Do any countries allow/recognize legal same sex marriages?

Does anyone know of any? Does anyone know of any countries where it is as big of an issue as it is in the U.S.?

I think Canada does. Some technicality in the dependents code, whereas it can be anyone, in order to share insurance, payments, etc. For example, two sisters can declare themselves as dependents, able to share the same benefits as a married couple.

Auntie Nolo knows all…

It looks like Denmark and the Netherlands are the farthest ahead on this road, but an awful lot of European countries (and Canada) are way up in front of the US.

This site seems to have the most up-to-date info I’ve seen so far. Mind you, I don’t want to have to go through all the hundreds of sites.

Just a note: New Zealand lesbian couples have been involved in legal battles for recognition as married couples, but have lost so far on technicalities. However, our Matrimonial Act do recognise same-sex partnerships with regard to property equity.

As the quote Ice Wolf found points out, it’s important to specify whether by “gay marriage” you mean an institution for same-sex couples that is identical in every way to that available to opposite-sex couples, or simply some sort of legal recognition that gives a lesbian or gay couple many but not all of the rights of a heterosexual marriage. If you mean the former, no country offers that yet, though some are slowly moving in that direction.

In Norway, same-sex couples can register their partnerships. This means the couple have reciprocal next-of-kin rights, for instance, in questions of inheritance or medical emergency. The law also allows a gay/lesbian Norwegian to bring his or her partner from another country and grants residency rights along the same lines as already granted to heterosexual couples. (A disproportionately high number of registered same-sex unions - close to 1 in 5 if I recall correctly - are between a Norwegian and a non-Norwegian.) But there are some crucial differences. The issue that is (to the best of my knowledge) most important for gay and lesbian activists as a group is that same-sex couples cannot adopt at this time. Legislation is being written that would extend laws concerning step-parent adoption to include same-sex couples, so that one partner could adopt the biological children of the other. That may be a first step towards full adoption rights, but if so there’s still a long road ahead.

There’s also the question of how to deal with the religious aspect of marriage when two women or two men wish to marry. At present each church or other faith community can decide for itself whether to bless or recognize same-sex unions.

Denmark pioneered “partnership registrations” for gay couples. The Netherlands soon copied their idea (1996), along with a few other European countries. But now, starting April 1, 2001, the Netherlands will be the first country in the world where gay people cannot just “register their partnership”. they can fully marry with the same legal consequences as a “straight” marriage. Moreover, and this is the real topic: they are granted the same rights as straight people when it comes to adoption. Of course, this means they can’t adopt from all countries in the world, because a lot of other countries don’t recognize these gay marriages.

A good detailed explanation of the evolution of the gay marriage in The Netherlands can be seen here.

France introduced something called the Pacte Civile de Solidarité (PACS) just over a year ago. Although it is not a marriage as such, it allows any two people living together — who are not blood relatives — to register their relationship at the Mairie and enjoy the legal entitlements of spouses (particularly pension rights and tax benefits). The term has spawned a new verb, se pacser, but it has been much less popular than was originally thought: according to this article from Le Monde, there were fewer than 30,000 PACS in the first year, compared with an anticipated 150,000 to 200,000.

The Mayor of London has just made £100,000 available to provide facilities for gay couples who wish to make public commitments. There will be a register of these “marriages” but these will have no force in law. There’s a BBC story about it here.

Thanks, everyone - this is interesting stuff.

Further to the French variation on this theme I just wanted to mention that my close and very dear friend ‘A’ and her partner, the beautiful ‘B’, are (when the paper work’s complete) going to be the first couple to marry at the French Consulate in San Francisco. And I’m as happy as hell !!

I doubt this will be the first legally recognised marriage of same sex partners in the US …or even California (even if the US itself doesn’t recognise the marriage it is still recognised by France) but damn, it’s a fine thing !!!