Netherlands marks a decade of gay marriage
The Netherlands celebrated the 10th anniversary of the world's first legally binding gay marriage with another set of nuptials Friday, mixing the formal with the casual.
"I declare you, in my position as mayor of Amsterdam, joined by the rights of marriage," Eberhart van der Laan told Jan van Breda and his partner Thijs Timmermans at the Museum of History in the heart of Amsterdam.
The happy couple, dressed in dark formal suits with a mauve shirt for one and black T-shirt for the other, turned up for the ceremony on foot, with van Breda holding a red balloon in the shape of a heart carrying the figure "10."
"Your personal ceremony takes place in a wider context," mayor van der Laan told the happy, tearful couple.
"It is exactly 10 years ago today that the first same-sex marriage was celebrated by my predecessor," he added.
On that occasion, it was Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie Thus who walked down the aisle into the history books as the world's first legally wed lesbian couple, alongside three pairs of grooms.
"I was not in office then, but I remember that as a citizen of the Netherlands, as an Amsterdammer, it made me very proud," van der Laan told AFP.
"It is a symbolic, special day," added Timmermans. "The Netherlands is the first country where gay couples can marry. I'm proud of that, it should be normal.
"It is a pity that all those people in all those other countries still have to live undercover. It is not about being homosexual, it is about loving one another."
The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2001. Faasen and Thus, both in traditional, flowing wedding gowns, exchanged the first vows alongside three all-male pairs in Amsterdam on April 1 that year before then-mayor Job Cohen.
"The ambiance was wonderful: a mix of enthusiasm and surrealism," 51-year-old Dolf Pasker told AFP of the day that he married his sweetheart Gert Kasteel -- one of the three groom couples.
Since then, nearly 15,000 gay and lesbian couples have wed in the Netherlands -- about two percent of the total number of marriages registered between 2001 and 2010, based on figures from the Central Statistics Bureau.
According to the Amsterdam-based COC, the world's oldest homosexual advocacy group, there are about a million gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Netherlands out of a total population of 16.7 million.
Nine other countries, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina have also since legalised gay marriage.
To celebrate the landmark anniversary, an exhibition was opened at an Amsterdam hotel Friday of a selection of photographs of same-sex marriages.
After presiding over the wedding of van Breda and Timmermans, mayor van der Laan also wed two women in a private ceremony. On Friday evening, the city was to host a special reception with guests including the ambassadors of those countries that have legalised gay marriage.
"Compared with other countries, the Netherlands is a paradise, even if gay people still not benefit from all the same rights as heterosexuals," COC president Vera Bergkamp said.
"Some officials still refuse to marry homosexual couples. Having the right to get married does not necessarily mean that it is accepted by society. On this level, there is still work to be done."
© 2016 AFP
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