Belgium's parliament was expected to approve a proposal Thursday to allow same-sex marriages, paving the way for the country to become the second in Europe to do so after the Netherlands.
The law, already passed by the Belgian senate in November, is likely to be supported by a majority in the lower house of parliament and become law four months after its official confirmation. The law would give gay couples most of the same rights as straight couples, although it would not allow them to adopt children.
"Marriage offers two partners the possibility of declaring their relationship and the feelings they have for each other openly," said justice minister Marc Verwilghen. "Mentalities have changed. There is no longer any reason not to open it to people of the same sex."
The new law was proposed by the rainbow coalition of Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt. Verhofstadt originally proposed limiting the law's application to Belgians and nationals of other countries with similar laws. But its final version is open to everyone.
The Dutch parliament passed a law allowing gay and lesbian marriages in 2000, although it applies only to Dutch nationals or people who have a residence permit in the Netherlands.