AMSTERDAM – Twenty years ago, just after the stroke of midnight on April 1, the mayor of Amsterdam married four couples in City Hall as the Netherlands became the first country in the world with legalized same-sex marriages.
"There are two reasons to rejoice,″ Mayor Job Cohen told the newlyweds before pink champagne and pink cake were served. ″You are celebrating your marriage, and you are also celebrating your right to be married.″
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 28 countries worldwide, as well as the self-governing island of Taiwan. That includes most of Western Europe. Yet its spread has been uneven — Taiwan is the only place in Asia to take the step; South Africa is the only African country to do so.
“If you had told me 20 years ago that today same-sex marriage would be a reality in 29 countries, I would not have believed you,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the global LGBTQ-rights group OutRight Action International.
But she noted how polarized the world is regarding LGBTQ acceptance, with nearly 70 countries continuing to criminalize same-sex relations.
“The progress has been great, no doubt. But we have a long road ahead,” Stern said.
In many countries, even outside of Asia and Africa, opposition to marriage equality remains vehement. In Guatemala, some lawmakers have proposed a bill that would explicitly ban same-sex marriage. In Poland, President Andrzej Duda was reelected last year after a campaign depicting the LGBTQ rights movement as more harmful than communism.
Poland is among a solid bloc of Eastern European countries that have resisted same-sex marriage, while 16 countries in Western Europe have legalized it.