With the Defense of Marriage Act’s evaporation, the U.S. Supreme Court has removed a titanic obstacle in the gay rights movement. For those of us who are dedicated to the causes of equality, tolerance, and fairness under the law, this decision has cleared the path for federal legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. A minority denied access to marriage for prejudicial reasons dealing with their very nature, homosexuals in particular and the gay rights movement at large still has much to accomplish. Meanwhile, since the century’s turn, several countries around the world have already taken action to cement equality into law.**

Netherlands (2000)

In December 2000, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. The Dutch parliament arguably passed the most progressive legislation in the world at the time, and primarily faced opposition from the Christian Democratic Party. More than 2,000 same-sex couples married within a mere nine months of the law’s passage. However, between 2001 and 2011, only 20% of the 55,000 same-sex couples in the Netherlands have actually married.

Belgium (2003)

In January 2003, same-sex marriage was finalized in Belgium. The law further allows same-sex couples the same tax and inheritance rights as heterosexual couples. Concerning adoption rights, the Belgian parliament did not grant these to homosexual couples until 2006.

Spain (2005)

In June 2005, the Spanish parliament passed same-sex marriage through slim margins. Also, whereas the Netherlands and Belgium created separate categories in which same-sex couples would henceforth belong, Spain addressed the matter in simpler terms. Namely, the parliament added a line into the existing federal marriage law to include same-sex couples. In 2012, Spain’s highest court upheld the same-sex marriage law.

Canada (2005)

Canada legalized same-sex marriage around the same time as Spain in June 2005, and in similar fashion. The law’s passage came after nine of the country’s thirteen provinces and territories had already deemed same-sex marriage legal. According to Statistics Canada, the number of same-sex marriages nearly tripled between 2006 and 2011. Furthermore, Canada’s Census indicates that same-sex couples have dramatically proliferated. This is not to say, of course, that there are significantly more gay couples in Canada. Rather, more same-sex couples are demanding recognition from the Census since the law’s formation.

South Africa (2006)

In November 2006, South Africa became the first and only African country to legalize same-sex marriage, sending a loud message across the continent. Homosexuality is heavily condemned throughout the region with disgusting rigor, making this decision in particular even more astonishing. South African same-sex couples were able to rejoice in late 2006 because the post-apartheid constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Norway (2008)

Same-sex marriage became legal in Norway in December 2008 through a cramped vote in the upper house of parliament. After a 23-17 vote, the gender-neutral marriage law passed parliament and went into effect the following year. Although same-sex marriage is effectively legal throughout Norway, the law grants clergy the right to perform same-sex ceremonies without an obligation to do so. This seemingly trivial distinction is actually salient considering 85% of Norwegians are registered members of the state Lutheran Church of Norway, which is split on the gay marriage issue.

Sweden (2009)

An overwhelming majority vote in Sweden’s parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage in April 2009. With a 226-22 vote, the law replaced the previous 1995 legislation that allowed for ‘registered partnerships.’ While the vote tally may speak for itself, six of the seven political parties in Sweden also supported the bill. The only political opposition arose from the Christian Democratic Party. Several months after the marriage law passed, the Lutheran Church of Sweden, which officially separated from Sweden in 2000, allowed same-sex weddings.

Portugal (2010)

In June 2010, Portugal furthered its increasing trends toward social tolerance. Even with a conservative president, Portugal has become more liberal over the past thirty years. Same-sex marriage aside, for instance, Portugal’s drug policy is amongst the worlds most liberal in practice. Time and time again, when Portuguese citizens are polled on the matter, they choose to mind their own business.

Iceland (2010)

Iceland, the country that made history after electing the first openly homosexual head of government (former Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir,) legalized same-sex marriage in June 2010 along with Portugal. With a landslide vote of 49 votes to zero in the Althingi parliament, the bill was without any political resistance whatever. The law puts an end to the prior 1996 legislation that promulgated registered partnerships, and allows the Church of Iceland to opt out if it so desires. Argentina (2010)

Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage in July 2010 through two dramatic showdowns. First, as it so often must, marriage equality had to endure a tough political slog. After fifteen hours of debate, the Senate narrowly approved the bill in a 33-27 vote. Second, in perhaps even more unprecedented fashion, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez went toe-to-toe with the Roman Catholic Church over the marriage equality issue. Speaking publicly and passionately about the bill, Fernandez won the day and fervently led Argentina further into the 21st Century.

Denmark (2012)

In June 2012 the Danish parliament passed same-sex marriage legislation with a resonant majority. Although same-sex couples are allowed to marry within the Church of Denmark, individual priests can still refuse to officiate particular ceremonies. Interestingly, in 1989 Denmark became the first country to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. Why same-sex marriage needed 23 years to evolve into national law remains a mystery for many Danish gay rights advocates.

Uruguay (2013)

Uruguay’s lower house of Congress, one week after the Senate made minor changes to the bill, voted to legalize same-sex marriage in April 2013. Granting civil union status to same-sex couples in 2008 and adoption rights in 2009, Uruguay is now the second Latin American country to legalize marriage equality. Known as one of the more secular countries in South America, the legislation itself was unsurprising to many social commentators on the ground in the region. President Mujica, who spent time in prison for political activism as a leftist guerilla in the 1970s, was among the law’s initial supporters.

New Zealand (2013)

Also in April 2013, New Zealand’s parliament legalized same-sex marriage after a 77-44 vote. The unicameral legislature’s passage of the ‘Marriage Amendment Bill’ made New Zealand the first nation in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage. Through a process known as ‘royal assent,’ the Governor-General signed the bill into law. In addition to same-sex marriage, the law also extends to adoption rights for same-sex couples in New Zealand. Gay rights advocates in the region further hope that this recent legislation will put pressure on New Zealand’s Aussie neighbors to act soon on same-sex marriage.

France (2013)

French President Francois Hollande signed same-sex marriage into law in May 2013, making France the most recent country to legalize marriage equality. Despite the original legislation’s passage through both the National Assembly and Senate, the President had to wait for a court ruling before he could sign the bill into law. In May, the law was deemed constitutional, and thus the French people have spoken. The marriage law also allows same-sex couples to adopt children, going beyond marriage equality in specific terms. Recently in France, however, there has been swift backlash from conservatives and religious leaders.

It is only a matter of time before the United States takes marriage equality to the national level. With DOMA out of the way, that road becomes a much smoother one to navigate for gay rights advocates. More and more Americans are realizing that homosexuality is an act of love, and should have our respect for that reason. The Supreme Court has only described an ostensibly growing trend that will continue to grow. As soon as the United States reaches marriage equality throughout the country, it will be in good company around the world.

**Brazil offers an interesting exception. In May 2013, Brazil’s National Council of Justice declared that same-sex couples should not be denied marriage licenses. The Social Christian Party, however, has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. Further, Brazil’s legislature has yet to weigh in on the matter. It is premature to conclude that Brazil has definitively legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.