On June 1, 2003, Belgium became the second country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage, with some restrictions. As in the Netherlands (the first country to legalise same-sex marriage), this was achieved when the Christian Democrats were not in power. Originally, Belgium allowed the marriages of foreign same-sex couples only if their country of origin also allowed these unions. New legislation enacted in October 2004, however, now permits any couples to marry in Belgium if at least one of the spouses has lived in the country for a minimum of three months.
The act of 23 November 1998 granted statutory cohabitation (Dutch: wettelijke samenwoning; French: cohabitation légale) in Belgium. The act gives limited rights to registered same-sex and opposite-sex couples by inserting a Title V-bis on statutory cohabitation in the Belgian Civil Code and by amending certain provisions of the Belgian Civil Code and the Belgian Judicial Code. However, persons who are not a couple can also make a declaration of statutory cohabitiation; this includes relatives.
The law was legally published on January 12, 1999. It went in force on January 1, 2000, according to a royal order signed on December 14, and published on December 23, 1999.
On May 28, 2002 a bill legalising same-sex marriage was introduced in the Belgian Senate by Jeannine Leduc (Flemish Liberals and Democrats), Philippe Mahoux (Socialist Party (francophone Belgium)), Philippe Monfils (Reformist Movement), Myriam Vanlerberghe (SP.A-Spirit), Marie Nagy (Ecolo) and Frans Lozie (Agalev). It passed in November 28, 2002, with 46 votes to 15. On January 30, 2003 the bill passed the Belgian Chamber of Representatives by 91 votes to 22.
King Albert II signed and promulgated the bill on February 13, 2003 and on February 28 it was published in the Belgian Official Journal and came into force on June 1.
The first paragraph of article 143 of the Belgian Civil Code (Book I, Title V, Chapter I) now reads as follows:
- in Dutch: Een huwelijk kan worden aangegaan door twee personen van verschillend of van hetzelfde geslacht.
- in French: Deux personnes de sexe différent ou de même sexe peuvent contracter mariage.
- (Two persons of different sexes or of the same sex may contract marriage.)
The same-sex marriage law did not permit adoption by same-sex partners; and as birth within a same-sex marriage did not imply affiliation, the same-sex spouse of the biological parent had no way to become the legal parent. On December 1, 2005 a proposal to permit adoption was approved by the Chamber of Representatives of the Belgian Federal Parliament. It was passed in April 2006, thereby enabling legal co-parenting by same-sex couples.
According to the Belgian Official Journal, approximately 300 same-sex couples were married between June 2003 and April 2004 (245 in 2003 and 55 in 2004). This constituted 1.2 percent of the total number of marriages in Belgium during that period. Two thirds of the married couples were gay male couples; the remainder were lesbian couples. On 22 July 2005, the Belgian government announced that a total of 2,442 same-sex marriages had taken place in the country since the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples two years earlier.
- ↑ Legislative record of the same-sex marriage bill in Dutch and in French, by the Belgian Senate.
- ↑ Thornberry, Malcolm (2006-04-21). Belgium OK's Co-Parenting For Gay Couples. 365Gay. Archived from the original on 2006-04-22. Retrieved on 2009-10-16.
- ↑ Belgium Reaches 2,500 Gay Marriages. 365Gay (2005-05-22). Archived from the original on 2005-10-23. Retrieved on 2009-10-16.
- Timeline of LGBT history
- LGBT rights in Belgium
- Recognition of same-sex unions in Europe
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