The Dutch parliament made history in 2000 when it made it legal for same-sex couples to marry, divorce, and adopt children by a 3-to-1 vote margin. Today, there are 16,000 married same-sex couples in the Netherlands, where gay marriage enjoys an approval rating of 82 percent — the highest in the European Union.
While there wasn't much of an uproar in Belgium when the country's parliament legalized gay marriage, the Vatican was outraged, prompting Pope John Paul II to launch a global campaign saying that "homosexual unions were immoral, unnatural and harmful."
It took a two-year journey filled with court battles before Canada's house of commons voted to make gay marriage legal in the entire country, as opposed to just in nine out of the 13 provinces and territories. Social conservatives tried to overturn the law in 2006 but failed.
While Spain extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in 2005, the law has since faced fierce opposition from conservative politicians, including a court challenge that was defeated in 2012. In March, interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz remarked that gay marriage should be banned because it doesn't guarantee the "survival of the species."
South Africa, 2006
In 2005, South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled that preventing gay marriage violated the country's young constitution, which was adopted not long after the end of Apartheid. The court-mandated law passed easily in parliament the following year.
In 1993, Norway was the second country, after Denmark in the late '80s, to allow civil unions between same-sex partners. The Norwegian government later legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. The main controversy at that time was whether lesbian mothers had the right to artificial insemination; they won that right when the parliament voted to approve gay marriage by a margin of 2 to 1.
Sweden, like Norway, allowed civil unions in the mid-'90s and eventually gave gay couples full marriage rights by a large majority in parliament.
Every single one of the 49 members of Iceland's parliament voted "Yes" on gay marriage. Shortly after the law was passed, the country's prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, married her longtime partner, writer Jonina Leosdottir.
Portugal's conservative president Anibal Cavaco Silva signed the country's gay marriage bill into law after initially asking the country's highest court to review it, hoping to undo what Portugal's Socialist-led parliament had passed. Same-sex couples in Portugal are still not allowed to adopt children.
The predominantly Catholic country became the first Latin American nation to legalize gay marriage by the narrow vote of 33 to 27. Pope Francis, then known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, called the bill a "destructive attack on God's plan."
Denmark, the first country to allow same-sex civil unions in the late '80s, fully legalized gay marriage in 2012, allowing same-sex couples to get married in churches and adopt children.
Countries where gay marriage is partially legal: Brazil, Mexico, United States
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