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Last update on February 03, 2021

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, but homosexual couples still face obstacles when they wish to have children.

Eleven years after the Netherlands became the first country to legalize 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.

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 10 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.

Some facts and figures

  • The world’s first gay wedding took place at midnight on 1 April 2001, when Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen married four same-sex couples.
  • Between 1 April 2001 and 1 January 2011, there were a total of 14,813 same-sex marriages in the Netherlands. The number of marriages between two women (7,522) was slightly higher than those between two men (7,291). In the same period, there were 761,010 marriages.
  • During that period, there were 1,078 same-sex divorces in the Netherlands, two-thirds of them between women (734), and 323,549 divorces in general.
  • Ten countries have legalised same-sex marriage: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina. In the United States it has been legalised in five states: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C.. In Mexico it has been legalised in Mexico City.
  • The total number of same-sex marriages in these countries is not clear. In many relevant statistics are not available, and in some such unions were only legalised last year. In Belgium there were 13,055 same-sex marriages between 2004 and 2009.