Four homosexual couples married in The Netherlands just minutes after legislation came into effect which allows same-sex couples to marry legally in a civil ceremony. It is the first time such a law, which gives married gay couples parity with their heterosexual counterparts, has been introduced anywhere in the world. The legislation, which came into effect at midnight, gives all couples, irrespective of sexual preference, equal rights including the right to adopt children and to civil divorce. The Netherlands is the first country to bestow such rights on homosexual couples, but only Dutch residents will be able to avail of the new legislation.

Four couples were married at Amsterdam City Hall on the stroke of midnight by Mayor Job Cohen, the former Justice Minister who introduced the legislation approved by Dutch senators last December. The word "partner" will now replace the traditional terms of Man/Woman, or Mother/Father which previously took precedence in legal documents. Anne-Marie Thus, who married Helene Faasen during the ceremony, said that they would now be able to adopt her nine-month-old son.