Twenty-five years ago today, Denmark enacted the first same-sex partnership legislation. The law granted legal parity to same-sex couples in "registered partnership" as to opposite sex marriage. In June 2012, Denmark repealed "registered partnership" and replaced it with a gender neutral marriage law.
Registered partnership differed from same-sex marriage in that it was an entirely secular arrangement. The new, gender neutral marriage law requires the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark (the State Church) to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
The moment in history, in 1989, was indicative of forward momentum in the LGBT movement. The reaction in the US in the early- and mid-90s was mixed. However, a sense of panic from the right was evident. States began passing laws explicitly banning same-sex marriage, and in 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first US state to recognize same-sex marriage. Today, 19 states allow same-sex marriage.
In 2013, United States v. Windsor struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Western Europe and Scandinavia saw the spread of marriage rights much earlier than anywhere else. Typically, governments passed a "civil-union" or "registered partnership" law first, then in the space of a few years passed gender neutral marriage laws.
Many governments are still dancing around the word "marriage." These governments employ fairly peculiar alternate terminology to describe same-sex relationships, for example, Belgium’s "Statutory Cohabitation"; Croatia’s "Life Partnership"; Andorra’s "Stable Union"; and France’s former "Civil Solidarity Pact."
The words are significant. While legal parity is typically implied by civil-union, the necessity of different language implies that one is greater or more desirable than the other. It is a segregation in thought and words that serves to comfort conservatives. That said, "civil-union" has been an effective stepping stone to equal marriage rights.
Read full text of law here
Garrett Connolly is an editorial intern at Warscapes magazine.