Dutch Constitution to be amended to ban discrimination based on sexuality or disability
Article 1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be expanded to prohibit discrimination against someone because of a disability or sexual orientation. The proposal to expand the first article of the Constitution, which succinctly deals with equality, has received enough support in a vote in the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate. Amending the text of the Constitution is nearly certain as a result of Tuesday’s vote. Enshrining the rights of LGBTI people in the constitution is a "historic victory for the rainbow community," said advocacy group COC Nederland.
Article 1 states that everyone in the Netherlands "shall be treated equally in equal circumstances." The following sentence goes on to explicitly mention several examples, including "religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex." That list will now be expanded. The procedure for such an adjustment takes years because it has to be voted on several times. With the Senate's vote, that process has now been completed.
The change was the result of an initiative from coalition party D66 and left wing opposition parties PvdA and GroenLinks that has developed over the course of twelve years. "You can rightly call this day historic!" said D66 Member of Parliament Alexander Hammelburg, who helped defend the law in the Senate.
"A disability, or who you fall in love with, should never be a reason to be excluded," said PvdA member Habtamu de Hoop.
Laura Bromet of GroenLinks called it "an important step forward in combating discrimination."
Amending the Constitution requires that both the lower house, the Tweede Kamer, and the Senate initially vote in favor. Subsequently, the law must be put to a vote again after elections have been held, so that voters can still make their voices heard on such issues at the ballot box.
In the end of the lengthy procedure on Tuesday, some 56 members of the Senate voted in favor and 15 against. The law now only needs to be officially signed by King Willem-Alexander, and the responsible minister, and then it will be published in the Staatscourant, the official government publication that formally announces new laws.
In that final vote -the second reading- a two-thirds majority must agree. This has now happened in both the Eerste and Tweede Kamers, albeit with some delay in the Senate. Initially, the Senate was supposed to vote on the issue before Christmas, but that was not possible because the PVV requested a roll call vote at the last minute.
Anchoring LGBTI rights and disability rights in the Constitution is “historic”
The Dutch Constitution does already state that discrimination “on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.” However, the explicit mention of sexual orientation is an important moment for the rights of people who identify with diverse genders and sexualities, said COC Nederland.
"LGBTI rights are finally proudly mentioned in Article 1 and are no longer hidden," said COC Nederland Chair Astrid Oosenbrug. "And being enshrined in the Constitution is a guarantee that we will still be able to enjoy our hard-won rights in fifty or a hundred years' time. That we will still be able to marry, raise children and be protected against discrimination. Even if the political or social winds unexpectedly shift against the rainbow community."
Since 2004, COC has advocated anchoring the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people in the Constitution. This has already happened in countries such as Sweden, Portugal, Malta, Mexico and South Africa.
An association representing people with physical and mental disabilities, or chronic illnesses, also called it a “historic” day. "Adding the disability basis to Article 1 is historic news," said Ieder(in) director Illya Soffer. "The government is given an additional task to permanently improve and strengthen the position of people with a disability. Not only in legislation, but also in practice,” Soffer continued.
”This is badly needed, because at the moment they experience discrimination and exclusion."