Luxembourg has become the latest country to add its name to the growing list of marriage equality nations.
The land-locked European country has only one legislative chamber and so when, on Wednesday, Luxembourg’s Chamber of Deputies voted by an overwhelming majority of 56-4 to approve same-sex marriage, the vote was the final word on the issue. The legislation also allows same-sex couples the right to jointly adopt, and this is a hard won right as for much of the debate over the bill it appeared that any adoption language would omit the right to joint adoption — but ultimately fairness prevailed. In this sense, same-sex couples now have all the rights afforded to straight couples.
The legislation also amends a few other key areas of marriage law, for instance strengthening protections against forced marriages, equalizing the age of consent to 18 and abolishing a relic in marriage law that technically meant couples had to undergo a medical exam prior to their marriages.
All this, the Chamber of Deputies record says, constitutes the biggest change to the country’s marriage laws since 1804, yet when it comes to the matter of same-sex marriage, lawmakers appear to be quite matter-of-fact about it.
“Gay people should have the same rights as heterosexuals,” Green MP Viviane Loschetter told the Independent. “With this law, we do not throw overboard all the values of our society. All we have done is give equal rights to gay people. We formally recognize a form of relationship that has always existed.”
This attitude is perhaps unsurprising because, even though there has been some religious opposition to the change, more than 83% of Luxembourg’s people support same-sex marriage, while polls show that around 53% also support same-sex parent adoptions.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is Luxembourg’s first gay Prime Minister and one of only a handful out of gay state leaders, announced he would introduce the legislation shortly after winning the 2013 elections.
The law is slated to take effect early next year.
Luxembourg joins a growing list of nations that has legalized marriage equality, including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. England and Wales also allow for same-sex marriage and, in the next few months, Scotland will do the same. Some jurisdictions within Mexico recognize same-sex marriages as well.
Other nations where marriage equality may be a reality in the relatively near future include Ireland, with a referendum slated for 2015. It’s not all rosy on the marriage equality front in Europe, though. Slovakia recently amended its constitution to expressly prohibit same-sex marriages from taking place, joining nations like Croatia and Latvia in prohibiting marriage equality.
There may be hope for those nations though. While the European courts have so far refused to recognize a cognizable right to same-sex marriage, human rights laws do recognize marriage as a fundamental right. It may be that, with the right challenge, the European courts could find that EU member states must provide civil marriages regardless of gender. This may not legalize same-sex marriages across Europe itself, because the European Court of Human Rights doesn’t tend to work in that way, but it would apply pressure for that change going forward.
In the meantime, our congratulations to Luxembourg and all the same-sex couples who, come the new year, will be able to marry.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.
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