Overview of same sex marriage rights

From the excellent FEAST-L, a list compiled by Jeff Jones, of the University of Kentucky, compiled the following as of April 7, 2009. How wonderful to have trouble keeping track of all these advances! (This is obviously far more detailed and useful re the US than elsewhere. If readers want to write in with details about other countries, that would be fab.)

UPDATE Maria Bevacqua on WMST-L adds this important caveat: “I might offer a small but significant correction: no person in the United States in a same-sex marriage has “full marriage rights.” A same-sex “marriage” has no federal meaning. Such a couple cannot file a joint federal tax return or experience any of the other privileges or responsibilities of marriage except for what their state law provides.”


MA, CT, IA, and VT have full marriage rights.

CA, NJ, NH, and OR offer almost all the benefits of marriage under another name (civil unions, domestic partnerships).

WA, DC, HI, MD, and ME offer some limited benefits to same-sex couples under domestic partnership laws.

NY and DC both explicitly recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

RI and NM may recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states but this has not been tested yet.

NH and ME are both considering bills to legalize equal marriage benefits for same-sex couples.

MD had a bill seeking to legalize same-sex marriages but it didn’t move in the latest legislature.

NM and HI both considered bills to create full civil unions, but they failed this term. HI’s bill passed its House but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.

CA had domestic partnerships, then marriage, and then banned marriages. The CA Supreme Court is considering whether a majority of voters can amend a state constitution to erase a fundamental right for a minority and whether the 36,000 people married under the prior law should be forcibly divorced.

Some states ban same-sex marriages but not civil unions. Thus, they leave the door open for civil unions.

Some ban marriage by statute/state laws. Others ban marriage via a constitutional amendment. Some states have both.

Kentucky has one of the most oppressive legal status. Both a state law and constitutional amendment ban same-sex marriages in the state and recognition of those performed in other states. To boot, Kentucky voters amended the state constitution to ban civil unions as well.

In general, same-sex couples receive all or some of the rights granted opposite-sex couples in Europe, Australia/New Zealand, South America, and North America (more conservative areas of the US and Mexico now becoming the exceptions). Most of Asia has no recognition of same-sex couples. Much of the Middle East and Africa (except for South Africa), on the other hand, criminalize homosexuality (which is punishable by death in some countries). The pattern closely resembles which countries and provinces have the most women in political life and/or have laws more equitable to women.

Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, South Africa, and Norway all have full marriage rights.

France and Israel do not perform same-sex marriages but recognize them if performed elsewhere.

Most of western and central Europe, New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, Uruguay, etc. offer civil unions or recognition of cohabitating couples. A number of provinces and states in Australia and several South American countries also offer some type of civil union or domestic partnership.

3 thoughts on “Overview of same sex marriage rights

  1. As a Dutch person, I always felt sort of smug that the Netherlands were the first country to legalise same sex marriages.

    Until I read about a historian who researched social stuff in medieval France, and it turned out there was a kind of marriage contract that didn’t specify the gender of the people involved, just allowed them the same right as married people, it concerned people who shared a household. Could be siblings, could be any people sharing a household.
    Kudos medieval people of France!

    Called it the dark ages? pfff!

  2. Wow, this is some pretty outrageous behavior. What were they thinking. And the tax attorney, he is in some deep doo-doo. This is really outrageous conduct so even though FBAR might have it detractors and is far from perfect, it uncovered a pretty out of hand tax fraud.

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