Civil unions are recognized in several European countries like Denmark (since 1989), Norway (1993), Sweden (1995), Greenland (1996), Iceland (1996), Belgium (2000), Finland (2002), Luxembourg (2004), France (1999), Czech Republic (2006), Germany (2001), Portugal (2001), Netherlands (1998/2001) Spain (2005) and at least in some regions of Italy. In Austria
(1996) and Croatia
(2003) same-sex partnerships are recognized as unregistered cohabitation. Netherlands, UK
and now Spain are the only countries where the legal status of same-sex marriage is identical to civil marriage. Registered partnerships in Scandinavia
are almost equal to marriage, including adoption rights in Sweden
. Registered partnerships in the Netherlands
(geregistreerd partnerschap) and France
(civil pact of solidarity, PACS) also can be entered into by heterosexual couples.
On January 2003 Belgium
legally recognized same-sex marriage, but with some restrictions. Originally, Belgium
allowed the marriages of foreign same-sex couples only if their country of origin also allowed these unions. New legislation enacted in October 2004 now permits any couples to marry in Belgium
if at least one of the spouses has lived in the country for a minimum of three months.
On July 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 to same-sex couples two and a half years earlier. Two thirds of the married couples were gay male couples; the remainder were lesbian couples.
The same-sex marriage law did not permit adoption by same-sex partners: and as birth within a same-sex marriage did not imply affiliation, the same-sex spouse of the biological parent had no way to become the legal parent. In April 2006 the Chamber of Representatives passed a law permitting adoption and thereby enabling legal co-parenting by same-sex couples.
Since August 2001 Germany has permitted registered partnership for same-sex couples. The Life Partnership Act (German: Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft) grants some rights enjoyed by married, opposite-sex couples but excludes adoption as well as some fiscal advantages married couples enjoy. On 2004 the law had been revised (Life Partnership Law (Revision) Act), increasing the rights of registered life partners to include, among other things, the possibility of stepchild adoption and simpler alimony and divorce rules, but still excluding tax benefits. By October 2004, about 5,000 couples had registered their partnerships. About two thirds of couples were gay couples, the reminders lesbian women.
In December 2006, a poll conducted by the Angus-Reid Global Monitor seeking public attitudes on economic, political, and social issues for member-states of the European Union found that Germany ranked seventh supporting Same-Sex Marriage for German citizens. Behind The Netherlands (82%), Sweden (71%), Denmark (69%), Belgium (62%), Luxembourg (58%), and Spain (56%); German attitudes on this social issue were above the European Union average of 44%. Tying with Germany was The Czech Republic with 52% in support, and neighbouring Austria with 49%, respectively.
In 2004 in United Kingdom the Civil Partnership Act had been passed. It grants rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples identical to civil marriage. Civil Partners are entitled to the same property rights as married opposite-sex couples, the same exemption as married couples on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits, and also the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner's children, tenancy rights, full life insurance recognition, next-of-kin rights in hospitals, and others. There is a formal process for dissolving partnerships akin to divorce.
On January 2001 a revised version of registered partnerships (geregistreerd partnerschap) from 1998 was introduced in law in the Netherlands. These were meant for same-sex couples, though they can also be entered into by opposite-sex couples, and in fact about one third of the registered partnerships between 1998 and 2001 were of opposite-sex couples. For the law, registered partnerships and marriage convey the same rights and duties, especially after some laws were changed to equalize inequalities with respect to inheritance and some other issues.
Same-sex marriage in Spain
was legalized in 2005. In 2004, the nation's newly elected Socialist government began a campaign for its legalization, which would include adoption by same-sex couples. After much debate, a law permitting same-sex marriage was on June 2005. Same-sex marriage officially became legal in Spain
on 3 July 2005
. The ratification of this law has not been devoid of conflict, despite support from 66% of the population. Roman Catholic Church in particular was vehemently opposed to it, criticising what they regarded as the weakening of the meaning of marriage. Approximately 4,500 same-sex couples married in Spain
during the first year of the law. Spanish citizen are allowed to marry a non-Spaniard regardless of whether that person’s homeland recognizes the partnership. Two non-Spaniards may marry if the both have legal residence in Spain