April 1st

On this day in 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage.

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The move towards greater freedoms and equality for those within the LGBT+ community was initiated at a government level from 1995 when Parliament created a commission into the consideration of same-sex marriage legalisation. The conclusions of the commission, published in 1997 recommended the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples and following the 1998 elections, the government committed to proposing the relevant legislation with the final draft debated in 2000 and passed in the House of Representatives by 109 votes to 33 votes in September of that year.

This landmark legislation, whilst considerable, has not been without its controversies; legality of parentage has been highlighted as a complex area, with Dutch law initially only allowing for biological parents to legally be considered the parent of a child with the other partner only able to achieve this legal recognition through adoption. In December 2013, this was amended by Parliament, allowing automatic parenthood for lesbian couples.

Within the first six months of the legislation’s passage, same-sex marriages accounted for 3.6% of marriages. From 2001-2015, around 21 330 same sex weddings have been performed in the Netherlands.

The first weddings of same-sex couples in the Netherlands is captured below:

The passage of same-sex legislation has triggered a wave of similar laws on a global scale, with notable cases including the supreme court ruling of Obergefell v Hodges 2015 (5-4) leading to legalisation of same sex marriage in America as well as a wave of European legislation such as Ireland’s decision via popular vote endorsing the proposal.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Justice Kennedy on the same-sex marriage ruling in the USA

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