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Dutch Approve Gay Marriages

September 12, 2000

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ The Netherlands, long among the gay rights vanguard, enacted a bill converting the country’s ``registered same-sex partnerships″ into full-fledged marriages, complete with divorce guidelines and wider adoption rights for gays.

Proponents say the legislation will give Dutch gays rights beyond those offered in any other country.

Lawmakers thumped their desks in approval when the vote passed 107-33, and some of the scores of witnesses in the packed public gallery applauded and embraced.

Parliament had discussed the bill last week, when only a few small Christian parties voiced opposition during an emotional and often heated three-day debate. It gained speedy approval Tuesday.

``I’m very happy. What happened today represents changes in our society,″ said Mark Wagenbuur, 34. He said he and his partner, who came with him to watch the vote, will now formally wed, but their immediate problem is ``we don’t know who should ask whom.″

In Norway and Sweden, gay couples can already register their partnerships and Denmark has gone a step further _ it was the first country to allow gay marriages in 1989. Two years ago, the Netherlands enacted a law allowing same-sex couples to register as partners and to claim pensions, social security and inheritance.

But the new Dutch legislation goes farther, creating full equality for gays, activists said.

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