Same-sex marriage in Belgium

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Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships
Marriage
Recognized
Previously performed but not invalidated
  1. Can be registered also in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage

*Not yet in effect

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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.

History[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Unrecognized
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

Includes laws that have not yet gone into effect.

In the late 1990s, gay rights organisations in Belgium lobbied for the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Belgian civil law did not explicitly require that two people be of opposite gender to be able to marry, as this was considered self-evident. Private member's bills in the 1990s by Vlaams Blok senators to add this as an explicit requirement were never considered.[1][2]

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.

Verhofstadt Government[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5][6] In June, the cabinet of ministers formally approved opening marriage to same-sex couples.[7] 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".[8] LGBT organisations and government ministers criticised the opinion and said they would proceed with the legislation.[9]

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).[10][11][12] 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.

King Albert II signed and promulgated the bill on 13 February 2003 and on 28 February it was published in the Belgian Official Journal and came into force on 1 June.

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.[13] The main argument held that treating fundamentally different situations the same way, violates the equality principle of the Constitution.

Subsequent changes[edit]

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. A proposal to permit adoption was approved 77–62 (with 7 abstentions) by the Chamber of Representatives on 1 December 2005,[14][15] and 34–33 (with 2 abstentions) by the Senate on 20 April 2006.[16] It received royal assent on 18 May 2006 and went into force on 30 June 2006.[17]

A legal inequality compared to heterosexual couples still existed 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 was not the case in a same-sex couple for the wife of the mother. To be recognised as the co-mother, she had to complete an adoption procedure. This accounted for the large majority of adoption cases in Belgium. The Di Rupo Government promised to fix this, and in 2014, as the Netherlands recently passed similar legislation, LGBT organisations pressured the government about their promise. Subsequently legislators worked to agree on a solution.[18] A bill to this end was approved by the Senate on 3 April 2014 on a 48–2 vote (with one abstention), and by the Chamber of Representatives on 23 April on a 114–10 vote (with one abstention). The bill received royal assent on 5 May.

Since this change, female same-sex couples are treated equally to heterosexual couples: the co-mother married to the mother is automatically recognised as parent, and an unmarried partner can formally recognise the child at the civil registry. An equivalent solution for male same-sex couples has not been agreed upon, due to the controversy surrounding surrogacy.

Statistics[edit]

Mayor of Liège, Willy Demeyer, officiating the wedding of a gay couple

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.[19] The following table summarizes the number people married in same-sex marriages[20]

Year Men Women Total
2004 1244 894 2138
2005 1160 894 2054
2006 1191 1057 2248
2007 1189 1111 2300
2008 1148 1035 2183
2009 1133 894 2027
2010 1062 1102 2164

Public opinion[edit]

The 2006 Eurobarometer found that 62% of Belgian respondents think same-sex marriages should be allowed in Europe.[21]

A 2008 survey by Delta Lloyd Life found that 76% of Belgians accept same-sex marriage and 46% of Belgians think same-sex couples can raise children just as well as opposite-sex couples can.[22][23]

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.[24]

According to the Ifop poll, conducted in May 2013, 71% of Belgians supported allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.[25]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wetsvoorstel tot aanvulling van het Burgerlijk Wetboek door de opneming van het geslachtsverschil als huwelijksnorm
  2. ^ Wetsvoorstel tot aanvulling van het Burgerlijk Wetboek door de opneming van het geslachtsverschil als huwelijksnorm
  3. ^ De brug naar de eenentwintigste eeuw - regeerakkoord / La voie vers le XXIème siècle - accord de gouvernement - 7 July 1999
  4. ^ Major legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnership for different-sex and same-sex partners in Belgium
  5. ^ "Aelvoet: 'huwelijk open voor holebi's'". De Standaard. 1 April 2001. 
  6. ^ "Roos huwelijk nog niet bezegeld". De Standaard. 2 April 2001. 
  7. ^ "Ministerraad maakt homohuwelijk mogelijk". Het Belang van Limburg. 22 June 2001. 
  8. ^ "Raad van State geeft negatief advies over homohuwelijk". De Standaard. 30 November 2001. 
  9. ^ "'Advies diametraal tegenover veranderde tijdsgeest'". De Standaard. 30 November 2001. 
  10. ^ Legislative record of the same-sex marriage bill in Dutch and in French, by the Belgian Senate.
  11. ^ "Belgium legalizes gay marriage". UPI. 31 January 2003. 
  12. ^ "Belgium approves same-sex marriage". PlanetOut. 30 January 2003. 
  13. ^ "Arbitragehof verwerpt verzoek tot vernietiging homohuwelijk". De Standaard. 20 October 2004. 
  14. ^ "Belgium backs gay adoption plans". BBC News. 2 December 2005. 
  15. ^ "Belgium moves to allow gay adoption". Euronews. 2 December 2005. 
  16. ^ "Belgium passes gay adoption law". BBC News. 21 April 2006. 
  17. ^ Wetsontwerp tot wijziging van een aantal bepalingen van het Burgerlijk Wetboek, teneinde de adoptie door personen van hetzelfde geslacht mogelijk te maken, Senate
  18. ^ "Dra een oplossing voor lesbische meemoeders?". deredactie.be. 4 January 2014. 
  19. ^ "Belgium Reaches 2,500 Gay Marriages". 365Gay. 2005-05-22. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  20. ^ Aantal personen betrokken bij een huwelijk met iemand van hetzelfde geslacht, per provincie (2004—2010) Template:Ref-nl
  21. ^ "Eurobarometer 2006" (PDF). 2006. 
  22. ^ (Dutch) "De Nationale Familie-enquête 'En hoe leeft u?'" (PDF). Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  23. ^ (Dutch) "Familie-enquête 2008". Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  24. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage". Ipsos. 7–21 May 2013. 
  25. ^ (French) Enquête sur la droitisation des opinions publiques européennes