The gay rights movement has been campaigning for equal rights for gay people since the early 60’s. However, one of their most significant victories has only recently come about: same-sex marriage. Although the groups are still active and campaigning around the world, Belgium can look back on its history with a progressive glimmer, as it was the second country to allow gay marriage and one of the first to legalise homosexuality.
Although acceptable in antiquity, homosexuality was associated with sin in Christian Europe and was repressed throughout the era. After the age of enlightenment and the many revolutions across Europe, homosexuality became legal in some societies, like France, and this extended to Belgium as it were under French dominion; which allowed same-sex relations as early as 1795. This is in stark contrast to other European nations, as places like the UK only made homosexuality legal in 1967.
Same-sex unions, however, were a separate issue, and these laws were not revised in Europe until the beginning of the 21st century, with The Netherlands being the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Once enacted, this created a domino effect across Europe, with Belgium following the Netherlands just two years after, in 2003; having had domestic partnership benefits since 2000.
This move ensured that gay people in Belgium have all the same marital, adoption, and anti discrimination rights as everyone else. And this sentiment is reflected in Belgian society, as the country had one of the first openly gay prime ministers, Elio Di Rupo, as well as two openly gay ministers.
And as of now, 15 out of the 25 countries that have legalised same-sex marriage worldwide are situated in Europe, with many more European countries seeking to bring in the legislation shortly. But this also coincides with the fact that many European countries have banned same-sex marriage, with Slovakia enacting the law as recently as 2014 and Hungary having repealed previously enstated rights that allow gay marriage and protect gay couples from discrimination.
So for gay activists, they continue to campaign for equal rights across Europe, but at least for the citizens of Belgium, people are free to live and express themselves however they see fit and live in a society that judges them not on preferences, but on the weight of their character.