Dutch Give Gays Unprecedented Marriage Rights

ByABC News
September 12, 2000, 2:21 PM

T H E  H A G U E, Netherlands, Sept. 12 -- The Netherlands, long among the gay rights vanguard, enacted a bill converting the countrysregistered same-sex partnerships into full-fledged marriages,complete with divorce guidelines and wider adoption rights forgays.

Proponents say the legislation will give Dutch gays rightsbeyond those offered in any other country.

Lawmakers thumped their desks in approval when the vote passed109-33, and some of the scores of witnesses in the packed publicgallery applauded and embraced.

Parliament had discussed the bill last week, when only a fewsmall Christian parties voiced opposition during an emotional andoften heated three-day debate. It gained speedy approval today.

Im very happy. What happened today represents changes in oursociety, said Mark Wagenbuur, 34. He said he and his partner, whocame with him to watch the vote, will now formally wed, but theirimmediate problem is we dont know who should ask whom.

Full Equality

In Norway and Sweden, gay couples can already register theirpartnerships and Denmark has gone a step further it was the firstcountry to allow gay marriages in 1989. Two years ago, theNetherlands enacted a law allowing same-sex couples to register aspartners and to claim pensions, social security and inheritance.

But the new Dutch legislation goes farther, creating fullequality for gays, activists said.

Same-sex couples will be able to marry at city hall and adoptDutch children. They will be able to divorce through the courtsystem, like heterosexual couples.

Boris Dittrich, a member of the centrist Democrats 66 party anda proponent of the plan, said the law acknowledges that apersons sex is not of importance for marriage. He spoke duringwhat he called the most moving debate of his parliamentarycareer.

We will be able to call it what it is and thats marriage,said Henk Krol, an activist and editor-in-chief of the Gay Krantmagazine. He said the vote will be an absolute first in theworld.