FACT CHECK: Do Only 12 Percent Of UN Member States Allow Gay Marriage?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal claimed on Twitter that only 12 percent of U.N. member states allow same-sex marriage.

How is this okay? Only 12 percent of UN member states allow same-sex marriages. This new @StateDept policy puts unjustified hardship on couples from places that criminalize same-sex marriages. The @StateDept must reverse this discriminatory policy ASAP. https://t.co/3ScSAHoosI

— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) October 3, 2018

“How is this okay? Only 12 percent of UN member states allow same-sex marriages,” said Jayapal on Oct. 3.

Verdict: True

Of the 193 U.N. member states, only 25 – or 13 percent – have legalized same-sex marriage. The percentage can vary slightly depending upon which countries are counted.

Fact Check:

As of 2018, very few countries have legalized same-sex marriage. Among U.N. member states, only 25, or 13 percent, have done so, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), an advocacy group that has consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

This figure includes the U.S., France, Germany, Spain and Brazil, among other countries. In Mexico, there is no federal law on gay marriage, but it is allowed in most parts of the country and was therefore included in this count. Although same-sex marriage is not allowed in Northern Ireland, the U.K. was also included, as the practice is allowed in England, Wales and Scotland.

A number of countries were excluded from the list. Gay marriage is legal in Greenland, but it’s technically a constituent country of Denmark and not a separate U.N. member state. Austria’s highest court legalized same-sex marriage in December 2017, but the ruling does not take effect until 2019.

Jayapal mentioned the 12 percent figure in response to a decision by the State Department to no longer offer visas to domestic partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. employees, who will lose their status unless they get married by Dec. 31. (Couples can either get married in the U.S. or another country that has legalized same-sex marriage.)

The new policy reverses a 2009 decision by the Obama administration to allow the domestic partners of diplomats in the U.S. to receive visas.

Some have come out against the policy change, arguing that it discriminates against gay people at embassies and the U.N., as some same-sex couples can’t legally marry in their home countries. Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called the move “needlessly cruel & bigoted” in a tweet.

At least 10 U.N. employees in the U.S. will need to get married in order to retain their visas, according to Foreign Policy. The Washington Post reports that 105 families in the U.S. will be affected.

A State Department official told WaPo that the change was implemented in order to “ensure and promote equal treatment” for gay and straight couples. The unmarried partners of heterosexual diplomats in the U.S. were not eligible to receive visas based on partner status.

Homosexuality remains illegal in at least 70 countries, ILGA told TheDCNF, and can be punishable by death in a number of U.N. member states including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Argentina, on behalf of 65 other nations, brought a joint statement in front of the U.N. General Assembly in 2008 calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. An opposition response, orchestrated by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and supported by around 60 nations, criticized the statement, arguing that gay rights have no legal foundation under international law.

In a 23 to 19 vote, the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) expressed grave concern in June 2011 regarding discrimination and acts of violence based on sexual orientation. The body passed similar resolutions in September 2014 and June 2016.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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