The Hague, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- Two decades have passed since the Netherlands became the first country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage but LGBT groups today warn the country is no longer at the vanguard of equal rights and acceptance.
The Dutch officially legalized same-sex marriage on 1 April 2001, although it had introduced civil unions in 1998.
Since then, an estimated 19,000 men and 21,000 women have tied the knot in same-sex ceremonies, which LGBT rights group COC said was cause for celebration.
But the group also urged the Dutch government to retake its mantle as a leader in LGBT rights.
In a statement, Astrid Oosenbrug, COC head, said: “By being the first country to open marriage to same-sex couples in 2001, we made world history.”
“How cool would it be if we rediscover that pioneering spirit and soon be at the forefront of the world again? I can’t imagine a better gift for 20 years of marriage and for the 75th anniversary of the COC.”
The Netherlands occupies 13th place on the Rainbow Europe index for LGBT rights, behind countries such as Malta, Belgium and Luxembourg, although it is in second place in terms of acceptance by the population, surpassed only by Iceland.
“I want a country where everyone feels free to be themselves,” Oosenbrug added.
One of the most topical debates affecting the LGBT community in the Netherlands is whether the constitution allows for religious schools to refuse students based on their beliefs.
The country’s education minister was recently forced to backtrack after she defended the right of some Christian schools to requiring parents of students to reject homosexuality in writing.EFE-EPA