The recent approval of a bill by Taiwan’s legislature legalizing gay marriage makes it the first nation in Asia to permit gays and lesbians to wed. The vote comes roughly a year and half after Austria’s highest court ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to wed beginning in 2019.
These events follow a number of other high-profile victories in recent years for gay marriage advocates, including Australia’s and Germany’s decisions in 2017 to allow gays and lesbians to wed and a Supreme Court ruling two years earlier that made same-sex marriage legal across the United States.
The May 17 vote in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (the official name of Taiwan’s unicameral parliament) was prompted by a 2017 decision by the country’s Constitutional Court, which struck down a law defining marriage as being between a man and woman. The court gave the nation’s legislature until May 24 to change Taiwan’s marriage laws to accommodate same-sex couples.
Explore our fact sheet to learn more about same-sex laws around the world.
Worldwide, roughly two-thirds of the countries that allow gay marriage – 18 of 28 – are in Western Europe. Still, a number of Western European nations, particularly Italy and Switzerland, do not allow same-sex unions. And, so far, no countries in Central and Eastern Europe have legalized gay marriage.
Along with New Zealand and Australia, Taiwan is one of only three nations in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex unions. In Africa, only South Africa allows gays and lesbians to wed, which became legal in 2006.
In the Americas, five countries besides the U.S. – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Uruguay – have legalized gay marriage. In addition, some jurisdictions in Mexico allow same sex couples to wed.
Not surprisingly, same-sex marriage has advanced mostly in countries and regions where acceptance of homosexuality is high. In the U.S., for instance, 70% of adults in a survey conducted in June and July 2017 said that homosexuality should be accepted.
In 2013, we surveyed 11 of the 28 nations that now have legalized same-sex marriage in all or part of their territory. In all but one of them (South Africa), a majority of people said homosexuality should be accepted. And while only 32% of South Africans said homosexuality should be accepted, that was by far the highest acceptance level of the eight African countries surveyed.
Note: This is an update of a post originally published on June 4, 2013.