March 22, 2011 – Monsters & Critics
Amsterdam looks to attract the pink dollar
by Thomas Burmeister
Amsterdam – Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular destinations, drawing millions of tourists each year looking to savour its tolerant and chilled-out atmosphere. The Dutch port city is also known as the ‘Gay Capital of the World’ but despite its reputation as a beacon of tolerance and diversity, a couple of high-profile attacks on homosexuals in recent years have led city officials to take steps to improve the situation.
Extra police patrols now protect gay tourists while a support programme is in place for the city’s gay community. Amsterdam has no distinct gay neighbourhood but instead bars and clubs are spread all over the city. The Dutch were one of the first countries in the world to pass equal civil rights laws for gays and lesbians, including same-sex marriage. ‘Amsterdam has now really become become the gay capital of the world,’ then city mayor Job Cohen said following the first such ceremony on April 1, 2001.
A decade has now passed since that momentous day and Amsterdam is using the anniversary to polish its slightly tarnished rainbow-friendly image. In 2008, a gay model was dragged down from the catwalk and attacked by a gang of young men during a show on a side street off Rembrandt Square while the world’s first gay marijuana bar ‘Downtown’ on Reguliersdwarsstraat has gone bust.
A noticeably increased security presence throughout the canal belt, including officers out of uniform, has improved safety for night revellers. The hospitality industry and retail sector has also been encouraged to improve its services for gay visitors. ‘It’s in all our interests that Amsterdam really shines as the world’s gay capital,’ says Iman Akel, the city official running the project. ‘After all, our experience shows that a gay tourist spends on average 30 per cent more than a heterosexual one.’
It’s not surprising that Amsterdam is such a draw for gay and lesbian visitors as the city has been a haven for tolerance ever since the city started to flourish in the 17th century. According to the city’s adverts, nowhere in Europe has such a variety of night-life and entertainment. Gay life in the metropole of 800,000 inhabitants can be found throughout the city. ‘We have over 100 gay bars, saunas, discotheques, escort services, clubs and gay hotels offering differing styles and in different price ranges. As the city isn’t that big, everywhere can be reached easily on foot,’ says Toni de Goede of the Gay Tourist Information Centre (Gay TIC) in Spuistraat.
Gay TIC is an officially recognised tourist office and has been operating Amsterdam trips since 2009. Visitors to the centre’s website (www.gaytic.nl) can order free brochures about exhibitions, city tours and gay venues. The service doesn’t restrict itself to pink issues and also organizes trips to the Rijksmuseum, home of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, and visits to the Heineken brewery.
The highlights of Amsterdam’s gay calendar are in summer and winter. The annual Gay Pride Week takes place in August with tens of thousands drawn to the city for street parties and other events, culminating with the famous Canal Parade on Saturday. During Advent, the Pink Christmas has a gay crib as well as a market featuring vendor stalls and gay-themed holiday card sales.
April 02, 2011 – On Top Magazine
Netherlands Celebrates 10 Years Of Gay Marriage
by On Top Magazine Staff
Gay marriage in the Netherlands celebrated its tenth anniversary Friday. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan marked the occasion with a wedding ceremony, the AFP reported. In marrying Jan van Breda and his partner Thijs Timmermans at the Museum of History, the mayor told the couple, “Your personal ceremony takes place in a wider context. It is exactly 10 years ago today that the first same-sex marriage was celebrated by my predecessor.”
Der Laan was referring to the world’s first legal gay marriage between Helene Faasen and Anne Marie Thus. The women married in a ceremony officiated by then-mayor Job Cohen after the Netherlands became the first country to legalize gay marriage. Cohen also married three male gay couples during the ceremony. Such marriages make up about 2 percent of the country’s total number of marriages between 2001 and 2010, nearly 15,000 couples, the news agency reported.
Nine other countries have followed the Netherlands’ lead, including Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina. The gay marriages of the autonomous city-state of Mexico City are recognized throughout the country. Five states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage in the United States. But despite 10 years of gay marriage Vera Bergkamp of the Amsterdam-based gay rights group COC says discrimination persists.
“Some officials still refuse to marry homosexual couples,” she told the AFP. “Having the right to get married does not necessarily mean that it is accepted by society. On this level, there is still work to be done.”