|Absurd Anti-Gay Ruling in Municipality Bunschoten|
by Redaktie in History & Politics , 12 April 2019
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A social services employee in the Dutch town of Bunschoten suggested to one of the town's inhabitants that it would be better if he left the community. "Because being gay is still an issue, if you know what I mean?", the civil servant said.
"This is an absurd statement," says Astrid Oosenbrug, President of Dutch Gay Interest Group COC, and Simon Carpenter, President of COC Midden Nederland. "It is high time the municipality apologizes."
But as yet no apology has been forthcoming. The municipality called the statement 'superfluous,' but according to the municipality's lawyer it ‘wasn't a discriminatory remark' and could even be interpreted as ‘well meaning'.
Local TV station RTV Utrecht brought the issue to the public's attention as a result of a case at the Central Court of Appeal. The court was looking into the case of Jaap Koelewijn versus the municipality of Bunschoten. The Bunschoten resident now believes he has lost his right to social benefits as a result of gay discrimination. He has taken the case to court in an attempt to avoid having to pay back more than €5,000.
Koelewijn is suspected of social security fraud. During the interview with social services, Koelewijn said he was not listened to. His sexual orientation was also discussed during the conversation. COC Midden Nederland has contacted him to offer their support.
The judges from the Central Court of Appeal had a lot of questions for the municipality about the questioning by social services, many of which were about the remarkable statement by the civil servant that was recorded on tape: "But given the situation, it would also be better if you left Bunschoten, don't you think? Because being gay is still an issue, if you know what I mean?"
The lawyer for the town of Bunschoten said during the hearing that the statement was 'superfluous'. "The social security service had already made its point, so there was no need to make that remark, even though it was well intended," said Jan Heijn Meijer, the municipality's lawyer. "That's what I assume at least."
All three judges were not satisfied with the municipality's reaction. "Superfluous? You mean just wrong don't you?", asked one of the judges. "I've read that Jaap has never received an apology, but you refer to it as superfluous?”, asked another judge.
Despite the judges’ insistence, the municipality did not change its point of view. "It is not a discriminatory remark, certainly not towards Mr. Koelewijn”, Meijer explained.
Municipalities in Holland are more and more exploring the boundaries of what is acceptable, while politics doesn't even bother (or even know). Maybe it's time to personally hold civil servants accountable.
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