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Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands

A "registered partnership" system became active on January 1st, 1998. However after a court case brought about by a gay couple it was concluded that restricting marriage to opposite-sex partners was in violation of the constitution, which forbids discrimination against homosexuals. Hence the marriage law was changed and since April 1st, 2001 same-sex marriages have been permitted. Note that registered partnerships, although originally introduced to enable same-sex couples to make their partnership official, are open to opposite-sex couples as well.

There was strong opposition from fundamentalist religious groups to the introduction of same-sex marriage, e.g., see Khalil el-Moumni. Individual churches have retained the right to decide whether or not to conduct such ceremonies; in practice many have been willing to do so.

While regional government offices are obliged to perform civil same-sex marriages, some uncertainty has remained about whether individual officials have the right to refuse to perform them.

The rules about nationality and residence are the same as for any other marriage in the Netherlands: at least one partner must either have Dutch nationality or reside in the country. There is no guarantee that a same-sex marriage will be recognised in other countries. Most likely it will be accepted in those and only those countries that have themselves a form of registered partnership for same-sex couples.

According to provisional figures from the Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics, for the first six months same-sex marriages made up 3.6 percent of the total number of marriages: a peak of around 6 percent in the first month followed by around 3 percent in the remaining months: about 2100 men and 1700 women in total.

Same-sex marriages are fully equivalent to opposite-sex marriages in the Netherlands with apparently two restrictions relating to adoption of children. First, if a married lesbian has a child, her wife will not count as the child's father or mother; unless and until she adopts the child, she will count for the law as a stepmother. Second, Dutch law provides some exceptions for other nation's laws regarding international adoptions for Dutch same-sex couples.

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