Churches in The Netherlands have given a mixed response to the country's first civil weddings for same-sex couples, which took place April 1 in Amsterdam's town hall.

Three male couples and one female couple were married immediately after midnight when a new law on marriage and adoption rights came into force. The event was described by supporters as the world's most comprehensive recognition of gay rights and as the world's first official gay marriage ceremony, although a few other countries also give various degrees of legal recognition to gay relationships.

Some smaller Dutch churches have reacted positively to the event, while other churches, including the country's biggest, the Roman Catholic Church, have rejected the move.

Amsterdam's new mayor, Job Cohen, who officiated at the weddings, played a major role in guiding the new law through both houses of parliament when he was a senior official in the national ministry for justice. The new law was approved in September by the Dutch parliament's Second Chamber, by 109 votes to 33 against. The First Chamber, the Senate, approved the law late last year. The new gay law is also valid for present and future members of the royal family, including any monarch.

The law, which allows the country's "registered partnerships" for same-sex couples to be upgraded to fully-fledged marriages, is the latest in a series of ground-breaking legislation approved by the Dutch parliament. The law gives homosexual couples almost the same rights as heterosexual couples. Married same-sex couples may now also adopt children.

According to the Associated Press, the Roman Catholic Church and the main Protestant churches in The Netherlands do not recognize civil gay marriages.

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