Monday, August 22, 2005

Lesbian Couple Caught in Aruba-Netherlands Rift

(Link) Aruba welcomes legally-married couple with rock-throwing, tire-slashing protests. "I felt like maybe they wanted to kill us."


LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Peter Prengaman
Associated Press

ORANJESTAD, Aruba -- When two women tried to register as a married couple in Aruba last year, people on this Dutch island threw rocks at them, slashed their car tires and protested outside Parliament against gay unions.

The hostility eventually led Charlene and Esther Oduber-Lamers to flee the Caribbean territory, which refused to recognize their marriage even though the couple legally wed in the Netherlands four years ago.

"I couldn't sleep anymore,'' Charlene, a 33-year-old Aruba native, said from Holland, where the couple have lived since November. "I felt like maybe they wanted to kill us."

Their fight to force Aruba's government to recognize their marriage has underlined a deep cultural rift between liberal Holland and its conservative former colony.

"If we accept gay marriage, would we next have to accept Holland's marijuana bars and euthanasia?'' government spokesman Ruben Trapenberg said. "They have their culture; we have ours."

Ruling expected Tuesday

After the Public Registry rejected the couple's marriage certificate, they sued, accusing Aruba's government of discrimination. An island court ruled that their union should be recognized.

The government appealed, and a ruling is expected Tuesday.

Aruba, just off Venezuela's northern coast, was once a Dutch colony but is now an autonomous republic within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Dutch law requires the kingdom's three parts -- the Netherlands, Aruba and the Dutch Antilles -- to recognize each other's legal documents, including marriage certificates. But Aruba's government says the law also grants the island self-rule.

LNewsEditor said...

UPDATE: Washington Blade

A lesbian couple has the right to register their marriage in Aruba, a court ruled Tuesday, rejecting a government appeal in a case that has exposed a cultural rift between Holland and its former colony.

Aruba's Superior Court confirmed a lower court's December ruling that the Caribbean island should register the marriage of Charlene and Esther Oduber-Lamers, who were wed in Holland in 2001.

"The Dutch marriage can be inscribed in the register," read the decision. "Since Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it must comply with demands of the Kingdom."

The Aruban government now has three months to take the case to Holland's Supreme Court, which it has promised to do.

"We give neither legal nor moral recognition to same-sex marriages," Ruben Trapenberg, spokesman for Aruban Prime Minister Nelson Oduber, said Tuesday.

The women are currently living in Holland and were not immediately available for comment, but the Dutch group Lesbian and Bisexual Federation of the Netherlands praised the ruling.

"It acknowledges that gays and lesbians in Aruba have rights," said Andre van Wanrooij, a spokesman for the Holland-based group.

The women sued Aruba's government for discrimination last year after the Public Registry rejected their marriage certificate. The government argued the civil code did not allow for same-sex marriage and that it would go against Aruba's way of life.

Not having their marriage recognized meant Esther could not get health benefits from Charlene's job at the Aruban Department of Social Affairs or stay on the island for more than six months a year under Aruban immigration laws.

Charlene, a 33-year-old Aruba native, and Esther, a 38-year-old Dutch citizen, fled the island for Holland in November after being harassed when they tried to register as a married couple.

Aruba, which lies off the northern coast of Venezuela, is an autonomous republic that forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Dutch statutes require that all members of the Kingdom — Aruba, Holland and the Dutch Antilles — recognize each other's legal documents, including marriage certificates.

Holland legalized gay marriage in 2001, but Aruban officials argue that Dutch law also grants the island the right to self-rule — permitting it to ignore Holland's legalization of gay marriage.

Behind the dispute are deep cultural differences between Holland and Aruba, which shares more with Latin America than Europe.

While Dutch is the official language, most Arubans speak Papiamento, a Creole language that has absorbed words from Spanish, Dutch, English and Portuguese.

More than 80 percent of the island's 97,000 people are Catholic, and the largest number of immigrants come from Venezuela and Colombia.

Few people are openly gay on the island, and locals say many gay residents move to Holland rather than face persecution at home.