April 1, 2001– Huwelijk tussen personen van gelijk geslacht! On this day, The Netherlands became the first country on our pretty spinning blue orb to have Marriage Equality.
Back in the mid-1980s, a group of Gay Rights activists asked the Netherlands government to allow same-sex couples to marry. Dutch Parliament decided in 1995 to create a special commission, which to investigate even the possibility of same-sex marriages. During this era, the Christian Democrats were not part of the ruling coalition for the first time since the introduction of full democracy in 1815. Two years later, the special commission finished its work and in 1997 concluded that civil marriage should be extended to include same-sex couples. After the election of 1998, the government promised to deal the issue. But, it took until September 2000 for the final legislation draft to debated in the Parliament.
The Marriage Equality bill passed their House of Representatives by 109 votes to 33. Their Senate approved the bill in December 2000 by 49 to 26. Only the Christian parties, of course, voted against the bill. Although the Christian parties formed the next government, they decided not repeal the law.
The new marriage law read simply:
“Een huwelijk kan worden aangegaan door twee personen van verschillend of van gelijk geslacht. (A marriage can be entered into by two persons of opposing or the same sex).”
Dutch law requires both partners must have Dutch nationality or have residency in the Netherlands. That’s unfortunate; can you imagine of Amsterdam could be a center for same-sex wedding. I would go there just to renew my vows.
They even had their own Kim Davis style problems. Conservative Christians protested and some registrars refused to issues licenses to LGBT couples. In 2007, the new Government announced a policy statement that allowed officials who object to same-sex marriage on principle to refuse to marry same-sex couples. Socialists and Liberals dominated municipal governments and they opposed this policy, claiming that it was the job of a registrar to marry all couples, not just straight couples. They stated that if a registrar opposed same-sex marriage, they should not be allowed hold their post. The city of Amsterdam announced that they would not comply with this new policy, and that all registrars would be obliged to marry same-sex couples.
The law went into effect on this very day in 2001, and on that day four same-sex couples were married by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, who became a registrar specifically to officiate at the weddings. Dolf Pasker, married his partner of six-years, Gert Kasteel. One couple had been living together 36 years. Pink cake and pink Champagne were served to 150 guests.
Children did not wander the picturesque cobble stones streets crying in confusion. Straight couples did not find their own marriages crumbling. The canals did not dry up. Anne Frank’s house did not erupt in flames. Hashish could still be enjoyed in the coffeehouses and the Red Light District still provided some sort of release for straight men from the USA. There were no fingers placed in any dykes. Paintings by Rembrandt and Van Gough did not crash to museum floors.
Now, 85% of the Dutch population supported same-sex couples being allowed to marry and adopt children. 22,000 same-sex couples are legally wed in the Netherlands, 52% are female couples.
The Netherlands is a great country to be LGBT. Sex between consenting adults of the same sex was legalized in 1811. The Equal Rights Law was enacted in 1993, banning discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and full rights. Transgendered people can legally change gender.
Amsterdam is one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the world. It is noted for its gay owned/gay friendly bars, bathhouses, hotels, and venues. The national Homomonument, was completed in 1987 and was the first monument in the world to commemorate homosexuals who were persecuted and killed during WW II.
Today, 22 countries proudly allow people of the same sex to be married. I married my guy on our 25th anniversary as a couple, October 9, 2004, in Vancouver BC.