Gay marriage laws appearing worldwide

The last few months have seen significant changes to gay marriage laws around the world. Rachel England summarises the latest developments

Gay rights activists around the world are celebrating after a series of countries and US states have passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.

In May 2013, President Francois Hollande signed into law a controversial bill making France the 9th country in Europe, and 14th globally, to legalise same-sex marriage.

Polls have shown that more than half of French citizens support the reform, however it has received strong opposition, primarily from conservative groups and Roman Catholics. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Paris on 26 May to protest against the bill.

New Zealand has also passed marriage equality legislation, making it the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so. The bill, approved in April, succeeded 77 votes to 44, and redefines marriage as a “union between two people,” rather than a man and a woman.

Also in April, Uruguay became the second country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, 12 US states have now legalised gay marriage.

Elsewhere, other countries are considering taking similar action. Ireland – a country widely known for its traditionally religious principles – is to hold a referendum on legalising gay marriage, after a convention created to reform the Irish constitution recommended that same-sex couples be recognised in law.

The convention voted 79% in favour of full equality for same-sex couples, with Gay and Lesbian Network director Brian Sheehan describing the vote as a “historic day – a major milestone on the remarkable journey” to equality.

The topic of gay marriage is also currently being debated in Australia. Previous legislation failed to pass parliament in September 2012, but leaders are now considering undertaking a national poll ahead of the country’s September 2013 elections.