Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

From zero to 1 billion in 15 years: the extraordinary growth of marriage equality

Participants hold a giant rainbow flag during the Brussels LGBT Pride Parade May 17, 2014.    REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3PLKM

We are witnessing an historic shift on a truly global scale. Image: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Emma Luxton
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Gender Inequality is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Gender Inequality

Across the world, 1 billion people can now benefit from marriage equality, meaning they live in a place where same-sex marriage has been legalized.

The Netherlands led the change in 2001, becoming the first country to allow same-sex marriage; 20 other nations, mostly in North and South America and Europe, have followed that lead.

Tony Pitman, an LGBT activist, conducted an analysis on marriage equality. He notes that we are “witnessing a historic shift on a truly global scale”.

The landmark number of 1 billion was reached in July 2016, when nine Mexican states and Mexico City followed the lead of other Latin American nations Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay to legalize same-sex marriage.

 One billion people now have marriage equality, meaning they live in a place where same-sex marriage has been legalized.
Image: Gay Star News

In some cases, the issue has divided nations. In Mexico many states have resisted same-sex marriage, while within the UK, Northern Ireland still does not allow it.

The ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 2015 guaranteed same-sex marriage throughout the whole country, bringing marriage equality to over 320 million people.

Brazil offers over 200 million people this right, followed by France with 67 million.



However, although 1 billion people now have marriage equality, this only represents around 14% of the world’s population.

Europe has been rated the most “gay-friendly” continent. A survey ranked the top 10 places to live for LGBT people, and eight of them were in Europe.

Despite this, Europe still has a long way to go before the entire continent can be described as “gay friendly”.

As the ILGA’s (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) Rainbow Map 2016 shows, some countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, have low levels of equality.

 ILGA’s (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) Rainbow Map 2016

Pitman notes that LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, are progressing in many countries with an overall shift towards a world that is more accepting of LGBT people.

However, same sex-relationships are still illegal in more than 70 countries and punishable by death in as many as 10.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Equity, Diversity and InclusionCivil Society
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How focused giving can unlock billions and catapult women’s wealth

Mark Muckerheide

May 21, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum