20 years ago today, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize marriage equality
via Partij van de Arbeid / Flickr

One of the biggest changes in the developed world over the past 20 years has been the expansion of gay rights and the acceptance of the LGBT community. In the U.S., a poll conducted in 2004 found that Americans opposed gay marriage by a margin of 60% to 31%. By 2019, those numbers had flipped with 61% being pro-gay marriage 31% against.

One of the landmark moments in the fight for gay rights happened twenty years ago to the day, April 1, 2001, when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage.

It all began in the mid-'80s when a group of gay rights activists, headed by Henk Krol – then editor-in-chief of the "Gay Krant" – asked the government to allow same-sex couples to marry.


In 1995, the Dutch parliament created a commission to investigate the idea and in 1997, it decided that marriage rights should be extended to same-sex couples.

In September 2000, the final legislation draft was debated in the Dutch Parliament and it passed the House of Representatives by 109 votes to 33 and later, the Senate, by 49 votes to 26.

At the stroke of midnight on April 1, 2001, the mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen married four gay couples in a joint ceremony.

"There are two reasons to rejoice,″ Cohen told the newlyweds before pink champagne and pink cake were served. ″You are celebrating your marriage, and you are also celebrating your right to be married.″

Gert Kasteel and Dolf Pasker were among the four couples to be married by the mayor that day. "It is very nice to look back to see how young we were," he said watching a video of the ceremony.

"I'm very proud that it's possible," Kasteel told Reuters. "that we could play a little part of it. We made history."

Since the Netherlands legalized gay marriage, it has been made legal in 28 countries worldwide as well as the self-governing island of Taiwan.

The Netherlands marked the anniversary by floating a massive inflatable pink cake with candles spouting rainbow flames through Amsterdam's canals and flying a large gay pride flag from the church next to the Anne Frank House.

"Nearly 30 countries followed the Netherlands so that's really very nice. Very good for the gay people and for society as a whole, I think because it's important that everyone in society feels at home," Pasker said.

Amsterdam's mayor celebrated the occasion by noting that the gay rights movement has only just begun. "At the same time it is a moment to recognize that the struggle is not yet over; not worldwide, not nationally, but also not in Amsterdam," Mayor Femke Halsema told The Associated Press.

Gay marriage is still illegal in over 70 countries across the globe. In eight of them, homosexuality is punishable by death.

"If you had told me 20 years ago that today same-sex marriage would be a reality in 29 countries, I would not have believed you," Jessica Stern, executive director of the global LGBTQ-rights group OutRight Action International.

"The progress has been great, no doubt. But we have a long road ahead," Stern said.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less