The fight for queer relationship equality; where we stand in 2018

World_marriage-equality_laws2
Marriage Equality on Jan 1, 2018DARK BLUE: Same-sex marriage legal; LIGHT BLUE: Civil unions; CYAN: Foreign marriages recognized; PALE BLUE: Very limited recognition of same-sex marriages; TAWNY: Government plan/court ruling for same-sex marriage, but additional work required.

When I started this annual tradition of writing a blog post about annual progress on the fight for same-sex marriage around the world way back in the stone age of 2013, it wasn’t easy to find comprehensive information about the subject on the web. Now, thanks to some dedicated work of Wikipedia editors, and the exhaustive work of former journalist Rex Wockner, there’s much more information out there. So in this year’s update, I’m going to try instead to synthesize the facts, the developments over the past year, and what we can expect to happen in 2018.

Since this post can get very long, I’ve decided to break it up into different pages:

Same-sex marriage in Europe
Same-sex marriage in the Americas
Same-sex marriage in Asia, Africa, and Oceania

Overview:

2017 was a bit of a banner year for the movement. Several jurisdictions were added to the list of equal marriage countries: Finland, Germany, Malta, Australia. Judicial rulings for marriage equality came out in Taiwan and Austria. Three Mexican states, three UK Overseas Territories, and two UK dependencies also became equal marriage jurisdictions. We also had rulings and administrative decisions in favor of recognizing legal same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions in Armenia, Estonia, and Italy. By my count, this is the biggest single jump in the number of equal-marriage countries since 2013, when Brazil, France, New Zealand and Uruguay all legalized. Heading into 2018, more than 1.2 billion people live in equal marriage jurisdictions, and several more countries are either debating equal marriage laws in their legislatures or their Supreme Courts.

Populations of equal-marriage countries:

United States (including Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands) 327,847,797
Brazil 209,567,920
Mexico 128,632,004
Germany 80,716,000
United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland; including Isle of Man, Guernsey, Alderney, Bermuda, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Pitcairn Islands, Akrotiri & Dhekelia, and St. Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha) 62,969,237
France (including all territories) 66,842,000
South Africa 54,978,907
Colombia 48,654,392
Spain 46,064,604
Argentina 43,847,277
Canada 36,286,378
Australia 23,702,300
Netherlands (including Caribbean Netherlands) 17,000,059
Belgium 11,371,928
Portugal 10,304,434
Sweden 9,851,852
Austria 8,504,850
Denmark (including Greenland and Faroe Islands) 5,764,423
Finland 5,523,904
Norway 5,271,958
Ireland 4,713,993
New Zealand (excluding territories) 4,565,185
Uruguay 3,444,071
Luxembourg 576,243
Malta 446,547
Iceland 331,778
TOTAL 1,217,780,041

 

Populations of Countries with same-sex civil unions:

Italy 59,801,004
Taiwan 23,550,077
Chile 18,131,850
Ecuador 16,385,450
Greece 10,919,459
Czech Republic 10,548,058
Hungary 9,821,318
Switzerland 8,379,477
Croatia 4,225,001
Slovenia 2,069,362
Northern Ireland (UK) 1,864,000
Estonia 1,309,104
Cyprus (excluding Northern Cyprus) 1,176,598
Aruba 104,263
Jersey (UK) 100,080
Andorra 69,165
Liechtenstein 37,776
TOTAL CIVIL UNION 168,492,042

The total populations of the countries and territories with either same-sex marriage or civil unions is approximately 1,386,272,083.

Continue to:

Same-sex marriage in Europe
Same-sex marriage in the Americas
Same-sex marriage in Asia, Africa, and Oceania

Same-sex marriage in Europe as of Jan. 1, 2018

680px-Same-sex_marriage_map_Europe_detailed.svg

Before 2017: Equal Marriage in Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden; parts of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Akrotiri & Dhekelia bases). Civil Unions in: Andorra, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Finland, Germany, Malta, Greece, and Cyprus.

Developments in 2017: Equal Marriage in Finland, Germany, Malta; UK territories Guernsey and Alderney; partial implementation of equal marriage ruling in Austria. Recognition of foreign marriages in Estonia and Armenia. Constitutional ban in Georgia.

Looking ahead: Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, UK (Jersey, Sark, Northern Ireland), Slovenia, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Romania, EU-wide

FINLAND: Finland’s parliament first passed an equal marriage law in 2014, but it didn’t take effect until March 2017. There was some drama that a new conservative government might derail it, but that didn’t happen, and Finland became the 22nd equal marriage country on March 1, 2017.

MALTA: Malta’s left-leaning government had in recent years pushed the tiny country to the forefront of the LGBT rights movement, but despite passing civil unions in 2014, it withheld marriage equality until this past summer. The government had endeavored to fight an election on the issue, but the opposition refused to play along and declared itself in support of equal marriage too. It was one of the first bills passed by the new government in July, with near unanimous support in Parliament (66-1). On Sept 1, Malta became the 23rd equal marriage country.
For the trivia buffs, Malta is the smallest country by area, but not the smallest country by population to pass equal marriage — that is Iceland.

GERMANY: Years of campaigning in Germany ran aground on the personal objection of long-serving chancellor Angela Merkel. So when she suddenly announced she might have a change of heart ahead of scheduled elections, the opposition pounced. Germany quickly passed an equal marriage law in July, and on Oct 1, it became the 24th equal marriage country.
Germany’s equal marriage law means 14/28 EU members, representing 66% of the EU population, recognize equal marriage (the ratios may change if Brexit actually goes forward).

UK: It looked for a long time this year like Northern Ireland might finally pass an equal marriage law, when following a snap election, Sinn Fein announced it would not join a power-sharing government unless the other major party, the Democratic Unionists, cast aside their unpopular opposition and allow an equal marriage law to pass. Alas, the DUP has seen fit to instead leave Northern Ireland without a government rather than allow equal marriage to pass. Normally, the London government would step in an govern directly from Westminster, but as the UK Conservatives are in a loose coalition with the DUP in parliament, and their agenda is so stuffed with Brexit negotiations and the need to play along with the Irish Republic, it’s unclear how the province will get out of its current dilemma. UK Labour has proposed a referendum on same-sex marriage if direct rule is imposed, to break the logjam. (I don’t mind referenda, in this case.) [UPDATE Jan. 3, 2018: Also, a court case that started in 2014 was finally resolved, with the province’s court finding against the plaintiffs seeking equality. This is what happens when you don’t have a constitutional bill of rights. The plaintiffs have appealed to the UK Supreme Court.]

The UK Crown Dependency of Guernsey (pop. 63,000) also passed a same-sex marriage law, as did its own dependency Alderney (pop. 2,000). The other part of the bailiwick, Sark (pop. 600), does not currently have equal marriage on its agenda, however a member of the government has said the government does intend to introduce such a law.  Same-sex couples can adopt in both Alderney and Sark because adoptions in the bailiwick are processed in Guernsey. The other dependency, Jersey (pop. 100,000) has been working on an overhaul of its marriage legislation for years and a final vote was delayed until Jan. 30, 2018.

Other UK territories that passed equal marriage laws in 2017 are Bermuda, Falkland Islands, and Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. You can read more about those territories in the sections on the Americas and Africa. As of now, 8/14 overseas territories allow same-sex marriage.

DENMARK: The Faroe Islands (pop. 49,000) – a country within the Kingdom of Denmark – finally brought its equal marriage law into effect after a year of delay in part at the hands of the Danish parliament. The Faroes were the last part of the Kingdom, and the last Nordic/Scandinavian country to pass equal marriage. Also, Denmark became the first country in the world to officially declassify transgender status as a mental illness.

AUSTRIA: On Dec. 5, the Constitutional Court found that marriage is a fundamental right that must be granted to homosexuals. This is a first for a court in Europe, where equal marriage has always been granted legislatively. The ruling took effect immediately for the five petitioning couples, so some same-sex marriage may already take place in Austria. However, the court gave the government until Jan. 1 2019 to craft a law that would have general effect; after that date, the court’s ruling will strike down the same-sex marriage ban even if the government doesn’t act. The newly elected government includes a far-right, anti-gay party, so don’t expect the government to rush to act here. Still, because the ruling took immediate effect for at least some couples and its implementation date is ironclad, I count Austria as an already equal-marriage jurisdiction. Others disagree. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s either the 25th or 26th equal marriage country (Australia’s law took effect a few days later).

SPAIN/CATALONIA: The last quarter of 2017 saw Spain wracked with a constitutional crisis following a vote for independence in its Catalonia province. While actual secession looks unlikely right now, if it does secede, it would automatically become a new equal marriage country – and the first one to have it since its creation.

ROMANIA and the EUROPEAN UNION: Plans for a referendum to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage have met repeated delays, although the government still apparently plans to hold it at some point in 2018. A civil partnership bill also floated around Parliament a bit in 2017, but hasn’t gone far. Meanwhile, a court case calling for recognition of foreign same-sex marriages was referred to the European Court of Justice, which is a sort of supreme court of the EU. Unlike the European Court of Human Rights (which has ruled against same-sex marriage repeatedly), the ECJ rulings are binding.

Essentially, the case before the ECJ contends that the ban on same-sex marriage restricts on the EU’s fundamental freedoms – the freedom to move within the EU – by turning same-sex families into legal strangers when they leave certain jurisdictions. I honestly don’t see how the court can disagree here. But they’ve got some options: they can require civil unions that are equal to marriage, which would be very complicated and still unequal, but would probably have the least resistance from certain opposing states (especially those that have constitutional bans); they could require states to recognize foreign marriages only (which is probably the most likely solution but could similarly create legal uncertainties, such as residency tests, and how to deal with divorces and adoptions); they could require states to allow same-sex marriages (which would be the biggest reach for the court, and would nullify provisions of several member states’ constitutions); and I suppose they could limit their ruling to Romania specifically.  An EU-wide ruling could affect 14 states that do not currently have complete equality: UK (Northern Ireland*, as well as its overseas territories, assuming this ruling occurs before Brexit), Italy*, Slovenia*, Croatia*, Hungary*, Czechia*, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece*, Cyprus*, Poland, Estonia*, Latvia, and Lithuania. (*=has a civil union law). It could also impact several applicant/candidate EU countries (assuming that such a ruling doesn’t halt their desire to join): Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina (Turkey’s progress has basically been suspended given the country’s slide into authoritarianism).

Same-sex_marriage EU
Purple: EU members with equal marriage; Pink: EU members without same-sex marriage; Blue: EU candidate countries or EU territories where EU law is currently suspended which do not have equal marriage.

SWITZERLAND: An equal marriage bill was to be ready for debate in 2017, but Parliament gave the committee preparing it until 2019 to finalize its work. With the developments in Germany and Austria, it’s possible that the Swiss might speed up their work. Also, on Jan. 1, 2018, a new law comes into effect allowing couples in registered partnerships to adopt their stepchildren (joint adoption/non-relative adoption is still not allowed). Still, don’t expect neighboring Liechtenstein to act; the principality’s Catholic ruler has said in the past he would veto any laws for same-sex marriage or couple adoption.

Same-sex_Adoption_Map_Europe
Dark Purple: Joint couple adoption allowed; Light Purple: Step-child adoption allowed only; Pink: LGBT individuals may adopt, but not couples.

ESTONIA: The current government has continued to obstruct regulations to bring into effect Estonia’s registered partnership law first passed in 2014, and even unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the law in 2017. Courts this year continued to uphold a ruling from last December requiring the government to recognize marriages performed overseas.

ARMENIA: In a surprise announcement, the interior ministry decided in July 2017 that it would recognize foreign same-sex marriages. Armenia is a very conservative, Russian-aligned country that has not been notable for its LGBT activism, and indeed, its constitution bans same-sex marriage in the country (sodomy was only decriminalized in 2003). It is not known if any same-sex couples have attempted to have a foreign marriage registered in Armenia for any purpose, or what benefits or entitlements come with it. Same-sex couples may not adopt. There is no anti-discrimination legislation, and gays are barred from military service. The recognition does not extend to Artsakh, the breakaway region of Azerbaijan formerly known as Nagorno-Karabach, which is basically an Armenian client state.

LITHUANIA: A cohabitation bill that would give very limited rights to same-sex couples (and other pairs of cohabitants) was debated.

ITALY: The country spent most of 2017 recovering from the political crisis its former PM Matteo Renzi walked it into with a disastrous constitutional reform campaign last year. Renzi immediately resigned, but then decided to run for the leadership of his party again, and since he won, he will be on the ballot in general election called for March 4. Renzi expressed support for same-sex marriage in the leadership campaign, but anything can happen in an Italian election so who knows what to expect in May. Polls suggest it could once again be ungovernable. In other news, various courts granted recognition of overseas marriages and step-child adoption in individual cases. These appear to set precedents, but still require court decisions in individual cases, not unlike the situation in Mexico.

SAN MARINO: The government continued to discuss civil unions, but no action was taken.

MONACO: The executive agreed to parliament’s proposal for civil unions based on France’s PACS, but will not table a bill until April 2018, after general elections. Given that the proposal had unanimous support in Monaco’s parliament, it should pass no matter who wins. Monaco is another jurisdiction where a strongly Catholic prince will not likely allow same-sex marriage.

SERBIA: An openly lesbian woman was elected/appointed Prime Minister in 2017, and she marched in the often dangerous Belgrade Pride this year. She has mentioned support for the idea of civil unions in Serbia, but no legislation has been brought forward yet. Ireland also elected its first openly gay PM Leo Varadkar.

CZECHIA: Elections in October yielded a president who has expressed support for same-sex marriage, and a majority in parliament that is in favor. No bill has been introduced yet, but with support over 50% for the past few years, LGBT activists there are hopeful. The previous government had also introduced a step-child adoption bill, but did not advance it before elections. Expect both issues to surface in 2018.

CYPRUS: Hopes for a resolution to t he 40-year-old division of Cyprus were dashed when the two sides abruptly ended reunification talks in January. There is hope that talks could recommence after both sides hold elections in January. Turkey and Greece, the proxy powers in the dispute, seemed to be making amends recently, although the former’s slide into autocracy (not to mention its crackdowns on LGBT issues) has put it at odds with its EU neighbors. The division is relevant because if the country reunites, it’s possible the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, upon ceasing to exist, will become subject to Cyprus’ civil partnership law. It would also be subject to EU law, which would make it affected by the expected ECJ ruling on marriage discussed above.

SLOVENIA: After becoming the first Slavic country to pass a same-sex marriage law in 2015, only to have the law rejected in a citizens’ referendum that year, 2018 may see the issue return to the spotlight. Elections are due before July, and the issue could come up again. The law around referendums has been changed since the 2015 debacle, specifically to limit the ability of citizens to pass laws that limit human rights. We’ll see if the legislators elected in 2018 have the stones to push the issue again (and an ECJ ruling might help).

MACEDONIA: The country’s rapprochement with Greece (after a 20-year-long dispute over its name) following the election of a Western-leaning government, holds promise that the country will be invited to begin EU accession talks soon, which could eventually positively impact LGBT rights in the region.

GEORGIA: The country passed a new constitution that specifically bans same-sex marriage. It was already banned in statute.

CRACKDOWNS ON LGBT PEOPLE: We saw government crackdowns on LGBT people in Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and most dramatically, in the Russian autonomous province of Chechnya. Reports also suggest the situation is not good for LGBT people in the breakaway Donbass territories of Ukraine. Russia, of course, continues to be a source of anti-LGBT hostility generally, and it will be interesting to see what happens during the World Cup due to be held there in 2018.

Continue to:

Same-sex marriage in the Americas in 2018
Same-sex marriage in Asia, Africa, and Oceania in 2018

Same-sex marriage in the Americas as of Jan. 1, 2018

Before 2017: Equal Marriage in Canada, US (and territories Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands), Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and nine states and the capital district of Mexico; plus Greenland (Denmark), Caribbean Netherlands, and French overseas territories (St Pierre and Miquelon, Martinique, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Guadeloupe, French Guyana); limited recognition in Netherlands countries (Saint Martin, Curacao, Aruba); Civil Unions in: Chile, Costa Rica, Aruba (Netherlands).

Developments in 2017: Equal Marriage in UK territories Bermuda, Falkland Islands; three Mexican states (Baja California, Puebla, Chiapas), four US Native nations.

Looking ahead: Chile, Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, other UK territories.

Trouble spots: Haiti, Bermuda, Curacao.

Same-sex_marriage_in_Mexico

MEXICO: The state-by-state progress continued slowly in 2017. The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation struck down marriage laws passed in Chiapas and Puebla states, requiring same-sex marriage in those states, and the government of Baja California stopped enforcing its same-sex marriage ban. But without legislative changes in the latter two states, some couples have continued to experience difficulties. Tlaxcala state passed a civil union law, but it is still subject to the Supreme Court jurisprudence that call for the issuing of injunctions to allow full same-sex marriages. Other state congresses continued to obstruct marriage bills. Many state congresses are up for election on July 1, so we’ll see how they play out. Public opinion and reporting in Mexico seems to be turning in favor of equality.

 

State_recognition_of_same-sex_relationships_(South_America)
Dark Blue: Equal Marriage; Light Blue: Civil Unions; Green: Court decision on marriage pending; Red: Same-sex marriage banned by constitution; Yellow: Homosexuality illegal

UK TERRITORIES: First the great news: The Falkland Islands (pop. 3,000) passed their equal marriage/adoption law this year. Now the complicated news: Bermuda’s Supreme Court struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in May, and the government decided not to appeal. But then there was a change in government, and the new government passed a bill that overturned the ruling, re-banned same-sex marriage, and instead created “all-but-the-name-marriage” domestic partnerships to replace them (note same-sex couple adoption was already allowed in the territory under an earlier court ruling, and has been preserved). But that’s not the end of the story, yet. As of press time, the Governor has not granted assent to the new law, and reports suggest he’s seeking permission from the UK Government to veto it. We’ll see how this plays out in the new year.

 

Following the court ruling in Bermuda, activists in Cayman Islands sought to file a test case for marriage, but no case has yet been filed. There were no known developments in the other UK territories in the Caribbean: Montserrat, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, UK Virgin Islands, nor for the uninhabited South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. If the government does shut down the Bermuda marriage repeal, and does impose marriage equality on Northern Ireland somehow, it’s possible that the FCO could impose it on these other territories, too.

CHILE: Outgoing president Michele Bachelet took her time introducing a promised equal marriage bill to Congress, and when it finally came in August, Congress was slow to act on it. The Senate began debating it in December. Elections in November/December returned a congress with a majority in favor of bill, but a President who campaigned against it. It’s possible Congress could pass the bill in the lame duck session before new president Pinera takes office in March. Or, Pinera could soften his opposition once in office. Pinera also campaigned against allowing same-sex couples to adopt, and that issue could also be before congress. Should it pass, it would also extend to Chile’s Antarctic territory and Easter Island.

PANAMA and VENEZUELA: Supreme Courts in both countries are expected to rule shortly on same-sex marriage. In Panama, a negative opinion was leaked to the media, but it was not made official even after the court supposedly voted on it. So it sounds like a positive decision should be coming, but no news has come out whatsoever. In Venezuela, the court is expected to issue a decision in 2018.

[UPDATE Jan. 3, 2018: A reader informs me that the Venezuela Constitutional Court actually has two equal marriage cases before it, as well as separate cases dealing with gender identity recognition, same-sex couple adoption/family registration, and the right of LGBT people to serve in the military. The main local LGBT rights group feels optimistic about all five cases, but Venezuela is a basic dictatorship, and you never know what the government’s response will be. That said, in 2017 President Maduro signaled support for same-sex marriage being discussed in an ongoing constitutional convention.]

COSTA RICA: There was no news on a Supreme Court case filed in Costa Rica last year. Another couple filed a case seeking recognition of their out-of-state marriage. Same-sex marriage has become a live issue in the general election coming in Feb. 2018.

PERU: It was an up-and-down year. Early in the year, the President took advantage of legislative gridlock to pass a sweeping anti-discrimination and hate crime law by decree, which is apparently something you can do in Peru. Unfortunately, the Congress then got its shit together and the anti-gay majority party struck down the new laws. In January, an administrative court ruled that foreign same-sex marriages must be recognized for pension purposes. The government has appealed. That inspired queer members of congress to hold back support for a civil union bill they’d tabled last year, and instead file a same-sex marriage bill. Both have stalled. We’ll see what comes of the bills and the court case in 2018, but I’m more optimistic about the courts.

ECUADOR: This was one of the first countries in Latin America to pass a civil union law in 2008, but it also has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Activists have begun talking about a push to change that.

PARAGUAY: A presidential candidate grabbed headlines by declaring himself in support of same-sex marriage, though the country maintains a constitutional ban on it. Clarifications were later issued, but we’ll see if/how this plays out in the elections this April.

JAMAICA and TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: Activists filed cases to strike down the countries’ criminal bans on sodomy. No news yet on when the cases will be heard. [UPDATE Jan. 2: A reader has informed me that the Trinidad & Tobago case will be heard Jan. 30, 2018; of course, a ruling could still take years to be issued. For comparison’s sake, a similar case in Belize took more than three years for a ruling to be issued striking the nation’s sodomy laws last year.]

HAITI: While same-sex marriage is already illegal, the Haitian Senate passed a sweeping bill to ban advocacy for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. It has not been taken up in the lower house as yet. I’m not sure how such a bill would stand up to the country’s constitutional rights, but it certainly wouldn’t satisfy global democratic norms. Keep an eye out in 2018.

NETHERLANDS TERRITORIES: A couple politicians in Curacao grabbed headlines calling for a referendum on same-sex marriage. It’s not clear there’s even a movement calling for it or if such a bill would stand up to the Netherlands constitution. Either way, it hasn’t gone anywhere, but we should keep an eye out.

USA: The courts continued to be the main battlefield for marriage equality, long after we thought the fight was over in June 2015. The Supreme Court heard a case calling for ‘religious freedom’ exceptions to discrimination laws, while Texas courts dealt with a state law that bans same-sex couples from receiving spousal benefits. Neither has come to a final ruling yet. Meanwhile, a handful of US Native Nations passed same-sex marriage laws, including the Osage, Prairie Island, Ho-Chunk Native Nation of Wisconsin, and the Ak-Chin.

CANADA: Just gonna take a moment to highlight how Canada led the way on a number of LGBT rights files in 2017. You can read my take on it here.

Continue to:

Same-sex marriage in Europe in 2018
Same-sex marriage in Asia, Africa, and Oceania in 2018

Same-sex marriage in Asia, Africa, and Oceania as of Jan. 1, 2018

AFRICA:

Before 2017: Equal Marriage in South Africa, French overseas territories (Reunion, Mayotte), Spanish exclaves Cueta and Melilla;

Developments in 2017: Equal Marriage UK territory Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Homosexuality criminalized in Chad.

Looking ahead: Namibia, Angola, The Gambia, Zimbabwe

Trouble spots: Uganda, Burundi, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Egypt

 

African_homosexuality_laws
BLUE: Equal Marriage. RED: Death penalty for homosexuality. ORANGE: Jail or fine for homosexuality. YELLOW: Criminal law against homosexuality not enforced.

UK territory Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha: The three islands all achieved equal marriage this year in different steps. Ascension Island (pop. 800) passed a bill in 2016, but it was brought into effect on Jan. 1 2017 when it looked like Saint Helena wasn’t going to legalize same-sex marriage. Tristan da Cunha (pop. 300) followed in August 2017. The main island Saint Helena (pop, 4,500) saw a lawsuit brought to its Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, but a newly elected government passed a same-sex marriage bill in December 2017 before the court ruled. Same-sex couples can now marry and adopt throughout the territory.

NAMIBIA: A court case was brought to force the government to recognize a same-sex couple who were married in South Africa and their adopted son in December 2017. In 2016, the government had reiterated its opposition to same-sex marriage, and to repealing its vague colonial anti-sodomy law, though the country’s human rights ombudsman called for the law to be repealed and an anti-discrimination ordinance added to the constitution.

ANGOLA: A long-delayed overhaul of the 19th-century colonial penal code was delayed further in 2017. Though it would eliminate the vague laws banning sodomy, it also would forbid abortion in all circumstances. That provision led to some large protests in the country. A newly elected government (led by the same party) has pledged to have the bill passed in 2018. Southern Africa has been a relative hotspot of the decriminalization movement this decade, with victories in Lesotho, Seychelles, and fellow former Portuguese colonies Sao Tome & Principe and Mozambique, along with discussions in Malawi and Botswana.

The GAMBIA and ZIMBABWE: Both these countries deposed their incredibly anti-gay leaders after widespread protests and military intervention. The new leader of The Gambia, Adama Barrow has seemed less vocally intolerant of gays than his predecessor, but while he has undone some of the old guy’s more troublesome anti-democratic and anti-human rights actions (returning to the International Criminal Court, and applying to return to the Commonwealth), he hasn’t undone any of the country’s anti-gay laws. It’s early days in Zimbabwe’s post-Mugabe era, but there’s no news yet on LGBT rights there either. It will be interesting to watch if any developments follow, but given the widespread public antipathy in these countries, don’t hold your breath.

GHANA: The President has face wide criticism in the last few weeks after suggesting that an LGBT rights movement and decriminalization in Ghana were inevitable.

MAURITIUS: The government declined the UN Human Rights Committee’s suggestion that it decriminalize sodomy in its universal periodic review.

CHAD: Although I reported on Chad passing a bill criminalizing sodomy as a misdemeanor in 2016, it apparently did not pass into law until 2017. The new penal code includes jail terms and fines as punishment.

Crackdowns on LGBT people. continued or worsened in Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, and Burundi in 2017.

 

ASIA, OCEANIA, and the rest

Before 2017: Equal Marriage in New Zealand, French overseas territories (French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia), UK overseas territories (Pitcairn Islands and British Indian Ocean Territory), parts of Antarctica (see below), US territories (Guam and Northern Mariana Islands Territory); limited recognition in American Samoa, Israel; civil union in Chilean territory (Easter Island); limited civil partnerships in some Japanese cities, some Taiwanese cities.

Developments in 2017: Equal Marriage in Australia. Court ruling in Taiwan.

Looking ahead: Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong/China, India, Nepal, The Philippines, New Caledonia, Sri Lanka, Cook Islands.

Trouble spots: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the usual places in Central Asia and the Arab world

 

AUSTRALIA: Fifteen years of campaigning finally paid off in Australia following the successful postal plebiscite and a near-unanimous vote in Parliament for marriage equality. I won’t go much further with this as so much digital ink has already been spilled, but Australia became the 24th equal marriage country on Dec. 9, 2017. With the last of the large anglo-settler countries passing equal marriage, I wonder if English-language media will lose interest in the equal marriage battles going on in the rest of the world. Still, Australia’s Northern Territory is the only part of the country where same-sex couples do not have the option of entering a registered partnership other than marriage and cannot adopt children. A bill to change that has been proposed.

Member_states_of_the_Commonwealth_of_Nations
LGBT rights in the Commonwealth: PINK: Equal marriage. BLUE: Homosexuality legal, but no marriage rights. GREEN: Homosexuality illegal. Slightly lighter colors correspond to dependent territories of member states.

Australia is the sixth Commonwealth country (out of 52 — 53 when The Gambia rejoins later this year) to pass equal marriage, after Canada, South Africa, the UK, New Zealand and Malta.

Australia’s same-sex marriage bill applies to its external territories, which are not autonomous: Christmas Island (pop. 2,000), Norfolk Island (pop. 2,000), Cocos (Keeling) Islands (pop. 600), and the uninhabited Coral Sea Islands, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Australian Antarctic Territory.

ANTARCTICA: In a strictly academic sense, marriage equality is almost complete in Antarctica, since all of the claiming countries except Chile have passed a same-sex marriage law that applies to their Antarctic claims. However, the claims are not generally recognized internationally, except by each other (and even then, not completely – Argentina, Chile, and the UK claims all overlap). A quarter of Antarctica is not claimed by any country. Many countries have research bases in other countries claimed areas, and in practice, it is the base country’s laws that apply. Australia, France, Norway, New Zealand, UK, and Argentina are all equal marriage countries, and their law applies within their claim areas. Should Chile’s equal marriage bill pass, same-sex couples will have theoretical marriage rights throughout the claimed territory of Antarctica.

antarctic

TAIWAN: In May, the Judicial Yuan ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, and gave the Legislative Yuan two years to pass a law to allow it. The government has been stalling, and given local elections coming in 2018, some predict they won’t pass a bill until 2019. Same-sex marriage becomes legal regardless on May 24, 2019. Several couples have filed suits hoping to get married in advance of that date, but the courts have repeatedly shot them down. In the meantime, all but four of Taiwan’s 22 counties, representing 94% of the population, have passed civil partnership registries. (By the way, unlike Austria’s court ruling, no one is getting married yet, and there appears to be a chance the legislative change may get gummed up, so I’m not counting it yet).

HONG KONG: The government appealed a court ruling finding that a binational married lesbian couple had to be recognized for immigration purposes, while the territory continued to discuss equal marriage in the wake of the Taiwan ruling. Discussions also appeared in mainland CHINA but no actual progress.

Same-sex_marriage_map_Oceania.svgNEW CALEDONIA: This French territory is scheduled to hold an independence referendum in November 2018. If it passes, and independence is achieved (likely after another couple of years of transition), it would become a new equal marriage country from birth (the first, unless Catalonia beats it). A successful referendum could spark similar independence drives in Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia territories.

Speaking of new states, the Bougainville Autonomous Region of Papua New Guinea is meant to hold an independence referendum in June 2019. If successful, it could be a new criminalizing state, unfortunately. Similarly, there is a bourgeoning independence movement in Papua/West Papua in Indonesia, but it doesn’t appear to have the momentum of either other regional movement.

EASTER ISLAND: This Polynesian territory is part of Chile, and would gain equal marriage if Chile’s law passes.

JAPAN: As the country continued to debate expanding LGBT rights ahead of hosting the 2020 Olympics, Sapporo became the largest city to establish a same-sex partner registry.

PHILLIPINES: A civil unions bill and a sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination bill were introduced in the Congress this year, but have not advanced far in debate. In December, President Duterte once again declared himself in favor of same-sex marriage (flipping back to a previous position he’d flopped from), but LGBT activists and legislators don’t believe there is enough support for that in Congress. The civil union bill passing would be a first for an Asian country.

COOK ISLANDS: A revision of the territory’s Crimes Bill, which would strike the sodomy law, has been in consultations since the summer. It is expected to pass in 2018. The Cook Islands is a sovereign country within the Realm of New Zealand. The South Pacific has been a specific focus of UN action on decriminalization recently, with decriminalization passing in Palau, Nauru, and Fiji this decade. Still to go: Solomon Islands, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea.

INDIA: India’s Supreme Court gave very strong indications that it would re-overturn the country’s sodomy law in a related decision that established constitutional privacy rights India’s people. The court also discussed that homosexuals should also be free from discrimination. In an underreported note, the Court also decided that marriage and family life ought to be subject to privacy, so it’s possible the decision could have even broader impact on marriage/family rights for same-sex couples.

SRI LANKA: The government told the UN Human Rights Council that it plans to decriminalize sodomy, but has not revealed any further details.

NEPAL: More discussion about same-sex marriage, now ten years after the Nepali Supreme Court ruled in favor of it. No action yet.

SOUTH KOREA: An anti-LGBT conservative was elected to the presidency, and marriage equality became an issue in vetting supreme court nominees. A more immediate issue was the crackdown on gays in the military – South Korea’s military code has a criminal prohibition on gay sex. Because military service is compulsory, it’s worth debating whether the country should be listed among the criminalizing states. The government has not announced plans to change the law. It’s worth wondering if South Korea’s middling record on LGBT rights may be brought into focus when it hosts the Winter Olympics in February.

Crackdowns on LGBT people continued or worsened in Indonesia, Tajikistan and Turkey, while continuing in the usual hotspots in the region. The Islamic State was finally defeated, technically reducing the number of criminalizing states by one.

Continue to:

Same-sex marriage in the Americas in 2018
Same-sex marriage in Europe in 2018

 

WATCH: My new short film PALAU

Last year, I made my first short film, PALAU, and I’m so happy to finally share it with all of you. PALAU is about two friends who reconnect after ten years apart. When they meet Leo surprises John with a one-way ticket to Micronesia and an enticing — or maybe ridiculous — offer.

If you like what you see, head over to my YouTube channel, give the film a “like” and subscribe — I’ll be adding new short films and sketch comedy regularly. You can also find other shorts I’ve appeared in or written on my channel.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped make this litt movie, including director Warren Wagner, my costars Scott Garland and Kat Letwin, Sound Recorder S Michael Ejbick, Makeup Artist Mishka Prefontaine, and AD Christiana Herbert.

Read more about PALAU’s cast and crew here.

Tri-Curious available on Dekkoo

A couple years ago I appeared in a short film directed by Matt Guerin called “Tri-Curious,” which played at a number of festivals around the world, including the Palm Springs Cinema Diverse Festival in 2016. The short went on to a spectacular run on YouTube, where it was viewed more than 1.5 million times!

Tri-Curious is now available exclusively on Dekkoo, a new gay streaming video service. You can watch the full video here, after subscribing.

Watch the trailer below:

Falkland Islands Same-Sex Marriage Update

Jfalkland-islandsust a little post so I can update some information on Wikipedia.

The Falkland Islands Legislative Council passed a same-sex marriage and civil partnership bill back in March, but there’s no obvious information on the government’s web site about when bills receive royal assent, nor is there an archive of current laws on the web site. This has led to some confusion about whether the bill is actually law there.

So, I contacted the Islands’ registrar general, and this is the response I received.

falkland islands-registrar general.PNG

Since I noticed she’s also the registrar general for (the uninhabited) South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands territory, I followed up to check if same-sex marriage is legal there. She says it is not.

Rex Wockner had a link to a press release from the government on his blog that basically said the same thing, but didn’t specifically say that the bill received royal assent or when it became effective. We now have a confirmation.

Anyway, this blog post exists solely so that I can cite a public reference on Wikipedia when I update same-sex marriage pages.

You can follow my daily updates on same-sex marriage news from around the world on my Twitter feed @LGBTMarriage.

Steam Room Stories – Straight Guys and BJs

Another of episode of Steam Room Stories that I wrote went online a couple weeks ago, and it’s already gotten more than 30,000 views! Check out “Straight Guys Giving BJs” below:

 

I have another episode of Steam Room Stories coming up soon, so subscribe here.

CBS Diversity Showcase

For the last four months, I was working on one of the most challenging and fulfilling artistic endeavors of my career, The CBS Diversity Showcase. The sheer talent of everyone involved was humbling, awe-inspiring, and at times, honestly infuriating. I often felt like Salieri in that movie I’ll let you think I’ve watched. It’s about writing fart jokes, right?

I am so grateful to all of the actors, writers, and staff, for the opportunity to learn from all of them, and to be part of this amazing show. I’m especially grateful to my fellow Morons, Anna Rubanova and Jason Michael Snow, who let me write on a silly little sketch that ended up being the big closing number, “The Book of Moron” — a parody of Trump supporters sung to the tune of “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon — and to the whole cast that dove right into the Moron roles we asked them to play. The video above is cued to start just before the sketch, or you can watch it on YouTube here.

When I moved to LA last year, I had no real game plan other than “hang out and write by the beach.” I had no idea that such an awesome opportunity would be around the corner. And even though I’ve barely been to the beach at all since moving here (seriously, why is it so hard to convince Angelinos to go the beach?), this whole experience has really confirmed for me that moving here was the right thing to do. I can’t wait for whatever’s coming next.

Photos mostly by Anna Rubanova. More great shots from the show at her website.

Steam Room Stories – Guncles

I wrote this week’s episode of Steam Room Stories. It’s about being a gay uncle. Check it out:

I’ve written a few more episodes of Steam Room Stories that’ll be forthcoming, so subscribe here.