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Gay marriage around the world
Sun Dec 4,12:12 AM ET - AFP
Although it is one of the most divisive issues of the day, homosexual marriages and other forms of same-sex partnerships are gaining acceptance around the world.
Britain this month will become the fifth country to allow gay 'marriages' on roughly the same basis as heterosexual marriages.
The Netherlands was the first nation to celebrate gay marriages in April 2001, followed by Belgium in January, 2003, Canada in June and Spain in July.
In the United States, Massachusetts recognizes gay marriage and the California senate approved it before the bill was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Canada legalized gay marriages in June and has already discovered one anomaly after a woman sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery between her husband and another man. A Vancouver court defined adultery as taking place only between men and women.
Gay marriages have thrown up other legal conundrums, including establishing paternity of a child born in a lesbian wedlock.
Homosexual marriage in Spain, once one of the world's most staunchly Roman Catholic nations, has called down fulminations from the Vatican, but appears to be supported by a majority of Spaniards, whether straight or gay.
In Britain, the establishment Church of England has refused to celebrate same-sex unions, even though the gay marriage law comes into effect on Monday.
In a first for Africa, South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages on Thursday and ordered parliament to change "intolerant" laws within a year.
At a level lower than marriage, many countries recognize same-sex civil unions, with no presumption of sexual involvement, for tax and inheritance purposes.
Denmark was the first country to allow "registered partnerships" or civil unions followed by the other main Nordic nations. France recognizes a union between any two adults, whether man or woman, in a Pact of Civil Solidarity (PACS). Portugal has had a similar measure on the books since 2001, but Prime Minister Jose Socrates has said his government will not consider gay marriage.
In the United States also, Vermont and Connecticut recognize same-sex civil unions, while Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and California allow couples living together the same rights as married couples.
But many countries reject any kind of union between homosexuals, usually on religious grounds
Australia's conservative government passed legislation last year that defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others."
In India, homosexuality is an offense punishable by up to life in prison, and there is no discussion of the issue. Same-sex marriages are prohibited in China and Russia.
Japan also does not allow gay marriages and prohibits child adoption by homosexuals, although gays can obtain some inheritance and other family rights.
Thailand has a liberal attitude toward homosexuality, but not to gay marriage. In other countries, such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is simply out of the question.