First Same-Sex Marriage
Throughout history and around the world, there have been various types of same-sex union, sometimes informal and secretive, sometimes ritualized and acknowledged by local communities. But the decision by modern nation-states to open civil marriage to couples of the same sex is a very recent phenomenon. Denmark set an important example when in 1989 it became the first country to legalize registered partnerships for same-sex couples, which gave these couples most rights of married heterosexuals. But we had to wait until the new millennium before the Netherlands took the final step and made ‘gay marriage’ legally possible.
This was in 2001 and served as a crucial source of inspiration for other nations, starting with Belgium, which in 2003 became the second country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage. Especially in the early years of such new legislation, full equality was not always obtained at once. In the case of Belgium, the possibility of adoption was initially deferred. Adoption rights were realized only in 2006 and have required further legal refinement of family law over the years. By the end of 2010, same-sex marriage had been adopted by eight additional countries besides the Netherlands and Belgium.
The number of countries that have opened marriage has been steadily growing since then, but not at a rate that promises complete acceptance anytime soon. There has in fact been a notable backlash, frequently driven by cultural traditions, religious persuasions and/or a rejection of Western lifestyles and values. Even the European Union has not reached the point where it dares to impose same-sex marriage as a requirement on all member states.
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