Queen Elizabeth II gives the royal thumbs up to a bill passed by Parliament, clearing the way for gay marriage to become legal in England and Wales
Culture wars! They are not, contrary to what U.S. media coverage might suggest, a wholly American phenomena.
On Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth II cleared the way for same-sex marriage in Britain after approving a bill passed by Parliament. It didn't, however, pass without controversy. While the bill was backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, many in his Conservative Party opposed it, leading to a two-hour debate in the House in Commons.
Still, the country didn't see the massive protests that flooded France during the spring. Same-sex marriages could start as early as next summer in England and Wales.
In April, after facing stiff resistance from the conservative group Family First, the New Zealand parliament passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, with ceremonies slated to begin on August 19. Before that, Uruguay's parliament voted to become the second country in Latin America to recognize gay marriage despite strong Catholic opposition.
As more and more politicians in the United States move toward supporting gay marriage, a look at countries around the world where it is already legal for same-sex couples to wed:
The Netherlands, 2000
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.
France's national assembly passed a bill to legalize gay marriage by a vote of 331 to 225, in the face of hundreds of thousands of protesters who overturned cars and fought off tear gas along the Champs-Elysees. The first gay marriage in France took place on May 29 in Montpellier between Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau.
In May, Brazil's National Council of Justice ruled 14-to-1 that notary publics couldn't refuse to perform same-sex marriages. While civil unions already gave gay couples access to government benefits, the ruling allowed partners to take each other's surnames and adopt children more easily.
Countries where gay marriage is partially legal: Mexico, United States
This article — originally published on April 12, 2013 — was last updated on July 17, 2013.
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