• When were gay marriages recognised and what has since changed?
  • What do millennials think about this and what do the statistics say?
  • How are marriage proposals and weddings done with gay couples?

One man will go down on one knee, open the box with a gold ring and ask the question. Another man will reply with an enthusiastic ‘yes’ ... Even though the Ancient Greeks already thought homosexuality was socially acceptable, gay couples have had to fight hard through the centuries to be able to openly put that gold ring on each other’s fingers. The fight endured by gay women has an even harder history.

So do we now live in a progressive era within which it’s perfectly possible to plan a same-sex proposal without suffering any snide remarks? What do European millennials think about the gay marriage? Can love conquer all? A romantic marriage proposal is clearly no longer limited to a marriage proposal between a man and a woman in 2018. So it’s now definitely time to take a look at the brief history of the accepted gay marriage.

When were gay marriages first recognised?

The first marriage between two people of the same sex was confirmed in the Netherlands. This happened on 1st April 2001 at midnight, in the Stopera, the Amsterdam complex of the city hall and opera. Four gay couples said ‘I will’ in the presence of mayor Job Cohen (who married the couples) and huge media presence.

“Marrying the first gay couples was an absolute highlight in my career”, Job Cohen said. “I can’t remember a single negative reaction. The Dutch people were ready for the gay marriage. Everyone was ready to admit it: that’s just how people are made”, he added in an interview with the NRC Handelsblad.

Gay men and women still had to wait until June 2003 in Belgium before they could officially put a gold ring on each other’s fingers. However, Belgium was still the second country in the world to allow same sex marriages. And even though many countries have since followed the Netherlands’ and Belgium’s example, opinions about gay marriage are still very much divided.

How have LGBT’s in Europe felt since then?

There are now more than 20 countries worldwide where the rainbow flag can fly during the wedding ceremony. Even though Europe was clearly a frontrunner, we have still identified a dividing line between East and West. Western European countries permit gay marriages and Central and Southern European countries have registered partnerships with the same rights and obligations as marriage.

But countries like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria in Eastern Europe do not have such regulations in place. In fact: there is clear discrimination against LGBT’s and transgenders in Eastern European countries. This became apparent following a large-scale research project conducted by the European Union in the various different European member states.

The results of this survey, with more than 93,000 involved parties, were presented during the International Day against Homophobia on 17th May 2013. An unbelievable 12 years after the first gay marriage. Researchers talk about ‘a group of countries where, broadly speaking, the majority of the population feel that homosexuality can never be justified’.

Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Baltic States, Russia and Ukraine form part of this group of countries. The intolerance towards LGBT’s and transgenders is mainly expressed in insults and bullying. One particular noteworthy aspect was the high degree of insecurity in education. More than 90% of homosexual students below the age of 18 had already experienced gay hate crimes in word or deed.

What do European millennials think about this?

Surely millennials are expected to be a great deal more progressive compared to previous generations? This is not quite the case in Eastern Europe. In some Eastern European countries, more than 70% of the millennials have indicated to find homosexuality completely unacceptable. In Russia the so-called ‘anti-gay law’ even prohibits people from talking about homosexuality in the presence of minors.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that this anti-gay law violates the right to freedom of expression. And do you remember the female Russian duo t.A.T.u.? Even though the girls themselves weren’t gay, they did a fair amount of kissing in the video of their debut single ‘All the things she said’.

Even though it will undoubtedly take quite some time before gay couples are openly accepted and able to wear a gold ring on their finger, these singers firmly believed they had brought about a change. There were plenty of reactions from other countries and the ladies were subsequently globally seen as gay icons.

We mustn’t forget that the European statistics from 2016 showed that millennials are less heterosexual. They are much more open to homosexuality. And considering the fact that the world of these millennials is much smaller through the use of social media, there is definitely hope too. Or is the Russian restriction on internet freedom stopping this evolution?

Just because the Netherlands and Belgium are leaders in gay marriages, this certainly doesn’t mean there is no longer any work to be done where tolerance is concerned. Last year several minors were arrested in the Dutch town of Arnhem, following an attack on a gay couple with bolt cutters.

The two men, aged 31 and 35, were abused and attacked because they were walking hand in hand. Presenter Barbara Barend launched a photo campaign as a reaction to this senseless violence, with the hashtags #allmenhandinhand and #handinhand. These hashtags were also massively shared in Belgium, not least by politicians.

What do the statistics about gay marriage say?

Let’s go back to Belgium. Recent figures showed that gay marriages in Belgium are still on the rise. A total of 1170 same-sex wedding ceremonies were conducted in 2016. And even though we don’t yet know the definitive numbers for 2017, we can definitely be sure of a slight annual increase.

Of course things aren’t always rosy and dandy. The gold ring which symbolises marriage and eternal love does sometimes get thrown back into the box. Belgium saw a total of 23,538 divorces in 2016, 335 of which were between same-sex couples. Divorces between women appear to be more common than divorces between men. A Dutch study among heterosexual couples also showed that the initiative for divorces are often taken by women.

So why are women more prone to reach the decision to end a marriage? According to an American study, the main reason for requesting a divorce is unfaithfulness. So it is usually the men who are unfaithful? A different study conducted at the University of India showed that men and women are equally unfaithful. So finding a clear reason for the statistics remains guesswork.

What is a gay wedding like?

A gay wedding doesn’t particularly differ from a heterosexual one. Although there are some who like to turn it into a real art project. For example, the Belgian-Dutch lesbian couple Fleur Pierets and Julian Boom got married in all 24 countries where gay marriages are permitted. They came up with the idea even before Germany and Malta decided to acknowledge the gay marriage. Hence it was initially referred to as the project ‘22’.

The two first gave each other a gold ring in New York. Once they had symbolically said their ‘I will’s’ in all countries, all their photographs and video recordings were going to be incorporated in works of art and subsequently exhibited. This was planned to be completed by the end of 2018, but the project came to an abrupt end when they realised Julian was terminally ill. She lost her fight against her disease on 22nd January.

The gay marriage in Belgium is completely equal to a marriage between a man and a woman where inheritance rights, tax returns and co-parenting are concerned. However, a church wedding is not possible. Saying ‘I will’ to each other, making each other promises and exchanging gold rings can only be done in the town hall.

The legalisation of the gay marriage also resulted in new trends in the wedding decorations. For example, it’s now quite common for two women or two men to feature on top of the wedding cake. But gay weddings have also resulted in some new trends for heterosexual men. This includes the woman of a heterosexual couple buying an engagement ring for him

How does the marriage proposal work?

There isn’t a huge difference compared to wedding proposals done by heterosexual couples. Homo or hetero: everyone naturally tries to plan the most original wedding proposal ever. Nobody succeeded better than the Australian Member of Parliament Tim Wilson. He asked his partner to marry him in parliament during a debate about gay marriage.

And of course the internet wouldn’t be the internet without lists with tips, tricks and inspiration for original same-sex proposals. The European gay broadcaster OUTtv also regularly highlights this theme. Another source produced an overview of the most romantic places for a gay marriage proposal.

Italy was labelled as the place to be for a proposal between 2 men or 2 women. Quite surprising, as gay couples have only been able to get married there since 2016. And this commitment can’t even officially be referred to as a marriage. So the glass of champagne or cava which newlyweds share is therefore only half full in Italy.

London and Paris are now also trending where gay marriage proposals are concerned. Although you may well wonder whether we can actually already refer to these as trends. LGBT’s have certainly fought for their recently acquired rights for a very long time. And as you have been able to read in this article, they are still doing so today. Creating new traditions and trends is therefore not yet really applicable.

Or is it? Are you in love and would you like to give your loved one a gold ring to ask him or her to marry you? Then allow yourself to be inspired by the 2018 trends for the perfect engagement ring. Are you fed up with being put in a box and would you like to very personally and expressively express what your loved one means to you? Then opt for a tailor-made engagement ring.

It goes without saying that BAUNAT’s experts will gladly assist you during this process. So be sure to take a look at our collection of engagement rings and wedding rings or contact us for more information.

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