By Rex Wockner
International News Report
Two American women from Provincetown, Massachusetts, have gotten married in Amsterdam.
It is full marriage identical in every respect to heterosexual marriage. The Netherlands is the only nation where that is possible. Foreigners, gay or straight, can marry in The Netherlands after they have lived there for four months.
Heather Wishik and Susan Donegan, both attorneys, tied the knot on July 31.
"Susan has been practicing law there for a year and a half ... and is a resident of Amsterdam," Wishik said in an Aug. 10 phone call from Provincetown, where the couple has a home. "We were the first foreigners to marry at the Zuider Amstel town hall in the southern part of Amsterdam. It seemed important to us that the Dutch law is exactly the same [for gays and straights].
"It felt to us like there was a way to be ordinary and a lesbian couple in a new way," Wishik said. "It was a real extension of Dutch fairness and choice. We found it a delightful process. The town hall clerks never raised an eyebrow. They were cordial, gracious, welcoming, wonderful."
Wishik is in the process of establishing residency in The Netherlands, to join Donegan full-time, "and she gets to come in on my visa," Donegan said.
In fact, Massachusetts generally recognizes marriages from elsewhere even if those marriages could not have taken place in Massachusetts.
"Massachusetts has -- or at least had -- a law that forbids uncles from marrying nieces and aunts from marry nephews," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "There was a case where an aunt married her nephew in England and later moved to Massachusetts and the question was, what was Massachusetts going to do about that, since that marriage could not have been entered into in Massachusetts. The court ruled that since that marriage was not void by the laws of England, it did not feel warranted in saying the parties were not husband and wife. The general rule that Massachusetts follows is that if a marriage was legal in the place where it was entered into, Massachusetts will recognize it and treat it as a valid marriage, even if the couple couldn't have gotten married in Massachusetts."
The particular question of whether Massachusetts -- or any other U.S. state -- will recognize same-sex marriages from other nations has never been answered by a court, Davidson said, "because until The Netherlands, no country allowed equal marriage rights for same-sex couples."
Gay couples gained access to ordinary marriage in The Netherlands on April 1 of this year.
Several other nations have partnership laws for gay and lesbian couples that grant up to 99 percent of the rights and obligations of marriage. Except within Scandinavia, those partnerships are not necessarily recognized across international lines.
Nations that grant many or nearly all marriage rights to same-sex couples (but do not let them get married under the same laws as heterosexuals) include Canada, Denmark (and Greenland), France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and, in the United States, the state of Vermont.