A Marriage Made Up?

Mirjam, Victor and Bianca on their wedding day

Our most widely read article so far was the story of Victor de Bruijn, the Dutchman who recently “married” two women, Mirjam and Bianca, in one go. We explained in the article that in the Netherlands, as in Belgium and in Spain, homosexuals are allowed to marry, i.e. in a regular marriage which has been given the same legal value and follows exactly the same procedures as a regular marriage between a man and a woman. No pseudo-marriages or so-called “civil unions” are needed for this.

When more than two people are involved marriage as such is not (yet?) allowed in the Netherlands. Citizens who want to formalize their relationship with multiple partners can opt for what the Dutch call a samenlevingscontract or “cohabitation contract,” which is the civil union that some in the US are proposing as a pseudo-marriage for gays. This is what Victor and his women did when they went to a notary in their wedding outfits to exchange rings.

A number of leftist and/or pro-gay American websites are now in complete denial. They are writing that we “made this story up.” According to Andrew Sullivan the story is a “canard peddled by the religious right […] It’s completely bogus.” Wish that was the case.

Victor and his “wives” have meanwhile returned from their “honeymoon”, which the three of them spent in typically Dutch fashion: in a caravan. In the Dutch Parliament an MP for the Reformed Political Party SGP, Cees Van der Staaij, has asked the Dutch minister of Justice, Piet-Hein Donner, to prohibit samenlevingscontracten between more than two partners.

The SGP also wants the minister to dissolve the union between Victor and Mirjam and Bianca. “If this construction before the notary is legal, then it is a means of circumventing the prohibition of polygamy. This can and may not happen,” Van der Staaij says.

Van der Staaij’s party, the SGP, a small Calvinist party, has problems of its own, however, which we have also reported. Last month a Dutch court ruled that the Dutch state should stop funding the party because it refuses to put forward women candidates for election. This, according to the court, is a violation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

"I don't know" # 2

@ timada

If it's supposed to be all about 'love', why do they need a legal institution?  Luuuu...ve is supposed to be 'free'.  And who are you (or anyone else) to make judgments about other people's 'love'? 

And, if we don't need clear rules about legal institutions, why have them (i.e. legal institutions)  at all?  If it's only a matter of "each person's decision", why do we need 'law' at all?  We just make it up as we feel every moment?

Are you so sure that "their own choice" will "ONLY" affect their lives?    Perhaps, an introduction to the complex workings of the social security system of the Netherlands might 'turn on the light' in your brain? 

"Marriage", in a legal sense, SHOULD be about the protection of dependent children (issuing from the marriage, sorry from the 'love').  If it's about anything else in confused brains, it becomes an arbitrary legal discrimination for which others will have to 'pay' in more ways than you can imagine.     

I don't know why all this

I don't know why all this fuss about this trio marriage. Good for them. It's their own choice that affects only their lives. Not mine, not yours. And I don't know what some of the people think about when they say 'Save Marriage' 'protect marriage' 'Ban gay marriage' bla bla bla... Marriage it's about love and it should really be each person's decision. If that's what they want, I don't understand why we should deny that to the trio couples, to the gay people and so on.  

abolish marriage

Where would the quite libertarian viewpoint lead us that in this world of Babylonian and moral confusion and diffusion, legislation of civil marriage be abolished totally, and replaced by a legal confirmation of any cohabitation contract instituted by any moral platform?
A Catholic can thus respect the catholic version of marriage and be obliged to live up to it. A Muslim too. Homo's and other fantasy morals would be obliged to found its own moral platform, being the left church, and thus it would be easier, for more issues than marriage alone, to separate state and church.

So, what's the problem?

First: Islam allows polygamy too. According to the Q'oran, a man is allowed to marry up to four wives. In islamic countries polygamy is widespread. Also in other cultures (e.g. in Africa) polygamy is a common and accepted cultural practice. The christian claim to have the monopoly on deciding what is morally right or wrong - e.g. with respect to marriage practices - is therefore utterly arrogant and disrespectful to other cultures or individuals who do not endorse, or even reject narrow-minded, religious right wing doctrines.

Second: what exactly is the problem? Why are all these sexually obsessed religious right-wing bigots so concerned with the marital en sexual lives of others who do not endorse their doctrines or even reject them? It would be a relief to all of us, if you religious right wing nutters would stay out of our bedrooms and mind their your own business.


When Dutch cohabitors register their living arrangement, they gain advantages in terms of social programs and labor agreement provisions that are intended for dependant couples. When living together implies quasi-marriage, then, government registeration does suggest more than a mere agreement to live as roomies.

To that extent, cohabitation contract, when registered, is closer to civil union than some might argue.

On the other hand, Vermont-style civil union is a merger of non-marriage with marital status, in all but name. The rationale for restricting Civil Union to just two adults is not provided in the legislation; it is simply twinned with marital status' restriction to one man and one woman.

Minus the presumption of procreativity, this merger of marital status and civil union status leaves vulnerable the basis for the binary nature of the recognized relationship. Marriageability becomes defined by adult consent and choice rather than the integration of the sexes and the presumption of procreativity.

Reciprocal Beneficiaries, in Hawaii for example, is a status that explicitly is NOT for pairs who'd be eligible to marry. It is not quasi-marriage and does not presume sexual relations or romantic involvement between the beneficiaries. It bestows benefits, mostly economic, and is available only to an adult who is not already married and is not already a reciprocal beneficiary with someone else.

Beneficiaries get a status that reflects mutual dependancy rather than co-residency or co-ownership of a residence. Of course, many such voluntary arrangements exist without registeration, but state recognition provides advantages in terms of social programs as well as employee contracts. This status is much more inclusive of non-marriageable pairs regardless of sex combination -- than would be SSM.

A bigger difference with Dutch cohabitation contract is that it is not restricted to the number two nor is it limited by marital status or quasi-marital status (such as registered partnership). Couples who occupy a single bedroom unit might be restrict by property or health bylaws, but not by a binary requirement. More room at home means more room for more cohabitors. Adult consent to contract leaves the door open to quasi-marriage of multiples.


YIKES!!!!! These women are uuuuugly!!!!!

Hey, what's all the fuss about, let Victor have them! He's doing society a favour!!!


Of all the good looking women from 18-80 in The Netherlands one can see all over the place from the local Greek Restaurant to riding their bicycle, Victor seems to have two of the least Dutch looking women I have see not wearing a hijab.

Samenlevenscontract != civil union

The dutch system knows 4 different forms in which people can structure their relationships. Marriage, registered partnership (which corresponds to civil union), a samenlevingscontract and just cohabitation without legal ties.

More information (in Dutch only, sorry) can be found at

http://www.justitie.nl/Images/trouwen_tcm74-31535.pdf More specifically page 3 and 4 under the heading 'Different forms of living together' and 'Who can engange in which kind of form of legal relationship'

The anonymous liberal you point to is completly right.

A matter of terminology

Re: "civil union." It is a matter of terminology whether you translate the Dutch concept of "registered partnership" or that of "cohabitation contract" or both by the American concept of "civil union". In Belgium, by the way, the word "cohabitation contract" is used for what the Dutch call a "registered partnership."

What this all boils down to is that when you abolish the concept of marriage as an institution between "one man and one woman," you can as easily replace it by an institution between "one man and one man", "one woman and one woman," or "one man and two women" etc. Why would the restriction of the marriage institution to two partners be more crucial to the institution than the restriction to two sexes? If the marriage institution is of a man-made order one can, indeed, change it in whatever way one likes - which is exactly what the Dutch are doing by allowing a "samenlevingscontract" between a man and two women.

I have never made (overtly or covertly) the so-called
slippery slope argument, which says that gay marriage will lead to
polygamy. On the contrary, I think that the argument cannot be right
for the simple reason that polygamy is more "natural" than
homosexuality. The case of Victor and his two women, however, is a
mixture of both: the women are "bisexual" and the three sleep together,
which is not the case in polygamous relationships where the partners
involved are heterosexual. Perhaps Bianca and Mirjam are the ones that
are really "married" here and Victor is just an onlooker.

Precise wording is important

Especially if you are the main source for the whole English speaking blogosphere regarding this issue.

A samenlevingscontract is NOT a replacement for marriage but a private contract regarding financial and material matters between people who live together. In the overwhelming majority of cases people sign a samenlevingscontract because they are buying a house (together). A comparable thing exists in all free countries. For example in the US it is commonly called a property agreement.

A civil union though, as Wikipedia makes clear here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_union is much more than that. It grants, by law, rights regarding not only common property, but also regarding inheritance, parenthood of children within the relationship, testimony before court, responsability for your partner, common liability and much more.

So please read all the links I gave and you can only come to one conclusion : that what the dutch call a samenlevingscontract is what Americans refer to as a property agreement. And that what Americans call a civil union is in fact a registered partnership in the Netherlands. And the two are very different indeed.

Put in those terms I am sure most people who are abhorred of the idea that the Netherlands is on the path towards polygamy would not feel the same repulsion towards their 3 old ladies down the street who decided to go live together after their respective husbands died and thus closed a property agreement, while it is exactly the same thing.

I will respond regarding the slippery slope paragraph in a different message.