It's complicated

Tunisia recognizes its first same-sex marriage…kinda

Mounir Baatour. Via YouTube

LGBTQ activists in Tunisia report that courts in the Arab nation have recognized a same-sex marriage.

The news comes as something of a surprise, as homosexuality remains criminalized in the country. Residents convicted of gay offenses face prison sentences.

Now the queer rights group Shams reports that federal courts have recognized a marriage between two men, one a Tunisian citizen and the other French. The pair married in France. Upon returning to Tunisia, courts added the name of the citizen’s spouse to his birth certificate, a small but important step in bringing marriage equality to the Arab world. 

Related: Tragic Murder Of A Gay Man In Tunisia Highlights Plight Of Its LGBT Community

“While homosexuality is still punished with prison in Tunisia, and several gay people are currently in Tunisian prisons, a gay marriage has just been included in the birth certificate of a Tunisian,” Shams leader Mounir Baatour said in a Facebook post. “It shows that Tunisia will not be able to resist the natural course of history in the world. It will also have consequences in terms of law.”

Shams itself recently won a battle to receive legal recognition as an activist group despite efforts of the Muslim-majority government to criminalize and shut down the organization. That distinction makes it one of a few–possibly the only–queer rights group to receive legal status in the Arab world.