Minister signs expanded anti-discrimination article to Dutch constitution

Minister Hanke Bruins Slot has officially signed the expansion to the anti-discrimination article of the Dutch Constitution. She did so forty years to the day after the original version of Article 1 was included in the Constitution. The revised statement now also forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or disability. “In this way we are making it crystal clear that everyone, everyone fully participates,” said the minister at the signing on Friday.

“All who are in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances,” begins Article 1. It then continues to explicitly mention several examples, including “religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex.” With the minister’s signature, that list has now been expanded after 12 years of work and debate following an initiative first presented in the Tweede Kamer.

Several social organizations were present at the signing, as well as Minister Conny Helder, who handles issues related to people with disabilities, and Robbert Dijkgraaf for emancipation policy. The Members of Parliament who proposed the constitutional amendment were also in attendance: Alexander Hammelburg (D66), Habtamu de Hoop (PvdA) and Laura Bromet (GroenLinks).

“It is just a few words, but it still feels like we were tinkering with the Big Bang of our democratic constitutional state,” said Minister Dijkgraaf. The expanded constitutional amendment will contribute to more equality in society, which can only be accomplished with more work in the right direction, he said.

Helder said she regarded the amendment almost as if it were a mandate.

Chairman Astrid Oosenbrug of the LGBT advocacy organization COC called it a “historic victory for the Rainbow Community and people with disabilities.” The organization views the constitutional amendment as a duty to combat discrimination and violence against those groups, and essentially enshrines their rights in Article 1.

Former D66 politician Boris van der Ham, who sketched out the first version of the constitutional amendment on a piece of paper while in the pub, saids he is “incredibly proud.” As chair of the Dutch Disability Care Association, he believes that the expansion will also lead to improvements for people in practice. “There will be a lot of references to the Constitution in the coming years to say: Let’s work on this. We didn’t put that in the Constitution for nothing.”

The amended law will not take effect until it has been published in the government’s Official Gazette. That will be sometime next week, the ministry expected.

It is unusual for laws to be signed at a festive gathering. That was an idea from D66 Senator Boris Dittrich. “Then people understand that it makes sense to actively contribute to society,” he said.

Reporting by ANP

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