More than 18 years after the Netherlands became the world’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage, Northern Ireland has become the latest European jurisdiction to allow gays and lesbians to marry, Pew Research Center reports on their website.
Although Northern Ireland is a constituent of the United Kingdom, with its own parliament at Stormont, the change in its marriage laws ultimately came about due to action by the UK Parliament in London.
British lawmakers justified the change (which was accompanied by the legalization of abortion) because the Northern Irish parliament was suspended in January 2017 amid a stalemate between Northern Ireland’s parties.
Northern Ireland is the 18th European jurisdiction to legalize gay marriage. This number counts England and Wales together and Scotland and Northern Ireland as separate entities, since same-sex marriage became legal in the UK due to the enactment of three different pieces of legislation: first in England and Wales in 2013, then in Scotland the following year, and now in Northern Ireland.
Same-sex marriage is now legal across the vast majority of Western Europe. One prominent exception is Italy, which has historical ties to the Roman Catholic Church. In spite of these ties, Italy began recognizing same-sex civil unions in 2016. Switzerland also offers same-sex couples the option of civil unions, but not full marriage.