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Big News: You May Now Kiss.. Um, Um… Each Other

You may kiss the bride, um, um… each other

By Dave Crampton

Marriage is now no longer just a union between one man and one woman – at least in the Netherlands anyway. Two do not necessarily become one in a country where marriage is a man-made civil right for some people instead of a God–ordained sacrament. Other countries look set to follow suit, although they don’t currently recognise the gay marriages.

Ironically, despite the Christian right protest, it is a selection of the Christian right - the Catholics priests and nuns – who are probably the only adults who are now unable to marry in The Netherlands. But that is as a result of a Vatican ordained edict as opposed to a civil matter. Incidentally, all Catholic priests wear rings on the fourth finger of their right hands to signify their relationship with God – just as gay and heterosexual marriage partners in Holland signify their marriage relationship. Most people wear wedding rings on their left hand in other parts of the world.

The new law allows same-sex marriages to take place in town halls and same-sex couples to adopt Dutch children. They will also be able to divorce through the courts. The new marital law could also bring new meaning to terms such as husbands and wives, bride and groom, mums and dads, and terms like “you may now kiss the bride” and “here comes the bride”. It seems a bit silly to register same-sex partners now, doesn’t it? No mention has been made of the future of Dutch registration of gay relationships. Surely it is now void - why continue with such a double–Dutch piece of legislation?

In one sense it was always not a matter of if gays could marry, but when. The gay agenda is always vocal, whereas the Christian right is strangely silent in a world where human rights matter more than the moral minority. But the gay agenda is also run by a minority group, whose members appear to be able to influence politicians more easily than, say, their Christian counterparts on the right.

The initiator of the bill for parity in marriage rights in The Netherlands also presided over the first gay mass wedding. That man was the mayor of Amsterdam, and a former justice minister.

He presided over the wedding of Ann Marie Thus, who says the only thing she has to get used to is calling her partner her spouse – as opposed to husband or wife. With her newly wedded partner, she is raising a 9-month-old son born through artificial insemination. Now they can adopt.

However the topic of gay weddings is not limited to Amsterdam. A gay US paper is currently printing a guide to weddings as they say it is "an appropriate time to do so". Hmmm.

Ironically the law in Holland was enacted the same week as the New Zealand government passed legislation on property rights for gay and de facto couples provided they are over 18 and together for more than three years.

This law, due to take effect February 2002, doesn’t touch on the morality of marriage, but it will create a legal minefield from August 1 when gay couples can "opt out" of the legislation. However this rule is a legal minefield as it is difficult to say when a relationship actually starts. Family Court judges will also have discretion in their judgement - so there is expected to be some variance in a law that is yet to be tested.

If gays were able to be legally married in NZ, the law would be easier to maintain, in fact, the new property law may well be abolished as it will only affect de facto couples, who can legally marry. However such a change would be a moral nightmare for those against gay marriage.

For the less vocal Christian right, that nightmare has just started in The Netherlands. For now, only heterosexual people will be displaying wedding rings on their left hand - unless they are Dutch, German, or married in The Netherlands – and long may that continue in New Zealand, says Jenny Shipley’s National Party.

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist, in addition to writing for Scoop he is the Australasian correspondent for He can be contacted at

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