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Same Sex Marriage in Modern Times: First Vote by a Country

By Carolyn J. Woodruff, JD, CPA, CVA

In Greensboro, a same sex couple can go to the Register of Deeds in Guilford County and obtain a North Carolina Marriage License.  There are also Register of Deeds in the Piedmont Triad in Lexington, Asheboro, Graham, Wentworth, Roxboro, Yanceyville, and Winston Salem that provide the same product and service, a Marriage License.

Recently, and notably, Ireland has had a national referendum and said “yes” to same sex marriage.  Ireland has long been a stronghold and defender of the Catholic faith, which has been a citadel of opposition to gays, lesbians, and of course same sex marriage.

Where else in the world can a same sex couple marry and divorce?  Let’s explore the world.  This article discusses marriage licenses in modern and recent history, and does not cover the history of civil unions or the history of gay and lesbian relationships as a matter of ancient times.  We are looking at the more recent revolution.

Starting with the United States, in thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia, a couple can be wed in a same sex marriage.  The United States Supreme Court is weighing the issue, so watch for a future blog on this issue.  In North America, a same sex couple can marry in Mexico City and the State of Quintana Roo. Canada has allowed same sex marriage since 2005.

Let’s look at the recent historical progression of same sex marriage licenses in countries, particularly Western Europe.

2014:  The United Kingdom, Finland and Luxembourg adopted granting marriage licenses for same sex couples.

2013:  The South American countries of Brazil and Uruguay adopted same sex marriage.  Also, in 2013, France and New Zealand adopted same sex marriage.

2012:  Find Denmark adopting same sex marriage.

2011:  There was a lull in the movement.

2010:  Add Portugal, Argentina and Iceland to the list of same sex marriage countries.

2009:  Norway and Sweden become leaders in the same sex marriage revolution.

2008:  A lull.

2007:  A silence and pause.

2006:  South Africa adopted same sex marriage.

2005:  Spain and Canada (as earlier noted) embraced same sex marriage.

2004:  No country adopted same sex marriage.

2003:  Belgium comes on board with same sex marriage.

2002:  The fight was beginning, but the Netherlands was still alone in the world.

2001:  Netherlands was the first to adopt same sex marriage in the known civilized world.  There is a caveat to this information.  On January 14, 2001, two same sex couples were married in Ontario; the marriage were later denied, but then later upheld on June 10, 2003 by a higher court.  Thus, retroactively, the two same sex marriages in Ontario on January 14, 2001 were the first in modern times.

In remote history, there are earlier times for same sex couples, and of course, there were civil unions in many places before marriage.

With marriage comes the benefits and the detriments of divorce.  So planning for the possibility of divorce with a premarital agreement is something that same sex couples must now do.  The waters are a little murky still for family lawyers in that many state laws are still gender linked and not exactly written for a man and a man (or a woman and a woman).  These will all have to be updated in North Carolina.