Part 1: How the Dutch were the first to
legalize same-sex marriage in 2001.
1996 - First steps:
In 1996-APR, the Dutch House of Representatives passed two
resolutions. One, with a vote of 81 to 60, asked the government to submit a bill before
1997-AUG-1 which would recognize gay and lesbian relationships. It stated in part:
is no objective justification for the ban on marriage of couples of the same sex."
The second resolution passed 83 to 58. It called for legislation that would give equal adoption rights
for both homosexual couples and single people. COC, a national gay rights group
called the news "a moral victory. The editor of De Gay Krant, the country's
largest gay newspaper, commented:
"We do not want a 'gay' [partial] wedding like they have in
Denmark. We want a proper marriage ceremony. If we are equal human beings, we must be
given the same legal civil status as heterosexuals."
1996 - Registration of gay and lesbian partnerships:
A law to register partnerships passed through the Second Chamber of Parliament in
1996-DEC with a vote of 104 to 46. Starting 1998-JAN-1, gay lesbian and straight couples
were able to register their partnership and gain all of the rights, privileges
and obligations of marriage, except for the right to adopt. Also, the divorce procedures
are different for registered partnerships and married couples. The
Dutch Parliament instructed the
government to prepare legislation to allow gays and lesbians to marry, under
This legislation allowed the registration of gay and lesbian partnerships
However, there was concern that third parties (e.g. insurance companies) could
not be forced
to recognize these registrations as equivalent to marriage. The Dutch cabinet
appointed an independent committee of experts to study the situation.
Year 2000: Same-sex marriage legislation is passed:
In 2000-SEP-12, the lower house passed a bill (109 to 33) which
would allow Dutch citizens who are involved in same-sex relationships
"... with all the trappings, including adoption and
divorce -- [they approved] a bill that gives gays rights beyond those
offered anywhere else [in the world]."
Gays and lesbians
who are not citizens, but who have
residency permits in the country, will also be allowed to marry.
Kees van der Staaij of the Reformed Political Party, a
small Christian party, warned that
this law would isolate the Netherlands from the rest of the world. He
"We are going in the completely wrong direction...We are
ending an age-old tradition anchored in the Bible."
One might point out that European countries ended another age-old marriage tradition anchored in the Bible many centuries ago: this was polygamy -- the marriage of one man to multiple women. No obvious disaster happened after that change. Also, although the attainment of marriage equality in the Netherlands at the turn of the century did make the country's marriage laws different from that of any other country in the world, during the next 15 years much of Europe, North America, South America, and some other countries followed the the Netherlands' lead.
Couples who already have their partnerships registered with the
government will be able to convert them to full-fledged marriages. Married
same-sex couples will attain all of the rights and privileges of
opposite-sex married couples except for one: they will not be allowed
to adopt children from overseas because of legal complications with
countries that don't allow homosexuals to marry.
Initially, only a few
Scandinavian and European countries will recognize same-sex marriages
from the Netherlands. Andrew Fielding, spokesperson for the European
Commission said that recognition of gay/lesbian marriages will be
"entirely a matter for each member nation."
On 2000-DEC-19, the Dutch upper house of parliament passed the two
bills that had been previously approved by the lower house during
2000-SEP. Effective 2001-APR, marriage and adoption in the Netherlands
became open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. This is the
first country in recent history to have legalized gay and lesbian
marriages. The bills were strongly opposed by a number of Christian
religious political parties.
Same-sex couples in the Netherlands were able to obtain their marriage licenses on 2001-APR-01, and subsequently marry.
Onno Hoes, a spokesperson for COC, a group
promoting equality for gays and lesbians said:
first country in the world where there is no distinction made [in
marriage] on the basis of gender." The Senate statement said:
"As far as possible, homosexual marriage will have the same
consequence as heterosexual marriage."
Among other things,
this means that spousal support obligations would also apply to
Probably as a result of the movement on same-sex marriage in the
Netherlands, the European Parliament passed a resolution during the middle of 2000-MAR which recommended that same-sex unions be
granted the same legal recognition as heterosexual marriages. It
called on all 15 members of the European Union:
"... to make
rapid progress in the area of mutual recognition of the various
forms of living together legally, but not of a conjugal
character, and of legal marriages between persons of the same
The vote was 265 to 125 with 33 abstentions. Some
The Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family
said that legislators
"... and especially Catholic
parliamentarians, should not vote to support this type of
legislation as it goes against the common good and the truth
of man and, as a result, is in reality iniquitous."
Vatican Council said the resolution was a:
sustained attack on the marriage-based family, a union of
love and life between a man and a woman from which life
naturally results ... Upon this matrimonial link, a
necessary good, all societies are solidly based. To deny
this fundamental and elemental anthropological truth would
lead to the destruction of the social fabric."
Kate MacLean, Labor Member of Parliament and head of the Scottish
Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee, said that
Ronnie Convery, spokesperson for Roman Catholic Cardinal Thomas Winning of
Scotland, stated that the church's position was clear and
that the Vatican is the "supreme authority"
for members of the church.
Apparently referring to
legislators, he said:
"Sometimes you find yourself
having to choose between the church's teaching and a
particular policy of a particular political party."
Cherie Blair, wife of the British prime minister, and a
Roman Catholic, told a meeting of lawyers in London that the
rights experienced by unmarried heterosexual couples should
be extended to same-sex couples. She was quoted as saying:
"The courts for some time have been indicating that
legislators need to revisit this area. I do not think this issue is going
to go away." 3,4
Human Life International (HLI), an American pro-life
groups, also opposed the resolution. In a remarkable, fear-based
statement, HLI's president at the time -- Fr. Richard Welch -- said the
"... will drive the Western European
countries and their people to self-destruction. ... Fringe
liberal movements...have been extraordinarily diligent and
patient in their attempts to destroy faith and the family.
They begin by promoting sexual freedom through a
contraceptive mentality and a false promise of greater
personal fulfillment and happiness. From there inevitably
comes acceptance of abortion and the treatment of unborn
life as subservient to pleasure and convenience. The next
step -- the one the EU resolution is promulgating now -- is the
end of marriage and the legitimizing of perverse sexual
unions of every type. Finally, as all of this is contrary to
God and His commandments, faith dies."
He called on
political leaders word-wide to "turn back this tide
This topic continues in the next essay with the impact that same-
marriage had during its first dozen years in the Netherlands.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.