By Yoruk Bahceli
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – As a rainbow-colored flotilla paraded through Amsterdam’s canals for the city’s annual Gay Pride festival on Saturday, one float carried a sobering reminder that gay rights do not extend to all in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Although the Netherlands itself became the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001, the three Caribbean members of the larger Kingdom — Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten — have yet to follow suit, reflecting cultural taboos in the mostly Catholic island nations.
That leaves the Kingdom, famed for its tolerant stance on marijuana and euthanasia, apparently less progressive on gay rights than Ireland, where voters approved gay marriage in a referendum in May, and the United States, where the Supreme Court upheld a constitutional right to gay marriage in June.
“We don’t have equal rights in our kingdom for gay and transgender citizens,” said Koen van Dijk of COC, the main Dutch gay rights organization.
Although laws on the three islands are based on Dutch law, they do not include the key provisions the Netherlands made in 2001 removing distinctions between men and women in marriage.
After a six-year legal fight, Aruba has recently begun registering gay marriages as legal partnerships if they were performed on the mainland. But same-sex couples cannot benefit from social security and other rights granted to heterosexual couples, and anti-gay bias is a reality of Antillean social and political life.
“We want to have the same legislation throughout our kingdom. That would empower all gay and transgender organizations in addressing the question of social acceptance”, said Ramona Pikeur, director of Caribbean gay rights organization Dushi & Proud.
Pikeur was one of the organizers of the boat on Saturday, along with other Caribbean and Dutch gay organizations and the Dutch government.
The Dutch government says it is seeking dialogue, rather than confrontation, with the island nations to promote gay rights and acceptance of gay marriage.
(Editing by Toby Sterling and Raissa Kasolowsky)