Astrid Oostenburg, President of gay interest group COC Netherlands, and Philip Tijsma (Chairman of COC's working group Politics) called on the Dutch government and parliament to anchor gay rights in the constitution in an open letter. Their letter appeared in the national newspaper Trouw.
"With Pride, we celebrate what has been achieved in the Netherlands in recent decades for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI people). And that is incredible.
The number of people who think negatively about lesbians and gays fell drastically, from four in ten in the 1960s to one in twenty now. Punishability was ended in 1971, we introduced a legal prohibition of discrimination (1994) and in 2001, our country was the first in the world to open up civil marriage to same-sex couples.
Since 2014, there has been a Lesbian Parenting Act (2014) in place, which makes it easier for duo mothers to legally become parents. The Transgender Act (2014) makes it easy for trans people to change their official gender registration. And since 2012, every primary and secondary school must promote LGBTI acceptance. There certainly is a lot to be proud of.
As far as we are concerned, it is now high time to secure all those hard-fought rights for the future. That is why we call on the government and parliament to anchor the rights of LGBTI people in Article 1 of the Constitution.
That article now prohibits discrimination based on, for instance, religion and race. An explicit Constitutional ban on LGBTI discrimination is missing. That is a missed opportunity. Because precisely non-discrimination grounds that are explicitly mentioned in Article 1 are an imperative for the legislator and a guarantee that laws and rights will also be maintained in the long term, a government commission concluded in 2006. That is precisely what is needed to secure LGBTI rights.
A clear Constitutional mandate for the legislator is important for the current situation, as in addition to the results achieved, there is also much to improve. In the Netherlands, seven in ten LGBTI people face physical or verbal abuse throughout their life. ‘Homo’ is the most common term of abuse at educational facilities. Transgenders find it hard to find employment. And the cabinet recently refused to properly regulate the rights of rainbow families with three or four parents.
A Constitutional guarantee that our rights are upheld is also especially important for the future. Because the social and political winds can quickly turn (ugly). Minority rights that now seem obvious can come under pressure.
At present, there is considerable social and political support for LGBTI rights in the Netherlands, and there is no direct reason to think that tomorrow will see a completely different situation. However, there is all the more reason to stay alert. SGP (Fundamentalist Christian party) leader Kees van der Staaij signed the LGBTI hostile Nashville statement at the beginning of this year. The populist parties Forum for Democracy and PVV proposed in May that the prohibition of incitement to discriminate should be removed from the law, while the Netherlands could, for example, use this article to keep homophobic hate preacher Steven Anderson out.
So, let's finally settle that Constitutional ban on LGBTI discrimination. The coalition promised to do that in the coalition agreement, but did not yet come up with a bill. There is, however, an old bill from the progressive parties D66, PvdA and GroenLinks. The Dutch Lower House should adopt this bill now. So that future generations can also enjoy the LGBTI rights that we celebrate today."