|The race is on between France and New Zealand to become the lucky 13th nation to pass laws introducing marriage equality. The world has come a long way since 2001, when Netherlands became the first nation to allow same-sex couples to get hitched.
Here’s a bit of history, and the state of play:
The first ever gay weddings were in Amsterdam in 2001. The Netherlands were the original trailblazers, allowing gay couples to marry way back in 2001.
Their Parliament decided in 1995 to create a special commission to investigate the possibility of same-sex marriages. It finished its work in 1997 and said civil marriage should be extended to include same-sex couples. After the 1998 election, the government promised to tackle the issue.
In September 2000 the final legislation draft was debated in the Dutch Parliament.
The marriage bill passed the House of Representatives by 109 votes to 33.
The law came into effect on 1 April 2001, and on that day four same-sex couples were married by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen.
On 1 June 2003, Belgium followed the Netherlands’ footsteps, becoming the second country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
In 2005, the Belgian government announced that a total of 2,442 same-sex marriages had taken place in the country since the extension of marriage rights two years earlier.
A gay wedding in Spain in 2005. Same-sex marriage in Spain has been legal since 3 July 2005. In 2004, its nation's newly-elected social democratic government, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, began a campaign for legalisation, including the right of adoption by same-sex couples. After much debate, a law permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the Cortes Generales on 30 June 2005 and published on 2 July 2005.
The law took effect the next day, making Spain the third country in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry, after the Netherlands and Belgium, and 17 days ahead of Canada.
On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world, the first country in the Americas, and the first country outside Europe to legalise same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act which provided a gender-neutral marriage definition.
Court decisions, starting in 2003, each already legalised same-sex marriage in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories, whose residents comprised about 90 per cent of Canada's population.
Before passage of the Act, more than 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in those areas.
2006: South Africa
Tshepo Cameron Modisane and Thoba Calvin Sithol recently married in South Africa, in what has been proclaimed Africa’s first 'traditional gay wedding'. While we’ve had their number on the rugby field of late, South Africa boots us off the park with its marriage equality law.
A court decision in 2005 gave South Africa a year to rectify the inequality in marriage status, and in November 2006, the National Assembly passed a law allowing same-sex couples to legally marry 230 to 41. It was then approved by the National Council of Provinces on 28 November in a 36 to 11 vote, and the law came into effect two days later.
South Africa was the fifth country, the first in Africa, the first in the southern hemisphere, and the second outside Europe to legalise same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage became legal in Norway on 1 January, 2009 when a gender neutral marriage bill was enacted after being passed by the Norwegian legislature in June 2008. Norway became the first Scandinavian country and the sixth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
In addition to providing a gender-neutral definition of marriage, the bill states that when a woman who is married to another woman becomes pregnant through artificial insemination, the other partner will have all the rights of parenthood "from the moment of conception".
Same-sex marriage in Sweden has been legal since 1 May 2009, following the adoption of a new, gender-neutral law on marriage by the Swedish parliament on 1 April 2009, making Sweden the seventh country in the world to open marriage to same-sex couples nationwide.
On 22 October 2009, the governing board of the Church of Sweden, voted 176–62 in favour of allowing its priests to wed same-sex couples in new gender-neutral church ceremonies, including the use of the term marriage.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Portugal since 5 June 2010. The government of Prime Minister José Sócrates introduced a bill for legalisation in December 2009; it was passed by the Assembly of the Republic in February 2010.
The bill was declared legally valid by the Portuguese Constitutional Court in April 2010.
On 17 May 2010, President Aníbal Cavaco Silva ratified the law and Portugal became the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage nationwide.
Not a single member of Iceland’s Parliament voted against its marriage equality law and it has been in place since 27 June, 2010. Public opinion polls suggest that the bill is very popular in Iceland.
Two weeks before the 2009 mid-term elections, Justice Minister Aníbal Fernández issued a statement saying that he was in favour of starting a same-sex marriage debate in congress, that a gender neutral law would "end discrimination", and that "many people are demanding it."
On 5 May, 2010, the Chamber of Deputies passed the same-sex marriage bill that also allowed same-sex couples to adopt, by a vote of 125 to 109.
After a marathon session that went into the early hours of the next day, on 15 July the Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill by a vote of 33 to 27.
A total of 5,839 same-sex marriages were performed in the first two years following the law's enactment.
Same-sex marriage became legal in Denmark on 15 June 2012. The bill was approved by the Folketing on 7 June 2012 and received Royal Assent on 12 June 2012.
Same-sex couples were previously recognised through registered partnerships. Denmark is the eleventh country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
States and territories:
Same sex couples can also marry in parts of Mexico and Brazil as well as in nine states in the United States: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
On the cusp
Just last week Uruguay became the third country in South America to pass a marriage equality law.
Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move, with 71 of the 92 members of the Chamber of Deputies who were present giving it the tick.
"We are living a historic moment," said Federico Grana, a leader of the Black Sheep Collective, which drafted the proposal.
President Jose Mujica was expected to put it into effect within 10 days, and the first couples should be getting married in the middle of July. Uruguay is number 12!
It’s been a fraught issue in France, where massive protests have been held by conservatives who want marriage to remain only between a man and a woman.
However France’s Senate just has approved a Bill that would legalise same-sex marriage and adoption, which must now be passed by the lower house to become law.
That was supposed to happen in May however it now appears that will happen by Wednesday - the same day New Zealand will have its third reading of its marriage equality Bill.
In September 2011, the Coalition government announced its intention to introduce same-sex civil marriage by the next general election.
In June 2012 the UK government completed a consultation to allow both religious same-sex ceremonies and civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales with the intention of legalising same-sex marriage at some point by 2015.
On 5 February 2013, the House of Commons debated the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and approved it in a 400–175 vote at the second reading. A third reading is yet to be scheduled.
On 26 July 2011, the Constitutional Court of Colombia ordered the Colombian Congress to legislate on the matter of same-sex marriage and that if they fail to, same-sex couples will be granted all marriage rights on 20 June 2013, automatically. A bill has since been introduced.
Germany On 22 March 2013 the Bundesrat passed an initiative to open marriage to same-sex couples, which now moves onto the Bundestag for approval.
Ireland The Irish Government established a Constitutional Convention in December 2012 tasked with considering wide-ranging changes to the Irish constitution, and one of the issues the Convention will address and make recommendations to the Government on is same-sex marriage.
It's just reported back overwhelmingly in favour of holding a referendum on legalising same-sex marriage.
Luxembourg The current government of Luxembourg intends to legalise same-sex marriage.
Taiwan The Taipei High Administrative Court has asked for advice from the country's Council of Grand Justices on legally recognising the marriage application of a gay couple.
Vietnam The issue has been put on the backburner until next year, at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Jacqui Stanford - 14th April 2013