25 May

Map of the Week: Where Love is Legal

Created by Connor Mayes using ESRI ArcGIS.


“Hope will never be silent.” These are the immortal words of Harvey Milk, a gay-rights activist and the first openly gay man to be elected to a public office in the United States. Working in San Francisco, Milk was a champion of equal and civil liberties, advocating for and eventually passing gay rights laws in the city of San Francisco. On November 27, 1978, Milk was assassinated alongside San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who supported him, by a fellow civil servant. Harvey Milk has since become an icon for contemporary gay rights advocates and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In light of this, May 22 has been designated as “Harvey Milk Day” in the state of California and is recognized in many other areas of the United States, including New York City.

The issue of same-sex marriage is hotly debated around the world. Progress towards the legalization of same-sex marriage has been slow with many people for and against legalization. However, since 2001, when the Netherlands became the first country to legalize it, 23 other countries have done so as well. In fact, just yesterday, 5/24/17, Taiwan became the first country* in Asia to allow same-sex unions. While this is widely considered a victory for LGBT rights activists around the world, the battle is not over yet. This week, we created a map to analyze where the battle is still ongoing.

Having mapped where same-sex marriage is legal, we notice a marked difference between the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. The vast majority of countries to have done so lie within the Americas and Western Europe, with outliers being New Zealand in Oceania and Taiwan in Asia. It is surprising to note that countries that have long been LGBT-friendly but have not yet legalized same-sex marriage, such as Australia and Germany. However, the global situation regarding same-sex marriage is rapidly changing. This map may require updates in the near future as Peru‘s president is seeking to implement same-sex union laws, and governing bodies in Nepal and Vietnam are attempting to pass similar legislation. Within the next few years, there may be much more color on this map, representing places where, in the vein of Harvey Milk, the hopes for equality will never be silenced.

*The status of Taiwan as a country is debated. While Taiwan is, for all intents and purposes, a sovereign state that operates under its own constitution and legislation, it is not a UN-recognized country and is technically a part of the People’s Republic of China. However, given the fact that Taiwan is a self-governing political entity, for simplicity’s sake, we refer to it as a country.

Country Year Country Year
The Netherlands 2001 France 2013
Belgium 2003 Brazil 2013
Spain 2005 New Zealand 2013
Canada 2005 United Kingdom 2013
South Africa 2006 Uruguay 2013
Mexico 2009 Luxembourg 2015
Norway 2009 United States 2015
Sweden 2009 Ireland 2015
Iceland 2010 Colombia 2016
Portugal 2010 Finland 2017
Argentina 2010 Taiwan 2017
Denmark 2012