Monday, March 31, 2008

1989: Denmark allows gay civil unions

In Denmark, civil unions with the same rights as marriage have been performed since 1989, and other Nordic countries followed in the 1990s.

The Dutch were the first to eliminate any distinction between gay and straight in the marriage laws. Belgium soon did the same.

Canada jumped to the forefront of gay rights in North America in 2004 when it announced plans to legalize same-sex marriages. Many same-sex couples streamed north to marry in Ottawa and British Columbia after courts in those provinces authorized weddings.

In most of Africa, homosexuality is illegal and gay marriage unthinkable. But in South Africa, gay rights were enshrined in the post-apartheid constitution and some groups are lobbying for the right to marry.

In Japan homosexuality is no longer considered a mental illness, but many gays still feel pressure to go through a sham heterosexual marriage. Japan is more progressive than most of Asia.

Strongly Roman Catholic countries such as Spain and Italy refuse to recognize gay couples, following the Vatican's abhorrence of homosexuality. But there are important exceptions.

In Portugal, and in Spain's Navarra and Basque regions, gay couples who live together long enough receive the same benefits as heterosexuals under common law unions. In Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, gay couples can register for a civil union.

France and Germany have civil union laws, and Britain is in the process of adopting them.

The Dutch have watched the hoopla in the United States with some bemusement. Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen, who married six couples at the stroke of midnight on April 1, 2001, when the Dutch law took effect, sent a note of support to Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco mayor who set off a rush to California when he performed same-sex ceremonies. (info from CBS)

Blogger's Note: I have a grand-niece who has been to more weddings with two brides, than with a bride and a groom.

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