Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie Thus were wed alongside three pairs of grooms in Amsterdam in front of the then-mayor Job Cohen in 2001, and the women still recall their historic moment through their own modern-day activism.
“We married for love, not politics,” says 41-year-old Anne-Marie, but her marriage with Helene nevertheless made an impact on LGBT politics and history around the world. To date, there are a total of ten countries that have legalized marriage for gay and lesbian couples, including Belgium, Spain, Canada, and Portugal. The Netherlands was the first to do so a decade ago in 2001, and since then, nearly 15,000 couples have wed there—about 2% of the total marriages performed up to 2010. According to the Advocate, 20% of gay and lesbian couples in the country are married.
Helene and Anne-Marie wed on the same day that marriage for gays and lesbians became legal there. The couple now lives in Maastricht, in the southern part of the country, with their two children—ten-year-old Nathan and nine-year-old Myrthle. “Like many other people, we have a family, work, a house, a dog and two rabbits,” said Anne-Marie, who met what she describes as “the love of my life” on a blind date in 1998. “We were lucky that others had taken up the fight and made it possible for us to get married.” Argentina became the most recent country to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples, in July 2010.
Still, even those countries with marriage equality encounter discrimination towards their LGBT populations. According to the Associated Press, a study by the justice ministry in the Netherlands found that 70% of LGBT citizens had faced physical or verbal violence in their lives. Another study found that 50% of the population objected to two men kissing in public.
Helene and Anne-Marie will celebrate their anniversary by attending a special photo exhibition by the Amsterdam city council that commemorates their historic marriage.
Are you part of a committed gay or lesbian couple? GLAAD has strived for LGBT couples in the past to tell their stories and share their love with the world through projects such as “Announcing Equality.” Share your own story in the comments below!