Friday. The measure, which also allows same-sex couples to adopt, passed 393 to 226, with 4 abstentions. It is expected to face legal challenges. Germany has allowed same-sex civil unions since 2001. Peter Weber

May 24, 2017

On Wednesday, Taiwan's Constitutional Court recognized a legal right to same-sex marriage, ruling that the parts of the civil code that prohibit such unions violate the country's constitution. The justices gave lawmakers two years to change the laws to permit same-sex marriage, or they will become de facto legal. Both main political parties, President Tsai Ing-Wen, and a majority of the public support same-sex marriage, so amending the law shouldn't be too heavy a lift.

Still, "it's still unclear how far parliament will go," says BBC News Taipei correspondent Cindy Sui. There is also significant opposition from religious and traditionalist voters to making Taiwan the first Asian nation to permit same-sex marriage, and the legislature could give gay couples full rights, civil unions, limited marriage rights, or take no action at all. Peter Weber

February 17, 2017

On Thursday, the nine-member Washington state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a florist in Richland had violated the state's anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws when she refused to provide the flowers for a gay couple's 2013 wedding, citing her religious belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, can stop selling flowers to any wedding or sell to all weddings, but not discriminate on sexual orientation, the court ruled.

Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers, had sold flowers to Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, whom she knew were a gay couple, for years. But she drew a line at doing the flowers for their wedding. The couple sued, backed by the state attorney general and the ACLU, and won in lower court. Stutzman's lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, said they will appeal the closely watched case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sturtzman had argued that forcing her to cater to a same-sex wedding would violate her religious freedom and also her First Amendment rights, calling her floral arrangements artist expression. The court rejected both arguments, "emphatically," Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote in her 59-page ruling. "We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that 'this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases were about access to sandwiches.'" The court cited a case from New Mexico where a photographer tried the artistic expression defense for not photographing a same-sex wedding, and lost. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take his case in 2014. The similar case of a baker from Colorado is pending before the court, however.

The Washington ruling is "a kind of case that hasn't come up before," University of Washington constitutional law professor Hugh Spitzer tells The New York Times, explaining that the legal principles are firmly settled for interracial marriage, business law, and creative expression. Fully extending those rights to same-sex couples is notable, he added, "but the principles are not new." Peter Weber

March 28, 2016

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said Monday he'll veto an anti-LGBT religious freedom bill, ABC News reports.

"Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people," Deal said. "And that is what we should want."

The bill, called the Free Exercise Protection Act, would have allowed clergy members to decline performing marriage rites that conflict with their religious beliefs and said that without a strong interest, state government couldn't infringe on the religious rights of individuals and organizations.

A slew of actors and film studios threatened to boycott making movies in Georgia should the bill become law. If passed, the bill also could have jeopardized Atlanta's chances of hosting an upcoming Super Bowl. Julie Kliegman

November 7, 2015

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin (R) vowed Friday to remove the names of clerks from the state's marriage licenses when he takes office in December, Reuters reports.

The announcement comes after Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was jailed for five days in September for refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has said a change to the licenses would have to come from the legislature, which will convene in January, but Bevin said he plans to use an executive order.

"The argument that that can not be done is baloney," he said. Julie Kliegman

September 28, 2015

Although the pope addressed many politically touchy subjects during his 10-day trip to the U.S. and Cuba, including climate change, abortion, and the migrant crisis, it wasn't until he returned home to the Vatican that he touched on same-sex marriage, which the Catholic church "firmly opposes," Reuters reports.

In a question inspired by the jailing of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who defied the Supreme Court in her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a reporter asked the pope if he supported individuals such as Davis, who cited her religious beliefs as her reason for defying the law.

"Conscientious objection must enter into every juridicial structure because it is a right," Pope Francis said. "If someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, 'This right has merit, this one does not.'" Becca Stanek

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