The Belgian senate on Thursday approved a bill allowing gay men and lesbians to marry, paving the way for the country to become only the second in Europe to do so. The bill, which still has to be voted on by the lower house, gives same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, notably inheritance rights. The new law, proposed by Belgium's Rainbow Coalition, will not allow gay couples to adopt children, however, and will classify one of the partners in a lesbian couple as a single parent.
"Mentalities have changed," Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt said last year, when he first proposed the measure. "There is no longer any reason not to open marriage to people of the same sex." Verhofstadt originally proposed limiting the law's application to Belgians and nationals from other countries with similar laws. But its final version is open to everyone.