John M. Becker

Netherlands: No Special Rights for Anti-Gay Officials

Filed By John M. Becker | June 05, 2014 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, marriage equality, Netherlands, opt-out, religious exemptions, religious freedom, religious liberty, same-sex marriage, special rights

netherlands-map.jpgGreat news out of the Netherlands, where elected officials in the world's first marriage equality country (since April 2001, baby!) have removed a loophole that granted anti-gay public officials a special right to opt out of performing same-sex marriages. reports:

The senate on Tuesday voted in favour of legislation which will stop town councils employing registrars who refuse to carry out gay marriages. At the moment, civil servants are allowed to refuse to carry out same-sex marriages. The escape clause was included in the initial legislation as a gesture to areas where strict Protestants dominate...

The change in the law will not affect registrars already doing the job but councils will be able to move them to other functions.

Gay rights lobby group COC welcomed the change in the legislation which, it said, 'ends discrimination on the happiest day of your life".

COC research last year showed some 58 local councils employ a total of around 100 registrars who refuse to marry same-sex couples. Nearly all are orthodox Christians.

The Senate is the upper house of the bicameral States General of the Netherlands. The lower chamber -- the House of Representatives -- passed the measure last year. All officials must now comply.

It's one of the ironic twists in the quest for LGBT equality is that as civil rights for LGBT people, couples, and families advance, anti-gay religious conservatives -- who love to frame the push for equal rights as a demand for so-called "special rights" -- frequently begin demanding special rights themselves. This phenomenon is especially prevalent right here in the U.S. of A.

Two Vermont innkeepers, for example, refused to rent space to a lesbian couple who wished to reserve the inn for their wedding reception, violating Vermont's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law in the process. When the lesbian couple sued, the innkeepers told the court that same-sex weddings went against their conservative Catholic religious beliefs, as though those beliefs magically waived them of their obligation to follow the law. They later settled out of court and stopped hosting weddings entirely.

Church-and-State.jpegWhen Catholic Charities was unable to obtain an exemption from non-discrimination laws in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. that would have allowed them to reject qualified prospective parents on the basis of sexual orientation while continuing to receive public funds, they chose to end adoption services altogether rather than comply.

After New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, several evangelical town clerks in the state refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because they claimed that doing so (you know, obeying the law and doing their job) would violate their anti-gay religious beliefs. And of course, anti-LGBT bakers, florists, and photographers across the United States have demanded special exemptions to laws that prohibit them from discriminating against gays and lesbians... because Jesus.

Sorry, but no. When you open a public business, you must serve all members of the public. When you're an agent of the state, you can't pick and choose which citizens of that state you wish to serve or which laws you'd like to obey.

Attention, anti-LGBT public officials: your religious freedom does not come at the expense of everyone else's liberty. Your religious beliefs do not entitle you to a special right to disobey the law and discriminate. If you're incapable of fulfilling your public duties, then resign.

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