Gay Marriage In The Commonwealth

gay marriage

The Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony has opened up the discussion of gay marriage in the Commonwealth.

Wednesday night’s Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony had the theme ‘Everyone is Welcome’ and contained a profusion of rainbow flags and even a gay kiss.

The progress made towards achieving equality for gay and lesbian people in the UK has been very prominent in the news recently; earlier this year the government passed a law allowing same-sex marriage in England and Wales.

Scotland, which makes its own law in a number of devolved areas, passed similar legislation several months earlier.

But what is the legal situation in other countries across the Commonwealth?  Many clients who come to us asking for gay marriage or civil partnership advice want to know what their legal position would be abroad. If they decide to live in another country or even travel for a short honeymoon, is gay marriage allowed in that country?  Are civil partnerships recognised?  Or is homosexuality even legal?

Rainbow_flagCommonwealth countries – gay marriage friendly or not?

Out of the 71 nations participating in the Games , the majority actually criminalise homosexual behaviour – 42 in fact – quite different from the position we are now used to in the UK.

Homosexuality is illegal but the law rarely enforced in such popular honeymoon destinations such as: Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Trinidad & Tobago.

Other nations, however, strictly enforce their prohibitions on homosexual conduct including Kenya, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Malaysia and a number of Caribbean islands (Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Saint Lucia).

The picture is very different in other parts of the Commonwealth where same-sex unions and now even marriages are recognised.

The most gay marriage-friendly countries are: Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and England & Wales, where same-sex couples can wed, often in a religious setting, and be recognised as a married couple for the purposes of immigration, state benefits and other legal purposes such as inheritance.

Closely following behind are Australia, Malta, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Northern Ireland where same-sex partnerships, like our Civil Partnerships, are legal.

Where can I get advice or find further information?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has published advice for LGBT travellers, which you may want to consult before booking a wedding or honeymoon abroad.

We can provide advice on the legal side of things in our London office.  For example, on how your same-sex marriage or civil partnership conducted abroad will be recognised in the UK and support you in the run up to your ceremony with advice on whether you can marry, what you need to do and, if you choose, a prenuptial agreement.

If your relationship should breakdown we can advise on ending a marriage or civil partnership entered into abroad or in the UK and how it will affect any finances, property or children of the relationship.

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