(WB) The Upper House of the States General of the Netherlands, the supreme bicameral legislature of the kingdom, on Jan. 18 voted to amend Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution, expanding it to prohibit discrimination against someone because of a disability or sexual orientation. 

In a 56­–15 vote in the Dutch Senate, the proposal for amendment passed and is now headed to King Willem-Alexander for his royal assent and the Dutch government. Once approved it will be published in the Staatscourant, the official government publication that formally announces new laws in the kingdom.

LGBT advocacy groups and activists celebrated the vote.

Enshrining the rights of LGBTI people in the constitution is a “historic victory for the rainbow community,” said advocacy group COC Nederland. The Dutch LGBTQ rights group was founded in 1946 and is considered the oldest existing LGBTQ organization in the world.

Dutch media outlet NL Times noted that 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 12 years. “You can rightly call this day historic!” said D66 MP 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 MP Habtamu de Hoop.

NL Times also reported that since 2004, COC Nederlands has advocated anchoring the rights of gay men, bisexual, 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.

 Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.