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Van der Laan opens European LGBT Sports Federation conference



On Friday 7 March in Ljubljana, ALDE Party Vice President Lousewies van der Laan addressed the “Building bridges” conference of the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation (EGLSF).

As a former MEP she said that she is: “glad to see that the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament is still going strong.  When we set it up in 1999, we were really pioneers and I want to pay homage to my friend Michael Cashman, who is leaving, for doing such an amazing job.”

She reminded the audience of the pioneering role her political party played to allow same-sex couples to get married: “You may have heard of my party D66, because we were the first – in the world – to open up marriage to same-sex partners. We did not want a separate “gay marriage”, but simply to make marriage gender neutral.”

She was especially pleased to address the EGLSF in Slovenia: “In 2002, as a Member of the European Parliament, I had my first and only spat with the Slovenian government. You may recall that the Slovenian winner of the Eurovision pre-selection, was a glamorous group of gorgeous transvestites called Sestre, with the catchy “Samo Lbubljezen”. Conservative voices influenced by the church tried to have a reweighing of the votes to avoid this. I immediately sent out a press release inciting this constituted three strikes for a country aspiring to join the EU: homophobia, lack of independence of the public broadcaster and no seperation between church and state. It turns out my questions were helpful and you can imagine how delighted I was to attend last year’s Ljubljana Pride with my family.”
Reminding the audience why she as a married heterosexual cares so much about all this, Van der Laan said: “The answer is simple. Because how we treat minorities is the ultimate litmus test of civilisation. Democracy is not about a majority imposing its will. Democracy starts with the protection of minorities and sexual minorities remain among the most vulnerable in the world. In this regard, recent times have been horrible with new discrimination laws being adopted in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia. It shows how far we still have to go.”

“But lets not think that in countries where the laws are fine, the situation is good. Even in the Netherlands, it took us more than 10 years to pass the law on lesbian parenting, which allows the wife of a mother to automatically become the legal parent of their baby - avoiding a lengthy, insecure and expensive adoption procedure. This shows that between legal equality and full societal acceptance there is still a long way to go. And this is where you all have a key role to play.”

“Athletes are role models – it is crucial for young people struggling with their identity, sexual or otherwise to have heroes to relate to. Sadly, coming out is still a big deal in certain sports and I look forward to the day when a coming out will no longer be news.”

“In 2012, the Dutch COC had sports as its theme for International Coming Out Day. Following their campaign, the Royal Dutch Football federation launched a campaign against discrimination. This included a football boat at the Amsterdam Canal pride with many top footballers. They are ready to roll out the concept to UEFA. It shows what activism can achieve.”

Lousewies van der Laan also gave her views on Sochi: “I want to state that I am deeply embarrassed that The Netherlands, which had a great reputation on equality sent the heaviest delegation in the world to Russia for the Olympic opening. This was despite the express wishes of the Russian LGBT activists. I am glad many athletes and other countries expressed solidarity with the Russian LGBT community in one way or another, like the American Rainbow delegation.”

Closing her speech, she said: “You will have some amazing days and fascinating workshops ahead of you. You will renew old bonds and forge new friendships and alliances. I don’t believe in national borders or allegiances. I believe in global communities that work together across borders because of shared values. Our values are equality and human rights. It is a pleasure being a part of this community and we will win.”