That is no longer how we are married. The transformation of civil marriage in the Netherlands and France

Thursday 23 November 2023, 4:30 pm
PhD student
P.C.L. van de Wiel MA
prof. dr. T.J.M. Mertens, prof. mr. S.C.J.J. Kortmann

This PhD thesis follows the trail of civil marriage from its early beginnings through to the present day, in the Netherlands and in France. How have values such as freedom and equality, and the processes of secularisation and individualisation, affected the legal content and social status of civil marriage? 
In the first part (from roughly 1800 to 1960), civil marriage as a legal form is ‘invented’ and remains a self-evident framework for sexuality and procreation. The values of equality and freedom, which play a leading role in the revolutions from the late eighteenth century onwards, are not fully reflected in the spheres of marriage and family during this period. 
The second part outlines how the law, but also the status of civil marriage, undergo a fundamental and lasting metamorphosis. Through various upheavals from the 1960s onwards, the above-mentioned values break through into society, and marriage is stripped of its monopoly on sexual relations and procreation. These developments lead to two significant changes in the law: the distinction in legal terminology between legitimate and illegitimate parentage is abolished, and a growing number of countries (including France) introduce something that the Netherlands was first to pioneer in 2000-2001: “A marriage may be entered into by two persons of a different or of the same sex.” (Art. 1.30 of the Dutch Civil Code). This legal ‘redefinition’ makes a dormant transformation explicit. 

Pol van de Wiel graduated from Stedelijk Gymnasium Nijmegen in 2004. He studied Law (BA, 2011) and Philosophy at Leiden University, History and Political Science at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris, and Political Theory at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris (MA, 2013, mention ‘très bien’). From 2016 to 2021, he worked as a PhD candidate at the Department of Philosophy of Law at the Radboud University Faculty of Law. He has been a lecturer at Maastricht University's Faculty of Law since 2021.