June 30, 2017

Where Europe stands on gay marriage and civil unions

More than 16 years after the Netherlands became the world’s first country to allow same-sex marriage, neighboring Germany has become the latest European nation to legalize the practice. On June 30, the country’s parliament, by a vote of 393 to 226, passed legislation that will allow gays and lesbians to wed.

Germany, the largest country in Western Europe by population, becomes the 15th European nation to change its laws to allow gay marriage. 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 UK constituent state, has not legalized such marriages.

A more prominent exception in Western Europe is Italy, which has historical ties to the Roman Catholic Church. In spite of these ties, Italy began recognizing same-sex civil unions in 2016.

None of the Central and Eastern European countries allow gay marriage, and a recent Pew Research Center survey of 18 countries in the region found that public opinion is broadly opposed to the practice. Just 5% of Russians and 9% of Ukrainians, for example, say they favor allowing same-sex marriage. Figures in Poland (32%) and Hungary (27%) are higher, though people who support same-sex marriage remain in the minority. The Czech Republic is the only country in Central and Eastern Europe where a majority of adults (65%) support gay marriage.

While the Czech Republic does not allow same-sex marriage, it does recognize civil unions, along with Austria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary and several other European countries. Greece joined this list in late 2015 when it agreed to begin recognizing same-sex civil partnerships despite opposition from the Greek Orthodox Church. Slovenia also allows civil unions, but its voters rejected a 2015 referendum that would have legalized full same-sex marriage. (Ireland, on the other hand, became the world’s first country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2015.)

Most of the approximately two dozen countries around the world that allow same-sex marriage are in Europe, although Taiwan may soon become the first Asian place to join the list.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published June 9, 2015.

Topics: Europe, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Social Values

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

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


  1. Anonymous2 months ago

    Note from a Brit.

    Northern Island is part of the UK (United Kingdom) but not part of GB (Great Britain which is the larger island Comprising England, Scotland and Wales. The Passport cover is for “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Franco Andrea S2 years ago

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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

    4. Anonymous2 months ago

      The article is about countries that have pro-marriage countries within Europe. There also are countries in South America, North America, Africa, and Australia that allow people to choose who they marry. However, that is outside of the scope of this article.