Same-sex marriage in Belgium
|Legal recognition of
On 1 June 2003, Belgium became the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands. "Statutory cohabitation", open to any two cohabiting persons, is also possible since 1 January 2000.
In the late 1990s, gay rights organisations in Belgium lobbied for the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
In 1995, a bill was introduced in Parliament to provide for a legal framework of "cohabitation agreements". It was mostly intended as a response to the lowering marriage rates, rather than giving rights to same-sex couples. In 1998, the bill was changed to "statutory cohabitation" (Dutch: wettelijke samenwoning; French: cohabitation légale) and finally voted on. The Chamber of Representatives approved it by a 98–10 vote with 32 abstentions and the Senate by a 39–8 vote with 19 abstentions. The Act of 23 November 1998 gives limited rights to registered same-sex and opposite-sex couples by inserting a Title V-bis on statutory cohabitation in the Belgian Civil Code and by amending certain provisions of the Belgian Civil Code and the Belgian Judicial Code. However, being a couple is not a requirement to make a declaration of statutory cohabitation; relatives can do so too. The law was legally published on 12 January 1999 but not yet in effect.
The election programmes of the SP (Flemish social democrats), Agalev (Flemish Greens) and VLD (Flemish liberals) for the 13 June 1999 elections included the aim to legalise same-sex marriage. The new Verhofstadt I Government was formed, which was notably made up of a coalition of liberal, socialist and green parties and excluded the long-dominant Christian democrats, who lost the elections due to the Dioxin Affair. The coalition agreement included "implementing a full legal partnership scheme" as well as "immediately making the Act of 23 November 1998 enter into force", which had not been done yet. A royal order signed on 14 December and published on 23 December 1999 made the Act of statutory cohabitation go into effect on 1 January 2000.
During 1999, the PS (French-speaking social democrats) and Ecolo (French-speaking Greens) also announced they agree to legalise same-sex marriage. At that point, the only remaining party in government that opposed same-sex marriage was the French-speaking liberal PRL (later merged into MR), mainly because it was opposed to adoption rights for same-sex couples. PRL agreed not to block same-sex marriage if adoption rights are excluded. As the first same-sex marriage in the Netherlands was performed on 1 April 2001, the Belgian government, mostly under the lead of Minister Magda Aelvoet (Agalev), began considering it as well. In June, the cabinet of ministers formally approved opening marriage to same-sex couples. In September, then-opposition party CD&V (Flemish Christian democrats) agreed to support the bill. On 30 November 2001 however, the Council of State gave a negative legal opinion on the bill, saying that "marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman". LGBT organisations and government ministers criticised the opinion and said they would proceed with the legislation.
The government bill was withdrawn, and in May 2002, the bill was introduced as a private member's bill (which does not require opinions by the Council of State) in the Senate by Jeannine Leduc (VLD), Philippe Mahoux (PS), Philippe Monfils (MR), Myriam Vanlerberghe (SP.A-Spirit), Marie Nagy (Ecolo) and Frans Lozie (Agalev). As Minister Aelvoet resigned on 28 August 2002 and elections were to be held in June 2003, the fate of the bill was unclear. Nevertheless, the bill passed in the Senate on 28 November 2002, with 46 votes to 15 (and 4 abstentions) and on 30 January 2003, the bill passed the Chamber of Representatives by 91 votes to 22 (and 9 abstentions). The Flemish Liberals and Democrats, Christian People's Party, (Francophone) Socialist Party, (Flemish) Socialist Party, Ecolo, Agalev and the People's Union voted generally in favour except for several abstentions, whereas the Flemish Block and National Front voted against, the Christian Social Party voted against with several abstentions and the Reformist Movement voted dividedly.
The first paragraph of article 143 of the Belgian Civil Code (Book I, Title V, Chapter I) now reads as follows:
- in Dutch: Een huwelijk kan worden aangegaan door twee personen van verschillend of van hetzelfde geslacht.
- in French: Deux personnes de sexe différent ou de même sexe peuvent contracter mariage.
- (Two persons of different sex or of the same sex may contract marriage.)
In October 2004, the Arbitration Court, now known as the Constitutional Court, rejected an attempt by opponents of same-sex marriage to have the law declared unconstitutional. The main argument held that treating fundamentally different situations the same way, violates the equality principle of the Constitution.
Originally, Belgium allowed the marriages of foreign same-sex couples only if their country of origin also allowed these unions. Legislation enacted in October 2004 however, permits any couple to marry in Belgium if at least one of the spouses has lived in the country for a minimum of three months.
The same-sex marriage law did not permit adoption by same-sex partners, and as birth within a same-sex marriage did not imply affiliation, the same-sex spouse of the biological parent had no way to become the legal parent. On 1 December 2005, a proposal to permit adoption was approved by the Chamber of Representatives of the parliament. It was passed in April 2006, thereby enabling legal co-parenting by same-sex couples. Also, lesbian couples can get access to IVF and artificial insemination treatment.
A legal inequality compared to heterosexual couples still exists with regards to children: the husband of the biological mother is automatically legally recognised as the father (by article 135 of the Civil Code), but this is not the case in a same-sex couple for the wife of the mother. To be recognised as the co-mother, she has to complete an adoption procedure. As of 2014, LGBT organisations pressured the government to fix this and legislators are trying to agree on a solution.
According to the Belgian Official Journal, approximately 300 same-sex couples were married between June 2003 and April 2004 (245 in 2003 and 55 in 2004). This constituted 1.2 percent of the total number of marriages in Belgium during that period. Two thirds of the couples were male and one third female. On 22 July 2005, the Belgian government announced that a total of 2,442 same-sex marriages had taken place in the country since the extension of marriage rights two years earlier. The following table summarizes the number people married in same-sex marriages
A May 2013 Ipsos poll found that 67% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage and another 12% supported other form of recognition for same-sex couples.
- De brug naar de eenentwintigste eeuw - regeerakkoord / La voie vers le XXIème siècle - accord de gouvernement - 7 July 1999
- Major legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnership for different-sex and same-sex partners in Belgium
- "Aelvoet: 'huwelijk open voor holebi's'". De Standaard. 1 April 2001.
- "Roos huwelijk nog niet bezegeld". De Standaard. 2 April 2001.
- "Ministerraad maakt homohuwelijk mogelijk". Het Belang van Limburg. 22 June 2001.
- "Raad van State geeft negatief advies over homohuwelijk". De Standaard. 30 November 2001.
- "'Advies diametraal tegenover veranderde tijdsgeest'". De Standaard. 30 November 2001.
- Legislative record of the same-sex marriage bill in Dutch and in French, by the Belgian Senate.
- "Belgium legalizes gay marriage". UPI. 31 January 2003.
- "Belgium approves same-sex marriage". PlanetOut. 30 January 2003.
- "Arbitragehof verwerpt verzoek tot vernietiging homohuwelijk". De Standaard. 20 October 2004.
- "Belgium backs gay adoption plans". BBC News. 2 December 2005.
- "Belgium moves to allow gay adoption". Euronews. 2 December 2005.
- "Belgium passes gay adoption law". BBC News. 21 April 2006.
- "Dra een oplossing voor lesbische meemoeders?". deredactie.be. 4 January 2014.
- "Belgium Reaches 2,500 Gay Marriages". 365Gay. 2005-05-22. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Aantal personen betrokken bij een huwelijk met iemand van hetzelfde geslacht, per provincie (2004—2010) Template:Ref-nl
- "Eurobarometer 2006" (PDF). 2006.
- (Dutch) "De Nationale Familie-enquête 'En hoe leeft u?'" (PDF). Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- (Dutch) "Familie-enquête 2008". Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- "Same-Sex Marriage". Ipsos. 7–21 May 2013.
- (French) Enquête sur la droitisation des opinions publiques européennes