24.11.2013 by David Gold
So far, civil marriage for all consenting adult couples, no matter their gender, no matter their sexual orientation, is legal in ... (the following list grows from year to year):
A. Outside the United States
Australia (legal only in the Australian Capital Territory; the Parliament of Australia may repeal the law; the High Court of Australia may declare it unconstitutional; or both may happen)
Colombia (if a judge performs the ceremony [not all are willing], it is legal at the national level and its legality in sub-national jurisdictions is unclear)
Curacao (legal only if the ceremony is lawfully performed in The Netherlands)
Denmark (except the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which, being autonomous, determine their own laws on marriage, adoption, and divorce)
France (legal not only in metropolitan France but also in all French departments and territories outside Europe: French Guiana, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, Saint Barthelmy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna)
Israel (legal only if the ceremony is lawfully performed elsewhere, though Israel does not grant same-gender couples all the benefits, privileges, protections, and rights that it does different-gender ones)
Mexico (if performed in the Federal District [= Mexico City], it is legal everywhere in the country; if performed in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Mexico, Oaxaca, and Quintana Roo, it is legal just in the state in which it has been formed)
Netherlands (including the Caribbean Netherlands, which consists of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius; see Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten)
New Zealand (including the Ross Dependency and excepting the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau, all three of which jurisdictions, being autonomous, determine their own laws on marriage, adoption, and divorce)
Portugal (legal not only in metropolitan Portugal but also in all other Portuguese territories, namely, the Azores Archipelago and the Madeira Archipelago)
Sint Maarten (legal only if the ceremony is lawfully performed in The Netherlands)
Spain (legal not only metropolitan Spain but also in all other Spanish territories, namely, the Alhucemas Rock-Fortress, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, the Chafarinas Islands, Melilla, and the Vélez de la Gomera Rock-Fortress)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (legal only in England and Wales)
B. In the United States
B.1. Sixteen states and one district
the District of Columbia
B.2. In two other states, partly
New Mexico (legal in Bernalillo, Doña Ana, Grant, Los Alamos, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos, and Valencia counties; its legality in the twenty-five other counties of the state is unclear; recognized by the state if the ceremony is legally performed outside state boundaries; New Mexico Supreme Court will soon rule whether it is legal or illegal in the state)
Oregon (recognized by the state as legal if the ceremony is legally performed outside state boundaries; illegal if the ceremony is performed within state boundaries; the ban on performing gender-neutral civil marriages within state boundaries has now been challenged in United States District Court for the District of Oregon)
B.3. In seven First American jurisdictions
The government of the United States recognizes the right of each of 565 groups of First Americans (“American Indians”) to autonomy in internal affairs, including the right to determine its own laws on marriage, adoption, and divorce, regardless of what the relevant laws may be in the state or territory in which the group has its officially recognized homeland (“reservation”). So far, these First American jurisdictions have legalized marriage for all consenting adult couples, no matter their gender, no matter their sexual orientation:
the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (since 2013), located in the State of Oklahoma (which prohibits gender-neutral marriage elsewhere in the state).
the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (since 2013), located in the State of Washington (which in 2012 legalized gender-neutral marriage elsewhere in the state).
the Coquille (since 2008), located in the State of Oregon (which until 2013 prohibited gender-neutral marriage; in that year, it began recognizing all marriages lawfully performed elsewhere).
the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (since 2013), located in the State of Michigan (which prohibits gender-neutral marriage elsewhere in the state, though the legality of the ban has now been challenged in court).
the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (since 2013), located in the State of Michigan (see above).
the Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Santa Ysabel Reservation (since 2013), located in the State of California (which at the time of the Band's legalization of gender-neutral civil marriage had re-legalized it).
the Suquamish (since 2011), located in the State of Washington (which legalized gender-neutral civil marriage in 2012).
B.4. The Federal government of the United States
The Federal government of the United States recognizes gender-neutral civil marriages if they have been lawfully performed in any American jurisdiction where they are legal (= those in B.1, B.2, and B.3).
B.5. The armed forces of the United States
Gender-neutral civil marriages may be performed on all military bases located in American jurisdictions where they are legal (= those in B.1., B.2, and B.3). Gender-neutral religious marriages are permitted there too, though military chaplains are not required to perform them if they do not want to.
A number of other national and sub-national jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere have legalized gender-neutral civil unions (also called, depending on the jurisdiction, civil partnerships, civil solidarity pacts, registered life partnerships, registered partnerships, and stable unions), such as Andorra, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Ireland, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Slovenia, Switzerland, and a number of states in the United States. Though second-class marriages, they are not only better than nothing but also possible stepping stones to gender-neutral civil marriage.
1. The first jurisdiction to legalize gender-neutral civil unions (however called) was Denmark (in 1989). See notes 4-5.
2. The first jurisdiction to legalize gender-neutral civil marriage was The Netherlands (in 2001). See notes 4-5.
3. Until 18 November 2003, no American jurisdiction permitted gender-neutral civil marriage (or gender-neutral civil unions). On that day, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that under the state's Constitution it was impermissible for any of its agencies to restrict civil marriage to one man and one woman. See notes 6 and 6.A.
4. Consider the location of the European jurisdictions that have so far legalized gender-neutral civil marriage:
4.A. All ten of them border on the Atlantic Ocean or on arms of that body of water, such as the North and the Baltic seas: Belgium, Denmark (except Greenland, which is physiographically part of North America but culturally and politically part of Europe, and the Faroe Islands), England, France, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Wales.
4.B. Moving inland from those ten jurisdictions, we find none in Europe that have legalized gender-neutral civil marriage, though eight have legalized gender-neutral civil unions: Andorra, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
4.C. Farther east in Europe than Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia, none has legalized gender-neutral civil marriage or gender-neutral civil unions.
4.D. Of the members of the former Soviet bloc, only the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia (thus, part of the western periphery of the bloc) have legalized gender-neutral civil unions.
5. That geographic distribution of legalized gender-neutral civil marriage and civil unions correlates fairly well with the degree to which European countries are now democratic, fair-minded, and progressive. In light of that correlation, the Russian Federation's recent enactment of anti-gay laws is not surprising (during its entire history, Russia has in fact enjoyed only seven months of democracy, from 21 July 1917 to 7 November 1917, when Alexander Kerensky headed the government; otherwise, the Russian Empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the Russian Federation have in effect been been three incarnations of the same dictatorship).
6. Correlations are discernible in the United States too:
6.A. Massachusetts (see note 3) was the cradle of the American Revolution and Boston, the capital of the state, was also the cultural, including literary and publishing, capital of the United States until well into the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the state is in New England (= Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), where gender-neutral civil marriage is now universal, and New England is part of the northeastern United States (= New England, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania), in most of which gender-neutral civil marriage is now legal (the exception is Pennsylvania, where the ban on gender-neutral civil marriage is now being challenged in a lawsuit), which on the whole is more progressive than most other parts of the United States.
7. Of the jurisdictions in Asia and Africa, only South Africa and Israel appear on the list (though physiographically part of Africa, to be excluded from consideration here are the Alhucemas Rock-Fortress, Ceuta, the Chafarinas Islands, Melilla, and the Vélez de la Gomera Rock-Fortress, where gender-neutral civil marriage is legal only because it has been legalized throughout Spain).
8. The tiny number of jurisdictions in Asia and Africa is consistent with the fact that the bulk of undemocratic and backward countries in the world are located on those two continents.
9. The Maltese Parliament is now considering a bill providing for the legalization of civil unions for all adult consenting same-gender couples that would grant them all the benefits, privileges, protections, and rights that civil marriage now grants different-gender couples (thus, gender-neutral civil marriage de facto but not de iure). If the bill passes, Malta will become:
(1) the first European jurisdiction that does not border on the Atlantic Ocean or on an arm thereof (see note 4.A) to legalize gender-neutral civil marriage de facto – provided that it does so before Luxembourg does (the government that will probably assume power in Luxembourg in December 2013 intends to legalize gender-neutral civil marriage in 2014);
(2) the third easternmost European jurisdiction (after Norway and Sweden) to do so;
(3) the third Mediterranean jurisdiction (after France and Spain) to do so (see section A for the reason Israel does not qualify here);
(4) the fourth jurisdiction in southern Europe (after Portugal, France, and Spain) to do so; and.
(5) the easternmost jurisdiction in southern Europe to do so.
We are thus beginning to see the legalization of marriage equality in Europe spread farther east and become more frequent in southern Europe and in the Mediterranean Basin.