PARIS – The first gay couples tied the knot across England and Wales on Saturday after a law authorizing same-sex marriage took effect at midnight, the final stage in a long fight for homosexuals’ equal civil rights.
Worldwide 15 countries now allow same-sex marriage:
THE NETHERLANDS: In April 2001, The Netherlands became the first country to allow gays and lesbians to marry in a civil ceremony and adopt children.
BELGIUM: Same-sex marriage was made legal in June 2003, but some restrictions apply. Homosexual couples were allowed to adopt children in 2006.
SPAIN: The country’s socialist government made same-sex marriage legal in July 2005. Homosexual couples were also allowed to adopt, regardless of their marital status.
CANADA: A law authorizing same-sex marriage and adoptions entered into force in July 2005. Most provinces had already authorized same-sex unions.
SOUTH AFRICA: In November 2006 South Africa became the first African country to legalize civil partnerships or marriage between two persons of the same gender. They were also allowed to adopt.
NORWAY: Homosexuals and heterosexuals were put on the same legal footing in January 2009 and allowed to marry, adopt and resort to assisted reproductive technologies.
SWEDEN: Same-sex couples were allowed to marry in civil or Lutheran Church ceremonies in May 2009. Adoptions for all have been legal since 2003.
PORTUGAL: Same-sex marriage has been legal since June 2010 but adoptions by homosexuals are not.
ICELAND: Same-sex marriages were legalized in June 2010, adoptions by homosexuals in 2006.
ARGENTINA: In July 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. Homosexual couples can also adopt.
DENMARK: Since June 2012, gays and lesbians are allowed to marry in Lutheran Church ceremonies. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize civil unions for gays and lesbians in 1989.
URUGUAY: In April 2013, Uruguay became the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. It had legalized adoptions by same-sex couples in 2009.
NEW ZEALAND: Marriage between homosexuals was legalized in April 2013 – 27 years after homosexuality was decriminalized in the first such decision in the Asia-Pacific region.
FRANCE: Same-sex marriage and adoptions by homosexuals were legalized in May 2013.
ENGLAND AND WALES: A law authorizing same-sex marriage was adopted in July 2013. Civil partnerships have been legal since 2005 and marriage brings no new rights – the ability to adopt, for example, was introduced in 2002.
SCOTLAND, which has devolved powers, is expected to introduce gay marriage later this year, while the British-controlled province of NORTHERN IRELAND remains deeply divided on the issue and has no plans to change the law there.
BRAZIL has authorized same-sex marriage since May 14, 2013, after the National Council of Justice ordered clerks to register all marriages pending the adoption of a law by parliament.
MEXICO’s federal capital has allowed same-sex marriage since 2009.
And in the UNITED STATES same-sex marriage is legal in Washington DC and in 17 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington).
In a landmark decision in June the US Supreme Court found that couples in same-sex marriages are entitled to the same benefits and protections as their heterosexual counterparts. Federal judges have since ruled in favor of marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kentucky and Texas, as has the New Mexico Supreme Court. The states may still appeal.