Openly gay troops in the Dutch defense ministry joined for the first time Amsterdam's massive Gay Pride parade.

The city's 16th annual parade arrives just four months after gay marriage in the Netherlands celebrated its tenth anniversary. The country became the first to legalize such unions on April 1, 2001. Six additional European countries have followed the Netherlands' lead, including Spain, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and, most recently, Iceland.

The AFP reported that hundreds of thousands of people gathered to cheer a parade of at least 80 brightly decorated boats sail through the city's canals.

“Every year it's a huge party because we can go out in plain daylight and show who we are and because we can show people what gay culture is like,” said Malik, 23, who attended the parade with his boyfriend.

Anti-gay sentiment continues in the Netherlands, despite the gains of the past decade.

“In the Netherlands we have what we call tolerance at a distance,” said Vera Bergkamp, president of the Amsterdam-based gay rights group COC. “People are tolerant as long as homosexuality stays out of their view.”

Gay marriages made up roughly 2 percent of the country's total number of marriages between 2001 and 2010, nearly 15,000 couples.