Twenty years ago, the world’s first legal same-sex marriages began


netherlands same-sex marriage gay couples
A gay couple weds in the Netherlands in 2001. Photo: Jeffpw/Wikimedia Commons

Twenty years ago this week, the world’s first same-sex marriage legislation officially came into effect in the Netherlands.

The country’s House of Representatives passed the same-sex marriage bill 109 votes to 33 on September 12, 2000. The Senate followed suit a few months later.

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The landmark marriage laws granted same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexuals. The legislation enjoyed as much as 75% public support at the time, according to polling.

Then on April 1, 2001, when the law began, the first same-sex marriages occurred shortly after midnight.

Four couples – lesbians Anne-Marie Thus and Helene Faasen, and three gay male couples – tied the knot at Amsterdam City Hall that night. One of the couples had lived together for 36 years.

Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen registered as a celebrant and officiated the couple’s weddings. Dutch TV also broadcast the ceremonies live.

“There are two reasons to rejoice. You’re celebrating your marriage and you’re also celebrating your right to be married,” Cohen told the newlyweds.

Anne-Marie Thus told media at the wedding, “We are so ordinary, if you saw us on the street you’d just walk right past us.

“The only thing that’s going to take some getting used to is calling her ‘my spouse’.”

Twenty-thousand married same-sex couples in the Netherlands today

Twenty years on, the Netherlands’ statistics agency says at the start of 2021, the Netherlands has 20,000 same-sex marriages.

Over 19,000 men and nearly 21,000 women in the country are currently married to someone of the same sex.

Over the past five years, an average of 751 lesbian couples and 619 gay male couples have married each year.

More women than men have married their same-sex partners since 2001.

More than one thousand gay men and one thousand lesbian women who married in 2001 are still together. This year they’re celebrating their 20th wedding anniversaries.

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Before the Netherlands, legalised same-sex marriage, other countries had earlier made progress giving legal recognition to same-sex couples.

Denmark was first to introduce civil partnerships for same-sex couples, in 1989, but the unions were legally separate from marriage and were not fully equal.

Countries including Norway, Sweden and Iceland later followed suit.

Before it legalised same-sex marriage, the Netherlands also allowed same-sex couples registered partnerships under Dutch law in 1998.

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