Just another history-making couple

25th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Amsterdam residents Thomas Lexmond and Darren Reynoldson made the headlines of Australia's leading newspaper this month as the first Australian gay couple to officially marry. According to the newspaper, the Melbourne natives were "making history".


Of course, this grand wedding announcement did not make the pages of De Volkskrant and most people here can guess why. In the tolerant Netherlands, gay and lesbian weddings are not considered big news — but they are new.

Same-sex marriages have only been legal in the Netherlands since April 2001. Before then, gay and lesbian couples were allowed to register as partners, but the law fell short of granting the right to nuptials.

Both Darren and Thomas say they are happy to be among the first to take advantage of the right to wed, but insist that they are marrying for love, not to make a political statement in Australia.

"The visibility is important because, for one thing, if I had known growing up that there were gay men getting married, I think it would have made coming out easier," Darren says.

"But I wouldn't say we're trying to make a public statement. "We are in love and getting married is just a natural progression."

A step above legal partnership

In most ways Darren, 35, and Thomas, 40, are living out a typical expat story.

They moved to the Netherlands about one year ago, after Thomas received a job offer from UPC. Darren soon followed his partner to this cloudy, but "gezellig" country.

Coincidently, the couple had been considering a move when the work opportunity sprung up.

"We talked about the pros and cons for a few months and decided, the chance of this happening was too good. 'Let's do it now while we're still young', or at least, young at heart," Thomas says.

Another influential factor was that Thomas was born and spent the first 11 years of his life in Amsterdam before migrating with his family to Australia. Despite his Australian drawl, he describes himself as an Amsterdammer at heart.

"I always thought there were a few things strange about me and now I know why: It's because I'm Dutch," he jokes.

Thomas says it was the chance to live in Amsterdam that swayed them to move. The right to enter a legal partnership — something they couldn't do in Australia — did not affect their decision very much.

"We joked about getting married when we were in Australia and Thomas proposed to me back in 1999," remembers Darren.

"But when we came here to register as legal partners, we thought why don't we just go the whole way."

As far as the couple were concerned, a registered partnership was about equivalent to being married so deciding to officially tie the knot was not much of a stretch.

Under Dutch law the newlyweds will have the same status as any other married couple, but Darren and Thomas might find themselves in a bind if they return home to Australia where same sex unions are excluded from the official definition of marriage.

"Under the current conservative (Australian) government, they don't intend to ever acknowledge gay partnership so if we go back we will not have the rights we have here," says Darren.

"It will probably be 5 to 10 years before legal partnerships are acknowledged."

The ceremony

Thomas and Darren were married on 27 April in an intimate ceremony in Amsterdam.

The event did not feature tuxes and tails but was "just a wee soiree that reflected us and our relationship: a simple ceremony, a small private dinner and an open function that celebrated our 'echtgenootschap' with our extended family".

Both men say most people reacted positively to the news of their union. Dutch friends and colleagues offered congratulations and were surprised to learn that same sex partners were only recently allowed to marry.

Friends and family back in Australia were happy that the men were able to follow the same road as any other couple in love.

"We are confirming our love and our commitment to each other in front of, not just friends and family which is what a commitment ceremony is, but also in front of the law," Thomas says.

"That law recognises that we are two human beings in love who wish to spend the rest of their lives together. It doesn't matter what our gender is."

Kristine Garcia

Read our article Same sex weddings make history for further information.

Subject: Expat profiles

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