Countries Where Gay Marriage is Legal

Gay marriage is now legal in a number of countries.
Gay marriage is now legal in a number of countries.

When gay marriage was legalized in 2015, the United States became one of 27 countries around the world where same-sex marriage is legally recognized. The Netherlands was the first nation to formally recognize these unions in 2000 with Belgium and Canada following soon afterward. The countries that legalized gay marriages most recently are Malta, Germany, and Australia, all of which passed legislation in which same-sex marriages are formally recognized.

Countries Where Gay Marriage is Legal

The Netherlands

The Netherlands has often been labeled as the pioneering nation in championing for the rights of the LGBT people. The Dutch nation gets this acclaim since it was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and in so doing, set a precedent which was followed by dozens of other countries around the globe. A movement fighting for gay rights in the country had been active since the 1980s until the Dutch Parliament gave in and established a commission to look into the issue of gay rights in 1995. However, the legalization of same-sex marriage in the country happened five years later, in 2000 after the adoption of the Marriage Bill by the legislature.


Belgium made gay marriage legal in 2003 after years of incessant lobbying. The country had witnessed activism in the late 20th century from lobbyists campaigning for the legalization of gay marriage with the campaigns escalating in the late 1990s. A bill was presented to the Parliament that would be instrumental in the legalization of same-sex marriages. However, the bill was not aimed at addressing the issue of gay marriages but instead as a solution to the prevailing low marriage rates in the country. The bill was passed in the legislature, with the King promulgating it in February 2003. The law would still face criticism from opponents of gay marriage who fought it in the Constitutional Court, but the court upheld the legality of the law.


Canada legalized same-sex marriage in July 2005, becoming the first non-European country to recognize gay marriage. The legalization of gay marriage in the country was as a result of the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act which had been introduced to the House of Commons as a bill in February 2005 by the Prime Minister. Before the enactment of the Act, the judicial system had already legalized the marriage in some of Canada’s territories and provinces including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, Yukon, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Data obtained from the 2016 Census showed that more than 24,000 same-sex marriages had been carried out in the country since the enactment of the law in 2005.

Reaction From The Church

The church, which was initially vehemently against gay marriage, has slowly embraced the unions, albeit in a few denominations, and in some cases has even allowed its congregations to perform the marriages. An example can be seen in the Netherlands where the country’s main Protestant denomination, the Protestant Church has sanctioned gay marriages since 2004.

Countries Where Gay Marriage is Legal

RankCountryYear Gay Marriage Legalized
1The Netherlands2000
5South Africa2006
8Argentina 2010
10Portugal 2010
17New Zealand2013
23United States2015

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