Netherlands: is a “Registered Friendship” eligible for tax privileges?

In 2001, the Netherlands were the first country in the world to legally re-define marriage, reducing it to a committed relationship of two adult persons, and thus unlinking it from procreation, which had until then been considered its primary purpose. It seems inevitable that this new concept is not going to survive for long.

As a Dutch website reports, a notary public from Amsterdam is now examining the idea of a “Registered Friendship”, i.e. a new type of contract that two (or more?) persons could conclude to give a more formal and official character to their friendship.

This follows the exactly same line of reasoning that was used to introduce the idea of same-sex “marriages”, i.e. that “committed relationships are worthy of legal recognition, protection, and support”.

In the Netherlands, as elsewhere, the legal order in principle recognizes the freedom of contract as a fundamental right, so that people can go to a notary and sign whatever contract they like, as long as it is not contrary to the public order. The purpose of the “registered friendship”, however, appears to e somewhat different: rather than just producing a commitment between the persons concerned, those promoting the idea intend to use it as a basis for claiming the same social benefits and tax breaks that accrue to married couples (which in the Netherlands may include same-sex “spouses”).

The idea is remarkable for two reasons:

  • on the one hand, it provides further proof how the creation of same-sex “marriage” and similar institutions deprives marriage of its unique and natural meaning, transforming it from the fundamental and life-giving social unit into a rather meaningless thing that is mainly used to get tax advantages;
  • on the other hand it makes a point on which we cannot but agree: an honourable committed friendship that does not involve sexual debauchery is certainly not less worthy of legal recognition and tax advantages than the depraved relationship of two Sodomites; if anything, it seems far more worthy of such recognition of support.

In other words, it is now same-sex “marriage” itself that is being relativized or, as one might put it, attacked from behind.

If accepted – and, given that the uniqueness of the marriage between one man and one woman is not recognized any more, there is no good reason left why it shouldn’t be – the idea of “Registered Friendships” will ultimately result in a situation where the word “marriage” will have no practical meaning in the context of civil law, and the legal effects of marriage will equally apply to people who are not married. The state might then as well completely pull out of the marriage business and leave it to the Churches and other religious communities to celebrate marriage as they understand it.

But maybe, in the end, the state will discover that there is something specific in the life-long marriage between a man and a woman, and that this specificity makes the existence of such (genuine) marriages important for society. Once this discovery is made, everybody will understand why only (genuine) marriage is needed as an institution of civil law, and it will seem natural to revert to the concept of marriage that has existed throughout the history of human civilization.

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