Same-sex marriage has become legal in a growing number of countries in recent years.
The United Kingdom’s Parliament in London recently legalized same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, which had been the last UK constituent country to bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Same-sex marriages also became legal this year in Ecuador, Taiwan and Austria.
In a number of countries that have recently legalized same-sex marriage, the impetus for legal change came through the courts. For example, the May 17 vote in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (the official name of the nation’s unicameral parliament) was prompted by a 2017 decision by the country’s Constitutional Court, which struck down a law defining marriage as a union between a man and woman. Likewise, Austria’s legalization of gay marriage at the beginning of 2019 came after a 2017 ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court. In the United States, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in a 2015 ruling.
Explore our fact sheet to learn more about same-sex laws around the world.
Worldwide, most of the countries that allow gay marriage are in Western Europe. Still, a number of Western European nations, including 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 that has legalized 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 Ecuador and 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.
Note: Costa Rica legalized same-sex marriage in May 2020. For an updated list of countries around the world that permit same-sex marriage, see our fact sheet.
This is an update of a post originally published on June 4, 2013.