Ten years of same-sex marriage: a mixed blessing

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Ten years after the Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage, homosexual couples still marry far less often than heterosexual couples, partly because they still face obstacles when they wish to have children.

Just 20 percent of Dutch homosexual couples are married, compared with 80 percent of heterosexual couples, fresh figures by Statistics Netherlands show.

Watch a decade of same-sex marriages on video

Number crunching
Since 1 April 2001, when the Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage, some 15,000 gay and lesbian couples have tied the knot.

That is two percent of all marriages celebrated in Holland, and just 20 percent of the 55,000 same-sex couples the country numbers.

Among the country’s 4.1 million heterosexual couples, 80 percent are married.

Divorce among same-sex couples accounts for one percent of all divorces.

Marriage for love
“The figures show that over the past ten years gay and lesbian couples have been behaving the same way as straight couples”, demographer Jan Latten of Statistics Netherlands says.

“Many of them marry out of love, of course. But, just as with straight couples, the desire to have children and the resulting legal responsibilities often weigh even more for gay and lesbian couples. 

This could explain why gay couples marry less often than straight ones. Gay couples, especially gay men, still face considerable difficulties when they want to adopt children.”

The similarities between gay and lesbian couples do not end there. “Some relationships last, other ones end”, Latten says. “But annual divorce percentages are pretty much the same for both groups”.

And both gay and straight couples prefer to tie the knot in the spring or the summer.


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