November 30, 2016 at 8:28 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Dutch king meets with LGBT activists

COC Nederland, gay news, Washington Blade

Dutch King Willem-Alexander speaks with a COC Nederland staffer in The Hague, Netherlands, on Nov. 22, 2016. (Photo courtesy of COC Nederland)

The king of the Netherlands met with members of a Dutch LGBT advocacy group last week.

King Willem-Alexander met with COC Nederland staff and volunteers in The Hague on Nov. 22. He also spoke with LGBT youth, seniors and those with bicultural or religious backgrounds.

The meeting coincided with COC Nederland’s 70th anniversary.

“It’s a historic visit,” COC Nederland spokesperson Philip Tijsma told the Washington Blade, noting the king is the first Dutch head of state to ever meet with an LGBT advocacy group.

One of Queen Máxima’s first public appearances as queen was at a 2013 conference at the Dutch Parliament that marked the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. She also attended a transgender symposium that took place in Amsterdam in June.

Country seen as gay rights pioneer

The Netherlands is seen as one of the world’s most progressive countries in terms of gay rights.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the country since 2001.

Dutch lawmakers in 1971 equalized the age of consent for same-sex and opposite-sex sexual relations. The government two years later formally recognized COC Nederland, which was known as the Dutch Association for Integration of Homosexuality COC at the time.

The Dutch Senate in 2013 overwhelmingly approved a bill that allows transgender people to legally change their name and gender without undergoing sterilization or surgery. The measure took effect on July 1, 2014.

COC Nederland Executive Director Koen van Dijk told the Blade in during a 2013 interview at his organization’s offices in Amsterdam that anti-LGBT harassment in the workplace, bullying and homophobic and transphobic religious and cultural attitudes remain problems in spite of the country’s liberal reputation.

“The layer of tolerance is thinner than it looks at first glance,” said van Dijk. “There’s a whole spectrum of intolerance that is still really worrying.”

COC Nederland, gay news, Washington Blade

Dutch King Willem-Alexander speaks with COC Nederland staffers and volunteers in The Hague, Netherlands, on Nov. 22, 2016. (Photo courtesy of COC Nederland)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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