The Belgian senate has approved a bill which recognises same sex marriage. The bill, which gives homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones, was approved yesterday 46 votes to 15, with four abstentions.

If the bill is passed by the Lower House, Belgium will become the second country in Europe to allow gay marriage. The Netherlands accepted similar legislation in 2000.

The Belgian version would be open to people of any nationality, unlike the Dutch version.

But the new legislation would not allow gay couples to adopt children, and only the mother of a child being raised by a lesbian couple would be considered a parent.