June 9, 2015

Where Europe stands on gay marriage and civil unions

Same-Sex Marriage in Europe

More than two-thirds of the 20 countries around the world that have legalized same-sex marriage are in Europe. Yet two of the biggest Western European states – Germany and Italy – do not allow gays and lesbians to wed. And all Central and Eastern European countries continue to ban gay marriage.

Nearly 15 years after the Netherlands became the world’s first country to allow same-sex marriage, Ireland last month became the first nation to do so via popular vote, with 62% of voters casting ballots in favor of the change.

That makes Ireland the 14th European nation to change its laws to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. This number counts England and Wales as one country and Scotland as a separate entity, since those parts of the United Kingdom passed two separate pieces of legislation on same-sex marriage. (Northern Ireland, the other U.K. constituent state, has not legalized such marriages.) The list also includes Finland, which approved a same-sex marriage law earlier this year, although it will not take effect until 2017.

It is unclear whether any other European countries will soon follow. Germany is among several European nations that grant civil unions or partnerships for same-sex couples, but is not seen as likely to allow gay marriages in the near future. Some Italian politicians, meanwhile, are calling for the passage of a civil partnerships law. Italy, with its historical ties to the Roman Catholic Church, does not currently recognize same-sex unions of any kind, and a senior Vatican official recently called the result of Ireland’s referendum a “defeat for humanity.”

Greece also may soon allow civil unions for same-sex couples, and Slovenia’s legislature recently voted to approve same-sex marriage (though that measure faces additional hurdles before it can become law). At the same time, nearly two-thirds of Croatian voters recently voted to amend their country’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Topics: Europe, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. battlefield214211 year ago

    So basically less than 10% of the world’s population. Not to mention the countries that have decided to make perversity normal are those whose populations are in decline. Here’s hoping that the Radical Muslims and the Secular Liberals end up killing each other that in the end, those who avoid terrorism and perversity will triumph.

  2. kalisfo@hotmail.com2 years ago

    “we do not include nations where the ultimate fate of same-sex marriage legislation has yet to be fully decided”

    Well, … Ireland is listed as a country with marriage.
    1. It’s constitutional amendment bill has not yet been signed into law.
    2. The constitutional amendment itself doesn’t change anything. The marriage law has to be changed, too. A bill to this effect has not yet been submitted to parliament.

  3. Eric Osterberg2 years ago

    The countries that are digging their heels in against Marriage Equality will bury themselves as they are dragged, kicking and screaming to Marriage Equality to avoid financial disasters caused by sanctions. Intelligent people use their brains to learn and evolve with civilization, those who don’t will suffer with their dark ages thinking.

    1. battlefield214211 year ago

      Oh how very liberal of you to threaten others with sanctions, maybe that’s the reason why many don’t like your ilk. And financial disasters? I suggest you take a good long look at the abysmal state of your economies and the huge debts you guys have before you start ranting about finances.
      “Intelligent people use their brains to learn and evolve with civilization, those who don’t will suffer with their dark ages thinking.”
      I agree, shame Europe and all the other countries that have accepted perversity lack the most basic form of intelligence: common sense. And as for the dark ages, what dark ages are you referring to? The golden age that was the Medieval Period, or that violence filled era called the Modern Era.

  4. lancetop2 years ago

    Sorry but this “updated” gay marriage article is incorrect.

    Slovenia and Estonia have already enacted gay marriage legislation.

    1. David Masci2 years ago

      Thanks for your comment. We didn’t forget Slovenia and Estonia. In both countries, bills legalizing same-sex marriage have passed in the national legislature, but may not ultimately be implemented. In Slovenia, implementation of the measure is on hold, pending a possible voter referendum. In Estonia, the nation’s legislature has yet to pass the implementing legislation needed to give the earlier same-sex marriage bill the force of law.

      While we do list countries, such as Finland, which have enacted laws legalizing gay marriage at a future date, we do not include nations where the ultimate fate of same-sex marriage legislation has yet to be fully decided.

      I hope this helps. Thanks again,


      1. Pierre LeRiche2 years ago

        Estonia – “bill legalizing same-sex marriage (has) passed in the national legislature”.

        Estonia passed a cohabitation agreement bill – not a marriage bill !

        This article is indeed full of mistakes. Instead of recognizing those mistakes and correcting them … you make it only worse … lies in the comments section trying to defend the lies in the article.

  5. Bobraine Bobraine2 years ago

    Italy needs to wake up to the reality that it is no more the property of the Vatican than marriage is the property of the church. As for Germany, it should hang its head in shame. And by the way, has anybody seen an official EU policy on same-sex marriage? No, I didn’t think so.

  6. Franco Andrea S2 years ago

    The fact is… what can we do In Italy to change things ?

  7. Pierre LeRiche2 years ago

    civil union, registered partnership, etc.:

    – Greenland (until October 2015)
    Estonia (from January 2016)
    France, except
    – French Polynesia
    Netherlands, except
    – Aruba
    – Curacao
    – Sint Maarten
    United Kingdom
    – England and Wales
    – Gibraltar
    – Isle of Man
    – Jersey
    – Northern Ireland
    – Scotland

  8. Pierre LeRiche2 years ago


    Denmark, except
    – Faroe Islands
    – Greenland (until October 2015)
    Finland (from March 2017)
    Netherlands, except
    – Aruba
    – Curacao
    – Sint Maarten
    United Kingdom
    – England and Wales
    – Scotland

  9. Susan Woods2 years ago

    Why isn’t Canada mentioned?

    1. Dave O2 years ago

      Re-read the article.

    2. kikedeparis2 years ago

      is canada in europe?

    3. Rex2 years ago

      Duh! it’s not in Europe