From January 1998 onwards, it has been possible to get a “registered partnership” for both heterosexual and homosexual couples in the Netherlands. This is, to all intents and purposes, the same as a full civil marriage. Well, there are a few differences, but it brings with it more automatic rights (just like a civil marriage) than the drawn-up-by-a-lawyer “living together (samenwonen)” contract Martin and I originally had. Sooo, we thought, should we? shouldn’t we? And basically, everyone said go for it, so we did.
We were married in a civil ceremony on June 12th 1998 in the historic Gouda Stadhuis. It also happened to be my mother’s 94th birthday, and she was there to make it a double celebration.
Here we all are, listening to the town councillor who is performing the ceremony. She did a great job, blending formality and informality with the right amount of humour and gravitas.
Because there were so many overseas visitors (my family and friends), she also arranged for an interpreter to translate into English.
The serious bit – giving the “ja” word which signifies agreement that we are prepared to enter into the partnership:
The sentimental bit – exchanging the rings:
The legal bit – signing the documents (in duplicate):
Jellie Gorter (the town councillor who married us) saying to Martin: “it’s too late now!”
The proud bit – mother with her new son-in-law at her right arm.
We walked out of the stadhuis like this, arm in arm. I heard later that as we descended the steps outside, a puzzled passerby asked one of the guests “Er, which one did she marry?” Another passerby was heard to remark in shocked tones to her friend “God, Mary, it’s two men!”
After the ceremony, we went to the nearby Agnietenkapel for our reception party.
And the obligatory wedding photo – two generations of the van Hoofts, and four generations of the Coupes.
On the 12th September 2000, the Dutch parliament voted 109 – 33 in favour to change the law and give gay marriages the same legal status as heterosexual marriages. The law came into force on 1st April 2001. From that date, gay married couples have complete parity of rights with heterosexual couples in the Netherlands. Another bill passed at the same time gave them wider rights to adopt Dutch children.
The Netherlands thus became the first country in the world to include same-gender couples under the same marriage law that joins heterosexuals.
This is us coming out of the Town Hall, with Martin clutching the copies of the signed document. It literally only took a couple of minutes to get the “upgrade” – we, and the Town Clerk had to sign our names in duplicate on the original documents.
The children are from Martin’s school – each and every one of them presented us both with a flower so that we were left holding a sizable bouquet at the end. One small boy kept asking me to kiss Martin to prove that we were married. I said we had done that inside!
Our friends Carolien and Mariette promised they would be at the Town Hall for the signing. What they didn’t tell us is that they would turn up with coach and horses to take us for a ride through Gouda after the ceremony.
So off we went, being driven through Gouda. We made the obligatory stop in front of Gouda’s original Town Hall in the market square for the obligatory photo. Several people congratulated us, and wished us happiness for the future, which was rather sweet…
The pause that refreshes – we stopped for a beer at the Hotel De Zalm on the market square.
In the evening, the four of us went out to dinner to celebrate. It was a great day, thanks, girls!