Where Europe Stands On Civil Marriages And Gay Unions

More than two-thirds of the 20 countries around the world that have legalized same-sex marriage are in Europe. Yet two of the biggest Western European states – Germany and Italy – do not allow gays and lesbians to wed. And all Central and Eastern European countries continue to ban gay marriage.

Nearly 15 years after the Netherlands became the world’s first country to allow same-sex marriage, Ireland last month became the first nation to do so via popular vote, with 62% of voters casting ballots in favor of the change.

That makes Ireland the 14th European nation to change its laws to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. This number counts England and Wales as one country and Scotland as a separate entity, since those parts of the United Kingdom passed two separate pieces of legislation on same-sex marriage. (Northern Ireland, the other U.K. constituent state, has not legalized such marriages.) The list also includes Finland, which approved a same-sex marriage law earlier this year, although it will not take effect until 2017.

It is unclear whether any other European countries will soon follow. Germany is among several European nations that grant civil unions or partnerships for same-sex couples, but is not seen as likely to allow gay marriages in the near future. Some Italian politicians, meanwhile, are calling for the passage of a civil partnerships law. Italy, with its historical ties to the Roman Catholic Church, does not currently recognize same-sex unions of any kind, and a senior Vatican official recently called the result of Ireland’s referendum a “defeat for humanity.”

Greece also may soon allow civil unions for same-sex couples, and Slovenia’s legislature recently voted to approve same-sex marriage (though that measure faces additional hurdles before it can become law). At the same time, nearly two-thirds of Croatian voters recently voted to amend their country’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage.



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