D66 leader makes waves taking a stand against anti-gay violence

D66, the party that initiated a global wave of legalizing gay marriage, made itself the emblem of a day-long Dutch media craze that even extended to Dutch diplomats in London and at the UN in New York, as the Huffington Post reported.

It all started when two Dutch gay men, walking home hand in hand from their pub over the (in)famous bridge at Arnhem, were accosted by a group of youths (some of them around 14 years old), with one having four front teeth knocked out.

A Dutch journalist and lesbian activist started a Twitter campaign: straight men should walk hand in hand on the street and post a selfie of them on twitter.

The leader of D66 promptly picked up on that. We’re in the process of forming a new coalition government, and D66 will be in the tripartite “motor block” of that coalition. The coalition negotiations are held in a separate part of our monumental Binnenhof parliamentary complex, with a huddle of bored journalists outside, trying to get party leaders to tell about the negotiations. On Monday morning, D66 party leader Alexander Pechtold and Treasury spokesman Wouter Koolmees created quite a stir by arriving at the meeting walking hand in hand. News and photos of that immediately went viral, especially as the progressive GreenLeft delegation (also participating in the talks), and the VVD (NatLib) and CDA (Christian Democrats tolerating Orban among them) party leaders didn’t do the same. The CDA leader hadn’t even heard of the twitter campaign.

Other progressive Dutch politicians, dignitaries, celebrities and sportsmen popped up on twitter walking holding hands, and the Huffington Post shows that Dutch male diplomats in London and at our UN mission in New York did as well. But the photo of Alexander & Wouter became the media emblem of this trending topic. Mr. Pechtold and other D66 MP’s appeared on TV News programs and talkshows and on radio, giving us the chance to push some other D66 wishes for the upcoming Dutch government, like legalizing cannabis and a more explicit pro-EU stance by sitting (and probably continuing) VVD prime minister Mark Rutte.

Only Geert Wilders (PVV) showed bad sportsmanship by trying to pour sour grapes over this media success of his most persistent critics and enemies.

The Huffington Post remarked that all this happened around the anniversary of the Dutch gay marriage law (another D66 success in a government coalition) coming into force in 2001, just past midnight, when four gay marriages were solemnized in the council chamber of Amsterdam city hall by the Lord Mayor.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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