Fri | Aug 17, 2018

US same-sex marriage ruling likely to impact other countries

Published:Sunday | June 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Tracy White of Kansas City in the US celebrates after the Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.


The landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in favour of same-sex marriages has no legal force outside that country, but gay rights activists in many parts of the world believe the court ruling will help their cause.

In the Philippines, in India, in Australia and elsewhere, gay-rights advocates think the US ruling may help change attitudes, just as American activists - and judges, educators and legislators - had earlier been influenced by the easy acceptance of same-sex marriage in some European countries where the laws were changed smoothly without much fuss.

In today's wired world, political movements cross national boundaries in the blink of an eye, and the trend toward legal acceptance of same-sex marriage is gaining pace, though still rejected outrightly in some parts of the globe.

The US is neither laggard nor leader in this movement which reflects a fundamental change in public views in many parts of the world, but the ruling of its highest court is expected to have a ripple effect elsewhere.

In the Philippines, activists seeking to win legal recognition for same-sex marriages believe the US ruling will be useful, particularly since the country's legal set-up is largely based on the US system.

The Philippines' civil code limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman, but the constitutionality of this proviso is being challenged by a lawyer.

Different routes

Countries are taking different routes to the same conclusion: the US pathway relied on a Supreme Court ruling to establish that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, while Ireland, last month, used a popular vote that showed strong public backing despite the country's deep Catholic roots.

Influence is a two-way street. Five years ago, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage. Activists there said they believe their example helped influence the US, and that last Friday's ruling will, in turn, shape attitudes and actions in other Latin American countries.

Twenty-one countries now allow same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center, and Mexico permits it in some states, with many other countries offering various legal rights that fall short of marriage to same-sex couples. In most of those countries, well-organised advocacy groups are lobbying for full marriage rights.

These movements, and start-up campaigns incubating in other countries as well, may get a real but hard-to-measure boost from the US Supreme Court.