Same sex couples that are considering a move abroad have a few unique circumstances to assess, as compared to heterosexual couples who take the expatriate path.
Regardless of whether the move overseas is for retirement, a job or just good old, garden-variety wanderlust, everyone (regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation) who decides to make the move has to look at, and deal with, some basic practicalities, logistics, legalities and lifestyle considerations before choosing a new home country, and packing up that household for the move abroad.
For same sex couples, those considerations go quite a bit deeper than the norm, because not every country in the world supports equal rights for everyone. In fact, despite the fact that it is the 21st century, the mere act of being part of a same sex couple is illegal in some countries, and doing so could mean jail time or even a death sentence. In other countries, while legalities are not necessarily a problem for same sex couples, cultural adversity is.
The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council did pass a resolution in 2011 that recognizes LGBT rights. A Report was issued, as well, which documented human and civil rights violations against the LGBT population in various countries, including hate crimes, criminalization of homosexuality, and discrimination. The UN also urged countries that have not yet enacted laws to protect basic human rights for all citizens, including LGBT people, to do so immediately.
So where to?
Though the information goes beyond the scope of this article, this Wikipedia article offers a comprehensive table with a fairly complete list of countries and territories around the world, and their stance on homosexuality, domestic partnership, marriage, military service, adoption, anti-discrimination laws and laws concerning gender expression or identity, as well as the history of homosexuality in many countries and cultures.
Regardless of your situation, it is always best to thoroughly investigate the legalities and safety considerations of any country you are thinking about moving to.
Beyond the issue of safety, what about legalities for practical purposes?
If you and your partner are married, or have entered into a civil union, or legal domestic partnership (depending on the State or Country from which you are moving), you should carefully check into the marriage and domestic partnership laws of any country you’ve got a mind to call home. The legal boundaries of your relationship in your current State, or country, may not apply elsewhere. If you and your partner have children, you should be especially diligent about checking into the legalities surrounding your family in your new country of choice.
What about Lifestyle?
Again, the country you are thinking of moving to may not afford you the same lifestyle freedoms, and choices, that you and you partner, or your family, currently enjoy.
Culturally speaking, it is sometimes a bit of a challenge to find societal acceptance for your family in other countries. These challenges might come up at your children’s school, at church, or in the supermarket for that matter. When researching for this article, one couple shared that they were admonished in a restaurant of a Latin American country for holding hands across the table.
While progress is being made all over the world, with marriage rights finally being given to LBGT couples, as well as straight couples, things are definitely looking up; nonetheless, socially speaking, there are some countries where same sex couples are openly accepted and supported, others where the attitude is one of, “ you do your thing and we’ll do ours, but, you know, we just won’t talk about it, so please keep your relationship behind closed doors” and, still others, where couples might even be in danger of being physically hurt or discriminated against when it comes to walking down the street hand in hand, housing, schools, jobs, and more.
As for any person, couple, or family considering a move abroad, it is advisable that you handle your due diligence by doing thorough research before calling in the movers and shipping your stuff overseas. Nonetheless, it is a wide, beautiful and welcoming world out there; you will find, as so many expatriates have, that there are plenty of countries that will welcome you with open arms.
Einat Mazafi is the owner of NY International Shipping, an International Shipping and moving company based in New York. She is also a specialist in providing the best relocation solutions to clients worldwide.