Taiwan is set to legalize same-sex marriage, and adultery is illegal in that country.

Are there any countries where same-sex marriage is currently legal and adultery is not?

Ideally, they should be same-sex marriages which are assumed to be consummated, unlike the ones that are reported to happen in Tanzania between women.

  • 2
    Isn't this question answering itself? Yes, Taiwan.
    – user1530
    Nov 13, 2016 at 6:55
  • Does the US count? While some states still have adultery laws on the books, I'm not sure if they've been used in the last X years, and I think there was some argument about the constitutionality of them at some point.
    – Geobits
    Nov 13, 2016 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Not really. Taiwan was the best example until the adultery law was found to be unconstitutional in May 2020. Apart from that, the best current examples are Canada, where adultery is illegal in some specific cases and the US, where adultery is illegal in some states. In both countries, actual prosecutions are very rare.

Currently, twenty-eight countries have legalised same-sex marriage nationwide, with the presumption of consummation. I have summarised below when adultery was decriminalised in each case. I haven't included Mexico, as although the unions must be respected nation-wide, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2010, they can't be performed nation-wide. If we do count Mexico, adultery was decriminalised in 2011, so it was only an example for a short period of time.

Netherlands - Legalised same-sex marriage April 1st, 2001. Adultery removed from the criminal code in 1971.

Belgium - Legalised same-sex marriage June 1st, 2003. Adultery decriminalised in 1987.

Spain - Legalised same-sex marriage July 3rd, 2005. Adultery decriminalised May 26th, 1978.

Canada - Legalised same-sex marriage July 20th, 2005. Adultery decriminalised partially by the UK's Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, which applied in parts of Canada, later extended to Ontario in 1930 and formally decriminalised in 1967. However, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46 § 172(1) states:

Every one who, in the home of a child, participates in adultery or sexual immorality or indulges in habitual drunkenness or any other form of vice, and thereby endangers the morals of the child or renders the home an unfit place for the child to be in, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

On the other hand, subsection (4) states:

No proceedings shall be commenced under subsection (1) without the consent of the Attorney General, unless they are instituted by or at the instance of a recognized society for the protection of children or by an officer of a juvenile court.

So adultery is only illegal in certain circumstances, and even then can only be prosecuted in particular cases.

South Africa - Legalised same-sex marriage November 30th, 2006. Adultery decriminalised by Green v Fitzgerald, 1914.

Norway - Legalised same-sex marriage January 1st, 2009. Adultery was decriminalised when the 1902 Criminal Code was repealed in 1927.

Sweden - Legalised same-sex marriage May 1st, 2009. Adultery ceased to be a crime in 1937.

Portugal - Legalised same-sex marriage June 5th, 2010. Adultery decriminalised in 1982.

Iceland - Legalised same-sex marriage June 27th, 2010. Adultery not a crime in 2010, can't find exact decriminalisation date.

Argentina - Legalised same-sex marriage July 22nd, 2010. Adultery decriminalised in 1995.

Denmark - Legalised same-sex marriage June 15th, 2012. Adultery decriminalised in 1930.

Brazil - Legalised same-sex marriage May 16th, 2013. Adultery decriminalised in 2005.

France - Legalised same-sex marriage May 18th, 2013. Adultery decriminalised in 1975.

Uruguay - Legalised same-sex marriage August 5th, 2013. Unable to find a reference for when adultery was decriminalised, however, it is not a crime currently, and was not in 2013.

New Zealand - Legalised same-sex marriage August 19th, 2013. Adultery decriminalised in 1867.

Luxembourg - Legalised same-sex marriage January 1st, 2015. Adultery decriminalised in 1974.

USA - Legalised same-sex marriage nation-wide June 26th, 2015. Adultery is still technically illegal in Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland, although prosecutions are rare. In addition, Massachusetts and Utah only decriminalised adultery in 2018 and 2019 respectively, so they would also have been examples.

Ireland - Legalised same-sex marriage November 16th, 2015. Adultery decriminalised in 1976.

Colombia - Legalised same-sex marriage April 28th, 2016. Can't find a reference for the decriminalisation of adultery, but a law criminalising it was proposed and rejected in 2007, implying that it was legal in 2016.

Finland - Legalised same-sex marriage March 1st, 2017. Adultery decriminalised in 1948.

Malta - Legalised same-sex marriage September 1st, 2017. Adultery decriminalised in 1973.

Germany - Legalised same-sex marriage October 1st, 2017. Adultery decriminalised in then West Germany in 1969.

Australia - Legalised same-sex marriage December 9th, 2017. A federal law passed in 1994 legalised sexual activity between consenting adults and prohibited the making of laws that arbitrarily interfere with the sexual conduct of adults in private, irrespective of marital status.

Austria - Legalised same-sex marriage January 1st, 2019. Adultery decriminalised in 1997.

Taiwan - The country which motivated the question; legalised same-sex marriage May 24th, 2019. The adultery law was held unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court on May 29th, 2020, so Taiwan is no longer an example.

Ecuador - Legalised same-sex marriage July 8th, 2019. Adultery decriminalised in 1998.

United Kingdom - Legalised same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland January 13th, 2020. Same-sex marriage had been legal in England, Wales, & Scotland since 2014. Adultery was decriminalised in 1857.

Costa Rica - Legalised same-sex marriage May 26th, 2020. I can't seem to isolate when adultery was decriminalised, however, it appears in the 1880 criminal code, and is absent in the 1970 criminal code.

  • 1
    Norway: the victim (the husband/wife) of adultery, could legally require a divorce until 1991. Source: snl.no/utroskap Adultery illegal by law in the 1600s and 1700s; death penalty for repeated offences. Source: no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leierm%C3%A5l (English short version) 1902 – 1927: offenders of adultery could receive 3 months imprisonment for the crime. Source: no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utroskap Oct 5, 2020 at 5:00
  • 3
    @Andreas thanks, I looked for a while for a reference for that but I didn't think to check the Norwegian wiki! I've taken the 1927 date as the decriminalisation date - adultery is still grounds for divorce in many of the countries above but isn't a criminal offence.
    – CDJB
    Oct 5, 2020 at 8:35
  • Re Mexico: As of 2015, Mexico's status is rather complicated. In short, if you want a same-sex marriage in any given Mexican state, you can very likely get it, but it may require going to court (at which point you will win, because the Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue). Such marriages, once performed, are recognized throughout the country.
    – Kevin
    Oct 5, 2020 at 16:45
  • Adultery is frequently prosecuted in the U.S. in the U.S. military under the Code of Military Justice. It is also a tort in several states ("alienation of affections"), most notably North Carolina.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 5, 2020 at 19:18

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