Eerste homohuwelijk

The first same-sex marriage was solemnised on 6 June 2003 in Kapellen | private collection Marion Huibrechts

Meaning & Religion
Read aloud

Same-Sex Marriage

LGBTQ+, from Discrimination to Emancipation

They rewrote history with a simple ‘I do’. On 6 June 2003 two brides married each other in Kapellen. It was the first marriage between lesbians in Belgium. A week later two men married for the first time.

Read aloud

That made Belgium, after the Netherlands, the second country in the world where people of the same sex could get married. For the LGBTQ+ movement that was an important breakthrough. In the political world and in the press there was little further opposition.

In the following years the authorities in Belgium took further steps in the field of rights for the LGBTQ+ communityEnglish abbreviation standing for: lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and all people who are not heterosexual. . Since 2006 same-sex couples have been able to adopt. In 2006 and again in 2018 it was made easier for transgender individuals to change their official sex registration. Today there are same-sex marriages in most countries in the European Union. Worldwide, however, people are still being discriminated against or even persecuted because of their sexuality or gender identitythe degree to which one feels a man, a woman or neither. .

Het Roze Huis in Antwerpen.

Ghent, Fonds Suzan Daniel

In 2000 Het Roze Huis (The Pink House) opened on the Draakplaats in Antwerp. Nationally it played a pioneering role in various fields of action, such as initiatives for specific target groups (the elderly, new Flemings…) and international solidarity.

Read aloud

LGBTQ+, from Discrimination to Emancipation

The struggle for rights for LGBTQ+ in Belgium and Flanders only really got going after the Second World War. The theme became the subject of debate in 1965, when the Belgian parliament passed a new law on youth protection. The law allowed heterosexual activity for minors over 16, but forbade homosexual activity before 18.

Not only before the law, but also in daily life, LGBTQ+ were discriminated against at that time. A teacher in a homosexual relationship, for example, risked dismissal. But the law of 1965 gave extra momentum to the debate. Homosexuality appeared for the first time as a theme in the media, in, for example, television broadcasts. Homosexuals and lesbians took to the streets to protest. In 1985, while the controversial clause in the law was dropped, that was not the end of discriminationexclusion or negative treatment of people on the basis of social status, gender or faith. . The spread of the hitherto unknown disease AIDS, at the beginning of the 1980s again fanned the flames of discrimination.

From the mid-1990s on the tide turned. The Flemish government involved LGBTQ+ in its equal opportunities policy and gave a voice to organisations from civil society and academics. In subsequent years the Belgian government carried through a number of decisive legal reforms. That led in 1998 to a measure on legal cohabitation and in 2003 the possibility of marriage for people of the same sex. New legislation made discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal, and since 2013 also on the basis of gender identity. However, despite legal equality LGBTQ+ people remain confronted with discrimination and homophobia.

Focal points

Brandstapel 1578.

Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, RP-P-OB-78.784-179

Etching by Frans Hogenberg, 1578-1580. In 1578 in Bruges, under Calvinist rule, a sensational sodomy trial took place involving a group of Catholic monks. Twelve monks were banished from the town, five were tortured, and three were sentenced to be burnt at the stake.

Read aloud

Sodomy, a Biblical Sin

The idea that something like ‘sexual orientation’ exists, and that it is not the same for everyone, came up in the 19th century and was only accepted in the 20th century. For centuries people thought quite differently about sexuality. The only function of sex, from a religious and juridical point of view, was reproduction and not pleasure. Sinful, forbidden sexual activities were branded as sodomyafter the Biblical towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, who because of their sinful behaviour were punished with destruction by God. . Not only homosexuality, but also masturbation and child sexual abuse fell under this heading.

In the Middle Ages sodomy was severely punished. For example, in 1292 the knife-maker Jean de Wettre was burnt alive on the Blandijnberg in Ghent ‘for unnatural pleasure with a certain man’. As far as is known, this is the first punishment for sodomy in the region that is now Flanders. Other punishments were banning or whipping. In the southern part of the Low Countries over 200 trials took place, in which 406 men and women were accused. 252 of them paid with their lives. That is a very large number, compared with other areas in Europe.

From the 18th century on, in the period of the Enlightenment, the authorities opted for more discreet punishments, such as imprisonment and exile. In 1795 the French revolutionaries removed intercourse between members of the same sex from the criminal code. Immoral disturbance of public order remained an offence. The broad interpretation of that concept forced homosexuals for a long time to keep their relationships hidden.

Suzan Daniel.

Ghent, Fonds Suzan Daniel

Suzanne De Pues (1918-2007), pseudonym Suzan Daniel, leading light of the first pioneering association for homosexuals in Belgium.



Read aloud

LGBTQ+ Pioneers

The history of the LGBTQ+ movement(s) in Flanders was one of trial and error. The first association for homosexuals and lesbians was founded in Brussels in the 1950s. What was unique in Europe was that the founder was a woman, Suzan Daniel. Not everyone agreed with her militant approach. A little later the Cultural and Relaxation Centre was set up by men, which focused more on leisure activities. In 1961 a Flemish branch was set up in the Antwerp district of Zurenborg.

In the 1970s the LGBTQ+ movement profiled itself as a new social movement. The Federation of Workgroups on Homosexuality tried to act as an umbrella organisation. Other groups, like the left-wing Red Moth, which in 1978 took the initiative for the first ‘homo day’ in Ghent, were more radical. The 1970s also saw the appearance of the first associations exclusively for lesbians, such as Sappho in Ghent and Atthis in Antwerp.

After a period of fragmentation in the 1990 the movement gained a second wind. In 1990 the first Homo and Lesbian Day was organised in Antwerp and six years later in Brussels the first Pink Saturday (the precursor of Belgian Pride). The various organisations now fought together for equal rights and hence carried more weight in political decision-making.

Since 2010 scores of associations and five rainbow houses have joined Cavaria, an umbrella organisation which supports the rights and the welfare of LGBTQ+ people in Flanders and Brussels.

Colard Mansion, ‘Dood van Orpheus’. (In: Metamorfosen van Ovidius, Brugge, 1484.) Middeleeuwse afbeeldingen van mannelijke intimiteit zijn zeldzaam. Hier wordt de mythologische held Orpheus gestenigd omdat hij, na de dood van zijn geliefde Eurydice, voor de mannenliefde koos.
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, ark:/12148/bpt6k8523959

Colard Mansion, ‘Death of Orpheus’ (in: Metamorphoses of Ovid, Bruges, 1484) Medieval depictions of male intimacy are rare. Here the mythological hero Orpheus is stoned to death because after the death of his beloved Eurydice he opted for male love.

Gespreksavond Diest.
Ghent, Amsab-ISG, af007318

Poster of the Humanistisch Verbond (Humanist League) for a discussion evening on homosexuality in Diest in 1982.

The best-known song of the Ghent singer Will Ferdy (the stage name of Werner Ferdinande, 1927-2022) is still ‘Christine’. Apparently dedicated to a woman, the song is actually about Ferdy’s break-up with a male lover. In 1970 Will Ferdy was the first celebrity to out himself as gay on radio and television. His admission was very brave and many people felt supported in taking the same step.

Wikimedia Commons, Filip Naudts, CC BY-SA 4.0

Hilde Rens (1972-2009), stage name Yasmine, was one of the first Flemish celebrities to openly admit her lesbian orientation. Numbers like ‘Deep in me’ (1995) and ‘Porcelain’ (1997) were very successful. Her sudden death in 2009 prompted strong reactions.

James Ensor, De baden van Oostende, 1890. Ensor alludeerde in zijn strandpanorama ook op het beruchte erotische standje soixante-neuf (69) en lijkt te spotten met de preutsheid van toen door twee mannelijke pootjesbaders met elkaar te laten zoenen.
Ostend, Mu.ZEE,, Cedric Verhelst

James Ensor, The Baths of Ostend, 1890. In his beach panorama Ensor alluded to the notorious sexual position of soixante-neuf (69) and seems to be making fun of the prudery of the time by having two male paddlers kiss each other.

Wielrenster Elvire De Bruyn (1914-1989) uit Erembodegem bij Aalst, wereldkampioene wielrennen bij de vrouwen in 1934 en 1936, veranderde in 1937 van geslacht en werd toen Willy De Bruyn.
Ghent, Fonds Suzan Daniel

Cycle racer Elvire De Bruyn (1914-1989) from Erembodegem near Aalst, world champion cyclist for women in 1934 and 1936, changed sex in 1937 and became Willy De Bruyn.

Discover more on this topic

Homo Paula Semer
Histories – De historie van de Holebi

Bron: VRT archief – 2 dec 2004

Histories – De historie van de Holebi

Bron: VRT archief – 2 dec 2004

Homoseksualiteit 1
Diagnose van het anders-zijn

Bron: VRT archief – 1 dec 1966

Homoseksualiteit 2
Diagnose van het anders-zijn

Bron: VRT archief – 1 dec 1966

Meer vrouw op straat – Brussel

Bron: VRT archief, De chinezen – 10 maart 2020


De kleur van de stad maakt mijn ziel amoureus. Een LGBTQ-stadskroniek van Antwerpen

Kartonnen Dozen, 2021. 

Van alle tijden, in alle culturen: wereldgeschiedenis van de homoseksualiteit

Nieuw Amsterdam, 2006. 

Asselbergs Linda & Van Tongerloo Corinne
Casablanca voorbij. Het bewogen levensverhaal van Corinne Van Tongerloo

Kartonnen Dozen, 2017. 

Borghs Paul
Holebipioniers een geschiedenis van de holebi- en transgenderbeweging in Vlaanderen

EPO, 2015. 

David Ann & Meyntjens Mips
Oud is out. Ervaringen van lesbische en biseksuele vrouwen, geboren voor 1945

Uitgeverij ’t Verschil, 2019. 

Dupont Wannes, Hofman Elwin & Roelens Jonas
Verzwegen verlangen. Een geschiedenis van homoseksualiteit in België

Uitgeverij Vrijdag, 2017. 

Moens Filip
De Lage Landen uit de kast: pink power en popmuziek

Ertsberg, 2022. 

Peumans Wim
Habibi. Het lief en leed van lgbt-moslims

Uitgeverij Vrijdag, 2021. 

Trommelmans Wim
Vlaanderen vrijt! 50 jaar seks in Vlaanderen

Steam en Van Halewyck, 2006. 


De Coster Saskia

Das Mag, 2019. 

Lanoye Tom
Kartonnen dozen

Prometheus, 1991. 

Minne Brigitte
Paultje, echt geen jongen

De Eenhoorn, 2016. (13+) 

Moeyaert Bart
Dani Bennoni

Querido, 2010. (13+) 

Mortier Erwin
De spiegelingen

De Bezige Bij, 2013. 

Sax Aline

Davidsfonds Infodok, 2022. (16+) 

Nu kijken

De jaren 50

Van Ҫavaria, over de geschiedenis van de LGBT-beweging in Vlaanderen

De jaren 80

Van Ҫavaria, over de geschiedenis van de LGBT-beweging in Vlaanderen

De jaren 90

Van Ҫavaria, over de geschiedenis van de LGBT-beweging in Vlaanderen

De jaren 00

Van Ҫavaria, over de geschiedenis van de LGBT-beweging in Vlaanderen

Meer kijk/luister materiaal

Nelly & Nadine