Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Winter 1994-1995

Denmark, Norway and Sweden have all got a Partnership Law which gives lesbian and gay couples the opportunity to acquire almost the same legal status as married heterosexuals but, as GALHA member Kees Waaldijk reports, progress in this field is still very slow in the Netherlands.

Partnership Law Holdup

by Kees Waaldijk

The rights of same-sex partners are being recognised in Dutch law – but only slowly.

For several years now, cohabitation of same-sex couples has been recognised in social security law in the Netherlands, and on 19 May 1994 the government introduced a bill to improve the situation of same-sex parents. This law on custody and joint custody will probably be unique in the world. It will make it possible for two same-sex or heterosexual partners who are not both the legal parents of a child to become jointly legally responsible for that child. For example, a lesbian mother will be allowed to let her partner be given ‘co-custody’ over her child, and two lesbian or gay foster parents will be able to get ‘joint custody’.

On 8 June 1994 the government introduced the promised bill on registered partnership.

The proposed law is similar to the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish laws in that it will have the same legal attributes as heterosexual marriage, with the notable exception of all aspects concerning children, including paternity, parental authority and adoption.

The main difference from the Nordic laws is that Dutch registered partnership will not only be open to same-sex couples, but also to couples consisting of brother and sister, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, two sisters, etc.

Registration will be open to citizens of the European Union entitled to residence in the Netherlands, and to citizens of other countries having their lawful residence in the Netherlands for at least one year.

Unlike in the UK and Scandinavia, church weddings are not recognised in Dutch law – it is in fact illegal for clergy to ‘marry’ a heterosexual couple who have not already been married at a registry office. Thus same-sex partnerships too can only be registered at a registry office.

Some lesbians and gays in the Netherlands are unhappy that the registered partnership will not be called ‘marriage’, and responding to this criticism the new government (a coalition of Labour and Liberals) has undertaken to look again at the proposed law.

The unfortunate consequence of this is that the debate on the bill will be delayed until at least the end of 1995, and there is the risk that partnership legislation will be as slow as the anti-discrimination law which only came into force on 1 September 1994 after more than 15 years of debate!

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Created : Sunday, 1999-09-05 / Last updated : Sunday, 2008-02-10
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