In the first six months of the year, three countries have already approved legal recognition for same sex marriage, up from just two last year, and an average of less than one a year during the previous eight years. The pace is clearly accelerating. We could well ask, where next? There are several candidates, some of which could see change quite soon.
The state of Marriage, Europe July 2010
Luxembourg is closely associated with its neighbours Netherlands and Belgium (hence the term "Benelux" countries), which were the first to introduce full marriage equality. At present, the Grand Duchy's legal provision is based on the French PACS, but the government has announced plans to upgrade that to full marriage. In January, the minister of Justice announced promised that legislation would be passed before the summer recess this year. The bill was accepted for the session which began last week, and could be passed within weeks.
Slovenia announced its intention to provide legal recognition in July 2009, and passed the first reading of the required bill in March this year. There have been no reports since.
Nepal will introduce full marriage rights for all couples, but this too could take some time yet. To comply with a ruling by the Supreme Court last year, the country is obliged to do so, and has promised to include such a provision in the new constitution currently being drafted. It is expected that this should be promulgated by May 2011.
In Finland, there has been a rapid change of opinion among parliamentarians, who seem to have shifted within months from a narrow majority against, to overwhelming support in principle. The leading political groupings have both accepted the principle of equality, and earlier this month, the Minister of Justice announced the start of work on preparing legislation. However, this will be a slow progress: the bill is likely to be introduced only in 2012.
In terms of a court ruling last year, Germany is obliged to upgrade its current civil unions provision to "full equality" with married couples. The Government has announced its intention to do so, but it is not clear when it will do so, or how, whether by formal marriage, or by upgrading the benefits of civil unions to "everything except the name". Meanwhile, Berlin has announced its own plans to approve full marriage, which it says is the only way to provide fully with the constitutional requirement.
In Cyprus the Interior Ministry said that the government would "soon" examine the issue of extending marriage, but there has been nothing since.
Albania last July promised laws to outlaw sexual discrimination and introduce marriage equality. The discrimination law has been passed, but the marriage bill has been bogged down in a constitutional dispute: the opposition Socialists and allies party has been boycotting parliament in protest at alleged electoral fraud. Without their presence, the government cannot muster sufficient votes to pass the required change to the Family Code. When (and if) the boycott ends, expect easy passage - but don't hold your breath.
So over the next two years or so, there could be anywhere from four to seven countries approving full equality - and that's just the ones we known of. There will likely be others coming up unexpectedly. Court rulings, or changes in government, can change things very quickly (Argentina wasn't on the radar even one year ago).
That's full marriage. What of civil unions?
Ireland's Civil Partnership bill, granting virtually all the benefits of marriage without the name, has now been approved by both houses parliament, and is with the President for signature.
Venezuela has civil unions legislation currently before the National Assembly. It has the support of President Hugo Chavez, and has already passed the first reading. (Civil Unions are already recognized in the state of Mérida)
In March 2010, Liechtenstein presented to parliament a civil unions bill modelled on that of Switzerland. I have seen no reports of progress since then.
In Chile, the government is currently "drawing up proposals" to extend some of the marriage benefits to same sex couples. It is not yet clear how far these will go, or how soon implementation will come.
The Costa Rican national assembly is "currently" considering legislation submitted by a gay rights group to recognise civil unions. In April this year, the President, Oscar Arias, announced his support for the measure.