Marriage and civil partnerships for same-sex couples: the international imperative

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Within the single month of November 2004, Saskatchewan became the latest Canadian province to accept same-sex marriage,1 South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal held the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples to be unconstitutional,2 the United Kingdom became the latest European country to introduce civil partnerships as an institution for same-sex couples analogous to marriage,3 and the government of New Zealand presented a Bill to the New Zealand Parliament to do the same thing in that country.4 In the 15 years since Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce such an institution5 most jurisdictions in Western Europe and in Canada, and a handful of states in the United States of America, have followed Denmark’s innovation and some6 have opened up the institution of marriage itself to same-sex couples. The peculiarly North American debate whether civil partnership is a second-rate alternative to marriage as a means of achieving gay and lesbian equality has not been engaged with elsewhere in the world, and it will not be engaged with here. This article intends, rather, to explore the remarkable phenomenon that such a debate is today one of practical reality rather than hypothetical aspiration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-260
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of International Law and International Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • civil law
  • family law
  • same-sex couples
  • marriage
  • civil partnerships
  • international imperative


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