AMSTERDAM (AFP) – 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 a dark formal suit with mauve shirt for one and a 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.
“We married for love, not politics. But of course we were aware it was an historic moment,” 41-year-old Thus, a notary assistant and gay rights campaigner, told AFP ahead of Friday’s anniversary.
By tying the knot in front of the world’s press, “we wanted to make other people think about how horrible it is to be denied something that is a natural right for others,” added her wife, 44-year-old notary Faasen.
“A heterosexual person never needs to think about whether he is allowed to marry or not, he simply needs to be lucky enough to find the love of his life.”
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 pairs of grooms in Amsterdam on April 1 that year before then mayor Job Cohen.
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.
Thus and Faasen live with their two children, 10-year-old Nathan, and Myrthle, 9, in Maastricht in south Netherlands, where Thus says she loves to spend her free time cooking and Faasen relaxes by tending the garden.
Their children were born from Thus and through anonymous sperm donors.
“Like many other people, we have a family, work, a house, a dog and two rabbits,” said Thus, who met “the love of my life” on a blind date in 1998.
“In the mornings, we also have to nag our children to get out of bed and eat breakfast … it is all very normal,” she added.
“It is not the Sodom and Gomorrah many people apparently expect to result from the legalisation of gay marriage,” Fassen said.