Ireland could be the 20th country to recognise same-sex marriage
As voting continues in the marriage equality referendum, Ireland could become the first country to make same-sex marriage legal by a popular vote.
Since the Netherlands became the first country to allow same-sex marriage in 2001, a growing number of governments around the world have followed suit and granted legal recognition to same-sex marriages.
“It's really become less of something that you need to explain. We're totally ordinary. We take our children to preschool every day. People know they don't have to be afraid of us," said Anne-Marie Thus, one half of the world's first legally wed lesbian couple.
"We married for love, not politics. A heterosexual person never needs to think about whether he is allowed to marry or not, he simply needs to be lucky enough to find the love of his life."
While many countries provide some protections for such couples, currently there are only 19 that allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Those countries, in chronological order, are:
- Netherlands (2000)
- Belgium (2003)
- Spain (2005)
- Canada (2005)
- South Africa (2006)
- Sweden (2009)
- Norway (2009)
- Portugal (2010)
- Iceland (2010)
- Argentina (2010)
- Denmark (2012)
- Uruguay (2013)
- New Zealand (2013)
- France (2013)
- England (2013)
- Wales (2013)
- Brazil (2013)
- Luxembourg (2014)
- Scotland (2014)
In Europe, a number of states, including Ireland, currently recognise civil unions or other types of partnerships.
Slovenia passed a bill in March that will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt once it is signed into law.
However, throughout most of Eastern Europe, the constitutions of Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine bar same-sex marriage, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Same-sex marriage is currently illegal in all Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries (barring South Africa).
In the United State, 13 states still maintain an outright ban on it.
After the unexpected victory of the Spanish Socialist Party in 2004, the newly elected Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced that his country might not have been the first “but that it would not be the last” to allow same-sex marriages.
Despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, Spain recognised the right for gay and lesbians to marry under civil law in 2005.
“After us will come many other countries, driven ... by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality," Mr Zapatero added.
His prophetic words proven to be right as over the next decade 15 more countries decided to recognised same-sex marriages.
Norway’s Family Issues Minister Anniken Huitfeldt noted in 2009 that, "The new law won't weaken marriage as an institution. Rather, it will strengthen it. Marriage won't be worth less because more can take part in it."
The same year, Iceland became the first country to elect an openly gay head of state, Johanna Sigurdardottir – who would later become the first world leader to wed her partner in a same sex ceremony.
Last week, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel became the first serving leader in the European Union leader to wed someone of the same sex.