Dutch Minister for LGBT and Gender Equality opening speech at ILGA-Europe annual conference

Published: October 28, 2010

Good evening my honourable guests,

I would like to give you a warm welcome here in the Ridderzaal, the Knights’ Hall, in The Hague. You can sense its long history as soon as you enter. This is the hall where centuries ago the Counts of Holland gathered to discuss the politics of the States-General. It is here that the queen delivers her Speech from the Throne every year which explains the government’s plans. It is the hall where today we will be holding the 14th ILGA-Europe conference – for the first time by the invitation of a national government, and on initiative of COC The Hague. I would like to thank the Municipal Council of The Hague for its support for this conference.

In the early years of the Republic of the Netherlands, in the late 16th century, the standards and flags of many countries hung in this hall, as victory trophies. Today, we in Europe are no longer crossing swords, but rather we have joined together like modern knights. As Europeans, we are united in the fight for equality and equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people worldwide.

As the host country of this conference, the Netherlands is glad to be at the vanguard. Because we have a high standard to live up to.

For example, fourty years ago, in 1969, on the 21st of January, the “first gay demonstration” in the Netherlands took place in The Hague. It was a protest against a discriminatory section of the criminal code, that set down the age of consent for homosexuals at 21, while for heterosexuals it was 16. This was before the Stonewall riots in New York in June in 1969, that are generally considered to mark the start of the organised struggle for the rights of gays and lesbians.

Ten years ago, the Netherlands was also the first country in the world to allow legal marriage between same-sex couples. We had the Gay Games and EuroGames, and every year we have Canal Pride, in which for three years now a government boat has taken part.

We are proud of these achievements in the struggle for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. And we show this to the world. But I didn’t mention this to glorify my own country. Rather, in this way we would like to set the tone, to inspire others worldwide to tackle this issue in their own countries. Because there is still a lot of work to be done.

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