Moreover, it is being reported that God doesn’t seem to have particularly poured out bucketfuls of wrath against the Netherlands, and that straight marriages have somehow not collapsed. Boris Dittrich, the original sponsor of marriage equality legislation in that nation, had an amusing and informative op-ed in the Los Angeles Times this weekend looking back on what’s happened since The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same sex marriage, ten years ago:
The Christian Democrat party was fiercely opposed though. Many of its members and those in other right-wing Christian political parties announced that if the bill passed, it would devalue the institution of marriage, open a can of legal worms and cause the rest of the world to shun the Netherlands. Sen. Hannie van Leeuwen, a leader of the Christian Democrat party, stated it would be the best for everybody concerned to stick to civil unions.
A decade later, of the nearly 75,000 civil marriages that take place in the Netherlands each year, about 1,400 involve same-sex couples. Heterosexual couples did not turn away from the institution of marriage, nor did the world isolate my country. Civilization as we know it did not end. And, as far as I can tell, God did not punish the Netherlands.
On the contrary, the bill paved the way for nine more countries (Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Argentina, Portugal and Iceland), one city (Mexico City), the District of Columbia in the U.S., and several U.S. states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and, briefly, California) to allow gays to marry. In Slovenia, Nepal and Australia, same-sex marriage is now on the political agenda.
Straight people are still getting married?! If I was a wingnut, I would refuse to believe it! But then again, if I was a wingnut, I probably wouldn’t be able to pick out The Netherlands on a map.
Dittrich also describes the change of heart experienced by Hannie van Leeuwen, mentioned above as one of the fierce opponents of marriage equality:
For some minutes, we tried to pretend nothing was going on. But finally, Van Leeuwen, who had lobbied so hard against the same-sex marriage bill in my own parliament, stood.
“At the time I opposed same-sex marriage, I was led by fear,” she said. “Having seen so many happy gay and lesbian couples getting married, I realize I was wrong. I don’t understand any more what made me treat gays and lesbians differently from other citizens.”
Dogma and tradition, basically. Once people are freed from that sort of constricting, ignorant worldview, and once they get to know real gays and lesbians, they tend to come over to our side. This is why the Religious Right in the United States is so stridently opposed to kids learning about famous people who happened to be gay, or anti-bullying legislation that actually shines a light on and works to prevent bullying, depression and suicide among gay kids. When people are confronted with reality, it’s quite hard to continue being, you know, a wingnut.