Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands

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Two men marrying in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in the first month after the possibility to marry was opened to same-sex couples (2001).
Legal status of same-sex unions
  1. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  2. When performed in the Netherlands proper

* Not yet in effect

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In the Netherlands, same-sex marriage (Dutch: Huwelijk tussen personen van gelijk geslacht[1] or commonly homohuwelijk)[2] has been legal since 1 April 2001.[3][4] The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.


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

Includes laws that have not yet gone into effect.

Legislative action[edit]

As early as the mid-1980s, a group of gay rights activists, headed by Henk Krol – then editor-in-chief of the Gay Krant – asked the government to allow same sex couples to marry. Parliament decided in 1995 to create a special commission, which was to investigate the possibility of same-sex marriages. At that moment, the Christian Democrats (Christian Democratic Appeal) were not part of the ruling coalition for the first time since the introduction of full democracy. The special commission finished its work in 1997 and concluded that civil marriage should be extended to include same-sex couples. After the election of 1998, the government promised to tackle the issue. In September 2000 the final legislation draft was debated in the Dutch Parliament.

The marriage bill passed the House of Representatives by 109 votes to 33.[5][6][7] The Senate approved the bill on 19 December 2000 by 49 to 26 votes.[8][9] Only the Christian parties, which held 26 of the 75 seats at the time, voted against the bill. Although the Christian Democratic Appeal would form the next government, they did not indicate any intention to repeal the law.

The main article in the Act changed article 1:30 in the marriage law to read as follows:

Een huwelijk kan worden aangegaan door twee personen van verschillend of van gelijk geslacht.
(A marriage can be entered into by two persons of opposing or the same sex)

The law came into effect on 1 April 2001, and on that day four same-sex couples were married by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen,[10][11] who became a registrar specifically to officiate at the weddings. A few months earlier, Mayor Cohen had been junior Minister of Justice of the Netherlands and was responsible for putting the new marriage and adoption laws through parliament.

Requirements and rights[edit]

Dutch law requires either partner must have Dutch nationality or to reside in the Netherlands. The marriageable age in the Netherlands is 18, or below 18 with parental consent. The law is only valid in the European territory of the Netherlands and on the Caribbean Islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but does not apply to the other constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The single legal difference between same-sex marriages and heterosexual marriages is that, in the former case, parentage by both partners is not automatic. The legal mother of a child is its biological mother (article 1:198 of the civil law) and the father is (in principle) the man she is married to when the child is born. Moreover, the father must be a man (article 1:199). The other partner may thus become a legal mother only through adoption. Only in the case when a biological father does not become a parent (e.g. in case of artificial insemination by lesbian couples), both female spouses obtain parental authority automatically (article 1:253sa).

Religious denominations[edit]

The Dutch Remonstrants were the world's first Christian denomination to perform same-sex unions and marriages in 1986.[12] Also the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the largest Protestant denomination in the Netherlands, allows their congregations to perform same-sex marriages since 2004.[13]

Homosexuality legislation in Lesser Antilles
  Same-sex marriage performed
  Same-sex marriage recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Unrecognized or unknown
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal but no longer enforced
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal
  Yellow crowns: Commonwealth realms

Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten[edit]

In Aruba,[14] Curaçao[15] and Sint Maarten,[15] separate civil codes exist in which rules for marriage are laid down and it is not possible to perform a same-sex marriage in these constituent countries.

All territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands recognise same-sex marriages performed in the Netherlands proper as a result of a Dutch Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that that all vital records recorded in the Kingdom of the Netherlands were valid throughout the kingdom; this was based on its interpretation of the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, subsequent rulings have established that same-sex marriages are not automatically entitled to the same privileges (e.g., social security) extended to married couples of the opposite sex.[16][17][18]

Caribbean Netherlands[edit]

Also on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, marriage is open to same sex and opposite sex couples[19] following the entering in force of a law enabling also same-sex couples to marry on 10 October 2012.[20] The change to the civil code of the Caribbean Netherlands (Dutch: Burgerlijk wetboek BES) was proposed by Dutch House of Representatives[21] rather than the government itself (which preferred to negotiate the change with the islands first).[22] The issue is very controversial on the islands, both because many oppose the principle of the law and because of the perceived "neocolonialism" of the Netherlands imposing such a law on its overseas municipalities.[citation needed]

The first same-sex marriage was performed on Saba on 4 December 2012 between a Dutch and a Venezuelan man, both residing in Aruba.[23][24][25][26]

Same-sex marriages and registered partnership performed elsewhere, have a legal status on the islands since 2011. To ensure same-sex couples enjoy similar rights, the provisions of the Dutch civil code (rather than the civil code for the Caribbean Netherlands) applied for marriages performed outside the islands from 1 January 2011.[27]


After the Dutch parliament legalized same-sex marriage, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands permitted individual congregations to decide whether or not to bless such relationships as a union of love and faith before God, and in practice many churches now conduct such ceremonies.[28]

Local governments are obliged to perform civil same-sex marriages, and they can require their personnel to conduct marriages for same-sex couples; however, if their existing contract did not state this requirement, they cannot be fired over a refusal. Some local councils choose not to require registrars who object to same-sex marriage to perform ceremonies.

In 2007, controversy arose when the new government (Fourth Balkenende cabinet) announced in its policy statement that officials who object to same-sex marriage on principle may refuse to marry such couples.[29] Some Socialist and Liberal dominated municipal councils opposed this policy, claiming that the job of a registrar is to marry all couples, not only opposite-sex couples.[30] The opposition parties stated that if a registrar opposed same-sex marriages, he or she should not hold that post.[31] The municipality of Amsterdam announced that they would not comply with this policy, and that registrars there would still be obliged to marry same-sex couples.[32] In reaction to this, many other municipalities announced their rejection of this proposal as well. The Balkenende government claimed that this issue lay solely within the remit of the central government. In practice, municipalities decide whether or not to hire registrars who object to marrying same-sex couples.


According to provisional figures from Statistics Netherlands, for the first six months, same-sex marriages made up 3.6% of the total number of marriages: a peak of around 6% in the first month followed by around 3% in the remaining months: about 2,100 men and 1,700 women in total. By June 2004, more than 6,000 same-sex marriages had been performed in the Netherlands.[33]

In March 2006, Statistics Netherlands released estimates on the number of same-sex marriages performed in each year: 2,500 in 2001, 1,800 in 2002, 1,200 in 2004, and 1,100 in 2005.[34]

From 2001 to 2011 there were 14,813 same-sex marriages, 7,522 between two women and 7,291 between two men. In the same period there were 761,010 heterosexual marriages. There were also 1,078 same-sex divorces.[35]

Registered partnership[edit]

On 1 January 1998, registered partnerships (Dutch: geregistreerd partnerschap) were introduced in Dutch law. The partnerships were meant for same-sex couples as an alternative to marriage, though they can also be entered into by opposite-sex couples, and in fact about one third of the registered partnerships between 1998 and 2001 were of opposite-sex couples. In law, registered partnerships and marriage convey the same rights and duties, especially after some laws were changed to remedy inequalities with respect to inheritance and some other issues.[36]

Unregistered partnership[edit]

Unregistered partnerships or informal cohabitation is when same-sex or opposite sex couples live together as a couple but they choose to keep the legal status of their relationship unregistered or informal. This means all worldwide assets that belong to a single party remain the sole property of the party with no legal entitlement by the other party, whether owned before or acquired during the relationship. This legal status of unregistered partnership is respected by Dutch courts.[36]

Public opinion[edit]

According to the Ifop poll, conducted in May 2013, 85% of the Dutch supported allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.[37]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 91% of the Dutch thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 7% were against.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Huwelijk tussen personen van gelijk geslacht". Government of the Netherlands. 
  2. ^ "Frans homohuwelijk blijft verboden". Nederlandse Omroep Stichting. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  3. ^ "Gay Marriage Goes Dutch". CBS news. 1 April 2001. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage Legalized in Amsterdam". CNN. 1 April 2001. 
  5. ^ "Dutch Legislators Approve Full Marriage Rights for Gays". 2000-09-13. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  6. ^ "Netherlands legalizes gay marriage". BBC News. 2000-09-12. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  7. ^ "Dutch legalise gay marriage". BBC News. 2000-09-12. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  8. ^ "Same-Sex Dutch Couples Gain Marriage and Adoption Rights". 2000-12-20. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  9. ^ "Dutch gays allowed to marry". BBC News. 2000-12-19. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  10. ^ "World's first legal gay weddings". TVNZ. 2001-04-01. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  11. ^ "Dutch gay couples exchange vows". BBC News. 2001-04-01. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  12. ^ Trouw: Remonstrants and Boomsma receive homo emancipation prize
  13. ^ Jan Andries de Boer: Same-sex marriage and the church
  14. ^ "Burgerlijk wetboek (Aruba), boek 1" (in Dutch). Government of Aruba. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "Burgerlijk wetboek van de Nederlandse Antillen, boek 1" (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  16. ^ "hoger beroep zaak BM9524" (in Dutch). Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  17. ^ "hoger beroep zaak BL1992" (in Dutch). Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "hoger beroep zaak BI9335" (in Dutch). Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  19. ^ "Burgerlijk wetboek BES, boek 1" (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  20. ^ "Aanpassingswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba" (in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  21. ^ "Aanpassingswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba, Nr. 23 GEWIJZIGD AMENDEMENT VAN DE LEDEN VAN GENT EN REMKES TER VERVANGING VAN DAT GEDRUKT ONDER NR. 14" (in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  22. ^ "Aanpassingswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba, NOTA NAAR AANLEIDING VAN HET VERSLAG" (in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  23. ^ First same-gender wedding in Caribbean Netherlands
  24. ^ Saba records first gay marriage on Tuesday {Video Inside}
  25. ^ First gay marriage in Dutch Caribbean
  26. ^ "Popularity of tiny Dutch Caribbean island soars following gay marriage,", 14 December 2012, accessed 15 December 2012.
  27. ^ "Tweede aanpassingswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba, A" (in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  28. ^ National Service Centre PCN, The Uniting Protestant Churches in the Netherlands and homosexuality, November 2004.
  29. ^ (Dutch) 'Ambtenaren kunnen homo-huwelijk weigeren'
  30. ^ "PvdA en GroenLinks: ambtenaren mogen homohuwelijk niet weigeren" (in Dutch). Algemeen Dagblad. 2007-03-17. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  31. ^ (Dutch) Alle ambtenaren moeten homo's trouwen
  32. ^ (Dutch) Amsterdam wil sluiten homohuwelijk verplichten
  33. ^ Homosexual unions slowly gain momentum in Europe[dead link]
  34. ^ Thornberry, Malcolm (2006-03-20). "Netherlands' Gay Marriages Level Off". 365Gay. Archived from the original on 2006-03-21. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  35. ^ "Ten years of same-sex marriage: a mixed blessing". 2011-04-01. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  36. ^ a b "Major legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnership for different-sex and same-sex partners in the Netherlands" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  37. ^ (French) Enquête sur la droitisation des opinions publiques européennes
  38. ^ Special Eurobarometer 437