AMSTERDAM – “I think my friends are a little jealous, because I’ve got two mommies and two daddies and they’ve only got two parents,” said Simon, 6, squirming with his 3-year-old brother, Joaquin, on the knees of their four gay parents.
While Britain and France in the past week plodded ahead with gay marriage draft legislation, the first country in the world to legalize same-sex unions, the Netherlands, in 2001, is already one step ahead.
The Dutch Justice Ministry is about to commission a report examining the possibility of recognizing three parents or more for a single child, notably to protect so-called pink families.
Legally speaking, while Simon and Joaquin have four parents — two fathers, Joram and Guillermo, and two mothers, Karin and Evelien, all in their 30s — only the two women have the right to call themselves parents. The men cannot take major medical decisions for the children, and if the two die, the children will not have the usual inheritance rights.
If the couples were to have a bustup, Karin and Evelien would have the right to demand that Joram and Guillermo no longer play any role in the boys’ lives.
“The law is lagging behind reality,” said Joram. “What counts, as a parent or future parent, is wanting to raise children within a framework in which you have enormous trust.”
“Of course, you want to be recognized for everything you do for your child,” Guillermo said during a family stroll along one of Amsterdam’s canals. “Having children changes your life.”
The four were roommates during their time as students in Amsterdam, and the two couples remained friends afterward. When they decided to have children, they opted to do it together, rather than as two couples seeking adoption or a sperm donor.
“We wanted the children to know their parents — their mothers just as much as their fathers,” said Evelien.
Her partner, Karin, a doctor, recounts how the children were conceived at home through do-it-yourself artificial insemination. Evelien and Karin each gave birth to a child, one fathered by Joram and the other by Guillermo, but they do not want to reveal the biological parents of each child.
“What matters is that we’re all four of us their parents and that we love them,” said Karin.
The children spend the week with their mothers in the eastern city of Arnhem, which the two fathers visit every Thursday to look after them. Weekends are spent as a family of six, often in Amsterdam, in Joram and Guillermo’s apartment.
Holidays are also spent as a family, as are birthdays or parent-teacher meetings.
Changing the law on parenting will not only benefit pink families but also divorced parents who marry someone who takes on the role of parent, said Green party lawmaker Liesbeth van Tongeren, who submitted a parliamentary motion that the Justice Ministry agreed to investigate.
“We need to broaden the concept (of what constitutes a family) . . . no longer can you see parenting as a purely biological link or say that a child can only have two parents,” van Tongeren said, adding there are between 20,000 and 25,000 children living in pink families in the Netherlands.
However, Junior Justice Minister Fred Teveen pointed out during a debate in Parliament in October that there are potentially many practical objections to changing the law and that he would await the report’s conclusions.
Philip Tijsma, spokesman for the world’s oldest gay rights group, COC Nederland, said: “You won’t solve all the problems, there will always be conflicts. But in any case, there will be some security for the child, because they’ll know that their father or third mother can’t just disappear from their life one day to the next.”
As for Simon and Joaquin, they appear extremely pleased with their family. Evelien said: “One day, when Joaquin was at the creche, two girls wanted to play and they both wanted to be ‘mommy.’ He said, ‘Fine, we can do that, I have the same thing at home.’ “