After the Netherlands acted, civilization as we know it didn’t end.
The Netherlands celebrated the 10th anniversary of the world’s first legally binding gay marriage on April 1, 2011. Ten years ago this month, when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, most Dutch people were in favor of the law, but a vocal minority insisted that gay marriage would mean the end of Western civilization.
It took a political slugfest to get the law passed. I was a member of parliament at the time and the initial sponsor of the same-sex legislation. The Netherlands had introduced gay civil unions in 1998; I regarded them as a step forward but still insufficient. Why should heterosexuals be able to fence off a part of civil law — marriage — and defend it as exclusively theirs?
This “separate but equal” status reminded me of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow in the United States. When two people decide to share their responsibilities and commit themselves to each other by entering civil marriage, their sexual orientation shouldn’t matter to the government.
The Christian Democrat party was fiercely opposed though. Many of its members and those in other right-wing Christian political parties announced that if the bill passed, it would devalue the institution of marriage, open a can of legal worms and cause the rest of the world to shun the Netherlands. Sen. Hannie van Leeuwen, a leader of the Christian Democrat party, stated it would be the best for everybody concerned to stick to civil unions.
A decade later, of the nearly 75,000 civil marriages that take place in the Netherlands each year, about 1,400 involve same-sex couples. Heterosexual couples did not turn away from the institution of marriage, nor did the world isolate my country. Civilization as we know it did not end. And, as far as I can tell, God did not punish the Netherlands.