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One Year After Referendum in Ireland, Equal Rights for Same-Sex Couples Advances Around the Globe

by Hayley Miller May 21, 2016

One year ago tomorrow, over 60 percent of Irish voters voted ‘yes’ in the first-ever national referendum for marriage equality in the world. Since Ireland became the 18th country to decide to afford same-sex couples full marriage rights, marriage equality and the rights of same-sex couples have moved forward in several countries around the globe.

While civil unions do not afford the same rights as full marriage equality, these cases have also raised the visibility and struggles of same-sex couples around their perspective countries.

A month after Ireland’s vote, the Supreme Court of the United States found bans on marriage equality to be unconstitutional in a historic 5-4 ruling, making marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states.

In November 2015, Cyprus’ parliament overwhelmingly passed a landmark law that grants civil partnership rights to same-sex couples.

In March, HRC reported that the small British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, a collection of small North Atlantic islands about 700 miles east of North Carolina, will hold a referendum on marriage equality and same-sex civil unions.

Last month, marriage equality advocates in Chile held an important meeting with President Bachelet and presented their proposed marriage equality bill. Advocates at the meeting told HRC that the president agreed that the bill should be introduced as soon as possible.

That same month, Colombia’s Constitutional Court in favor of marriage equality for the nation’s same-sex couples.

Earlier this month, Italy’s parliament voted 369-193 in favor of same-sex civil unions. Before this vote, Italy was the only country in Western Europe with no legal form of recognition for same-sex couples.

On Tuesday, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto submitted an official proposal to Congress that would allow nationwide marriage equality in Mexico. While marriage equality is the law of the land in nine Mexican states and the Federal District of Mexico City, marriage equality continues to be denied to same-sex couples in 23 of Mexico’s states. This means that same-sex couples living in states without marriage equality still need to each seek legal recourse.

While we have seen and celebrated progress, we have also dealt with defeat. In April, a court in China dismissed a man’s request to marry his male partner. While this is a setback for those fighting for equality, LGBT advocates agree that this case has raised the visibility of LGBT people in China, who continue to make important advances. The plaintiff plans to continue his fight in court to marry his partner.

Additionally, HRC is working closely with Australian Marriage Equality and other advocates as they fight to make Australia the next country to open its doors to marriage equality. HRC Global also attended Taiwan Pride in October 2015 where then presidential candidate Tsai Ing-Wen, who went on to win elections and was inaugurated as the country’s first female president yesterday, announced her support for marriage equality. Now that Tsai is in power, marriage equality is possible in Taiwan in 2016.

Hayley Miller
Hayley Miller


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