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The struggle for same-sex couples to have the same rights as heterosexuals to marry began in the 1970s, along with other struggles for civil rights. The first country to legally recognize a same-sex partnership was Denmark, in 1989, but the first legal gay marriage did not occur until 2001 in the Netherlands. Since then, three other countries have legalized gay marriage, as well as some of the US and Australia, while others have enforced a gay marriage ban.
Countries and areas that are fervently against gay marriage have passed laws banning gay marriage, in reaction to attempts made by couples to have their foreign gay marriages recognised in their own country. In the US, 19 states have passed laws banning same-sex marriage and 43 states have statutes defining marriage as specifically two people of the opposite sex. In 2006, the Republican party in the US attempted to introduce a law that would ban gay marriage America-wide, ignoring gay marriage states. This law was not passed.
Many attempts have been made around the world to legalize gay marriage. San Francisco marriages conducted in a brief period of rebellion in 2004 were declared void by the state of California. In 2005, a bill was introduced to legalise gay marriage but it was vetoed.
In 2005, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge ruled that gay and lesbian couples in California had a constitutional right to marry. This is being appealed and will be decided on Oct 10 2006.
The debate also affects transsexual people.