• Stefanie and Mallory

Same sex marriage

Authors: Lyanne Spittje & Bastiaan Beth

The Netherlands has always been known for its progressive and tolerant stance in respect to freedom of choice. The Dutch are for instance free to choose their religion, political ideologies and life-partner. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. Therefore, it became the leading pioneer in the development of same-sex marriage legalization worldwide.

In 2000 the bill was approved by the senate, and by April 2001, the law was changed to ‘A marriage can be entered into by two persons of opposing or the same sex’, providing the legal framework for same-sex couples to be bound by marriage (Same-sex marriage, n.d.).

Because of the shared tolerance that the Dutch proudly have towards the outside world, the legalization is in line with Dutch public values, which makes this policy successful in a public value perspective. Bozeman (2007) sets out a theoretical framework to judge public value in policy making. He writes: “A society’s public values are those providing normative consensus about: (1) the rights, benefits, and prerogatives to which citizens should (and should not) be entitled; (2) the obligations of citizens to society, the state, and one another; and (3) the principles on which governments and policies should be based” (Bozeman, 2007).

To measure policy success in terms of public value, we will now dissect the policy into the categories mentioned above. First of all, there has to be a normative consensus about the rights, benefits and prerogatives. One could state that the Dutch are in general agreement of freedom of sexuality. The yearly Gay Pride Parades all over the country are proof that The Netherlands is not only well developed in the accepting of gay rights, but even celebrating them. The second category Bozeman mentioned consists of obligations. Shared rights are always accompanied by obligations to a second party. Once a person can claim a right, another person has the obligation to respect that right. In this case Dutch citizens have the obligation to respect same-sex marriage. Research done by CBS states that more than 90 percent of the Dutch population agrees with the statement: ‘Homosexual men and women should be free to live their live as they want to’ (Acceptatie van homoseksuelen, biseksuelen en transgenders in Nederland 2013, 2013). The third and last category is the basis of government policies. If these are based on shared principles, then the policy is formed according to public values. The principle of freedom is widely supported in the Netherlands, implicitly as well as explicitly, in the constitution. Implicitly by for example the way of thinking that is proven in surveys like the one mentioned above. Explicitly in the constitution like in Article 1 of the constitution which states that all people should be treated equally, no matter their religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex. All three categories have been positively checked off in the same-sex marriage case.

After legalization in The Netherlands, many other Western countries, like Belgium, Canada and Spain, followed. This could be due to a diffusion effect. Cairney and Heikkila (2014) state that: “Diffusion occurs if the probability of adoption of a policy by one governmental jurisdiction is influenced by the policy choices of other governments in the system”. Once a country passes a law, other countries could feel obliged to do so as well. Especially if other countries, in one way or another, feel related to the pioneer. By leading the way, The Netherlands could be a cause of the development in gay rights.


Acceptatie van homoseksuelen, biseksuelen en transgenders in Nederland 2013 (2013, April 10). Retrieved March 1, 2018, from

Bozeman, B. (2007). Public Values and Public Interest: Counterbalancing Economic Individualism. Washington D.C., USA: Georgetown University Press.

Cairney, P., & Heikkila, T. (2014, April 24). A Comparison of Theories of the Policy Process. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from

Same-sex marriage. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2018, from

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No694266)