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Netherlands approves same-sex marriage

PARIS, Sept. 13 -- The Netherlands has become the first country to allow same-sex couples to marry on the same terms as men and women, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The 190 to 33 vote marked the latest instance of the Dutch breaking social-policy barriers, joining liberal drug laws, legal prostitution and sanctioned euthanasia.

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It seemed certain to add to the Netherlands' reputation in Europe and beyond for enacting laws that many hail as signs of tolerance and others decry as laxity, the Post reported.

The vote was not unexpected, since the measure had attracted the support of all the parties in the governing coalition and even some members of the conservative opposition. But that hardly detracted from the historic significance of the measure or the emotional impact for gay and lesbian couples fighting for the right to wed legally.

The law must still be approved by the upper house, but that is considered a formality because that chamber cannot make amendments and has voiced no opposition. It will then be signed by the queen and will become law in January, a Dutch official told the Post.

Advocates of same-sex marriage in the United States expressed hope that the Dutch vote will spur moves toward similar measures in America's state capitals. In the meantime, it could bring some American gay and lesbian couples to the Netherlands to marry, they said. Getting those marriages recognized in the United States could become the next legal challenge. A s things now stand in the United States, only Vermont has gone as far as to recognize "civil unions" between same-sex couples.

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