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Europe

Where Gay Marriage is Just Marriage

As the gay marriage debate continues in the U.S. and Canada, many European countries are looking on bemusedly. The continent has been pioneering the drive to grant gays the same rights as herterosexual couples.

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A couple cries after hearing on Friday that California's highest court won't allow them to marry.

When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome was under political attack for allowing same-sex marriages, he got a comforting note from Job Cohen.

The mayor of Amsterdam shared a part of history when he officiated over the world's first gay marriage in 2001. The Netherlands, together with Belgium, are the only countries in Europe which recognize gay marriage on the same level as heterosexual unions.

Other EU countries aren't far behind. Politicians in California and Massachusetts -- the two hotspots in America's gay marriage debate -- could learn a few lessons from Europe, which has been following a progressive road to granting homosexual partners equal rights.

From Denmark to Germany, rights won

In 1989, Denmark became the first European country to pass laws allowing homosexual couples to register themselves as a partnership and receive the same housing, immigration and pension rights. Norway passed simliar legislation in 1993 and Sweden approved same-sex marriage a year later, but did not allow couples to adopt children until 2002.

The Netherlands went a step further. In 1997, the country's government allowed for the kind of registered partnerships found in Denmark and Norway. After three years in which homosexual couples were given the same rights to health, pension and inheritance benefits, the Dutch parliament passed a law striking any distinction between gay and straight marriage from the books in 2000.

The law was a groundbreaking victory for the gay rights advocates.

After 2,400 couples married in 2001, the number has gone down steadily since. The very subject has apparently become passé in the Netherlands.

"We don't have gay marriage in this country; we just have marriage," Henk Krol, the editor of the homosexual publication Gay Krant told the Boston Globe recently. Germany followed its neighbor in 2002, but not all the way. Chancellor Gerhard Schoeder's left-of-center coalition government granted homosexual couples reigstered partnerships. The same-sex unions allow partners to register for health insurance together, and it extends immigration rights to same-sex partners who are not German citizens. But the law stops short of allowing couples to adopt children together.

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  • Date 12.03.2004
  • Author DW Staff (dre)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4mbQ
  • Date 12.03.2004
  • Author DW Staff (dre)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4mbQ