Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Belgium Says "I Do": The Country Becomes Only the Second in the World to Grant Legal Recognition to Same-Sex Marriage. (Marriage)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Belgium Says "I Do": The Country Becomes Only the Second in the World to Grant Legal Recognition to Same-Sex Marriage. (Marriage)

Article excerpt

Once again, one of the world's smallest countries is taking the biggest steps in expanding the rights of gay people. This time it's Belgium--passing a law January 30 to recognize same-sex marriage beginning this summer. The country is only the second in the world--after its trailblazing neighbor, the Netherlands--to extend such rights to gay men and lesbians.

"We're very happy," said Anke Hintjens, a spokeswoman for the country's largest gay rights group, Holebifederatie. "We think it's a very important moment for us in our history." Hintjens said her group is hoping to stage a mass wedding in Brussels when the law takes effect, which will likely be July 1: "We have a lot of couples in our movement who want to get married."

The Netherlands became the first country to offer marriage rights to same-sex couples in April 2001. Several other European countries, including France, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, grant legal recognition to same-sex couples but limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

In Belgium it was the former minister of public health, Magda Aelvoet, who first proposed that the government legally recognize gay relationships. After studying the various judicial ways of changing the law, it became clear that opening up marriage law was a better option than creating a separate legal class for same-sex couples, said Annemie Mercelis, legal adviser for current public health minister Jef Tavernier. …

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