Sixteen countries, most of which are in Europe, currently allow same-sex couples to marry. The list of countries includes the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark, Argentina, Brazil, France, Brazil, South Africa and Iceland.  New Zealand, Uruguay, Canada, and Britain, have all passed legislation that allows same sex marriage, but has not yet taken effect. Mexico has court-mandated legal protections for same-sex couples similar to those now mandated in the United States. Bills allowing legal recognition of same-sex marriage have been proposed, are pending, or have passed at least one legislative house in Andorra, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Nepal, Scotland, and Taiwan, as well as in parts of Australia.

At the end of June, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision, struck down a provision of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denied federal benefits — like Social Security or the ability to file joint tax returns — to legally married same-sex couples.

Following that decision, President Obama asked all agencies to review policies in regard to same sex couples. As a result, the State Department decided to make a change to the visa application process that now will allow same sex couples to obtain immigration benefits. Immigrants will derive benefits under these new visa policies even if they hail from countries that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Similarly, they will enjoy these benefits even if they reside in states in the U.S. that do not currently have same sex marriages.

Not long after the US Supreme Court decision, Pope Francis surprised the Catholic faithful late last month by saying: “If a person is gay, seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” The comments followed one of the largest papal Masses in recent history in Brazil and prompted worldwide speculation about whether the pope, known as a staunch opponent of gay rights, was signaling a slightly softer tone or a more dramatic shift on a longstanding hot-button issue for the church.

Be it as it might the tide might be finally changing. When the most influential country and the representative of the most influential religious institution in the world appear to move in the same direction many others might just follow.