Dutch treats – gay marriage in Netherlands – Brief Article
The Netherlands becomes the first country to allow gay marriage, and the men in charge talk to The Advocate
If gay rights activists in the United States had one slogan that captured the message of all of their missions, it might simply be “Do as the Dutch do.” And at no time would that slogan be more appropriate than now. The Netherlands on April 1 became the first country in the world to grant gay men and lesbians the same marriage, adoption, and immigration benefits granted to straight people. (Under a 1998 law, gay couples could already register as domestic partners.) Just before the new law took effect, The Advocate talked with the two men, both heterosexual, who will most likely have a big hand in what is sure to be a new wave in gay nuptials: Erik de Jong, who heads the Amsterdam registry office, and Jan Joosten, a registrar in the office. In the Netherlands, registrars are the officials who preside over marriages.
Did you expect so much support for gay marriage in the Netherlands?
De Jong: Yes, it was expected. Even many churches–including Catholic churches–have said that they will officiate those kinds of marriages as well, even if the pope is against it. They don’t care. They’ll still do it.
What is the difference between domestic partnership and marriage?
Joosten: The difference is only a technical one. Marriage affects the parenthood of children–if the parents are of the same sex, the other parent can immediately adopt the child. Under domestic partnership, a second parent can adopt the child only after one year. Also, partnerships can be dissolved without going to court. Your social status [for domestic partners] is the same as a married couple, the same duties and rights.
If someone wants to get married, what is the process?
De Jong: Before the marriage, you have to come here to tell your intention to marry, bringing your birth certificate, your passport, and a paper which says you’ve never been married before. After 14 days you can marry. Everybody has to get married here or at one of the other bureaus. The only one in Holland who is allowed to marry people is the registrar.
Can two Americans get married in Holland?
Joosten: No. One of the couple has to live in Holland and be a Dutch national. It’s the same as for straight people.
Should other countries recognize these marriages?
De Jong: Well, I think in just a few years all of Western Europe will have this kind of marriage. It just happens that we are first. A lot of countries will wait and see how it goes here.
What does it say about Holland that you are the first?
De Jong: We are a very little country, but we are multicultural. We are very liberal. The gay movement has been accepted for years here.
Why did this happen now?
Joosten: A few years ago some gays tried to get married but were refused. But the supreme court decided that, actually, it should be allowed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone should have the right to get married and start a family. First, Parliament passed a domestic-partnership law that went into effect in 1998 as an experiment. Then, after the survey [which showed about a 75% approval rating for gay marriage in the Netherlands], they passed the marriage law.
What do you think about the new law personally?
De Jong: I’m very positive about it. I think everybody should have the same rights. I’m looking forward to marrying the couples.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Joosten: We should say that if people come here, we welcome all the trimmings–men in white dresses, women in black tie, kissing, exchanging rings, bridegrooms. If they want the whole thing, they should have the whole thing. This is their day. We are here to serve them.
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