Opinion: Weigerambtenaar (2)

POSTED: 07/6/12 11:56 AM

It was to be expected that the Dutch weigerambtenaren would strike back. As we wrote yesterday, civil servants that refuse to marry same sex couples are called weigerambtenaren in the Netherlands.
One of these weigerambtenaren (at least we assume he is one of them, otherwise he belongs to their support group) is a man named Maarschalkerweerd. He is from Veenendaal, not exactly a hotbed of the Dutch avant-garde. But never mind, we like to look at all sides of an issue, and Maarschalkerweerd certainly hits it well with his opinion: the rigid obligation for civil servants to marry people of the same sex is debatable, violates legislation, is undemocratic and is disproportionate.
Hmm, as we pointed out yesterday that opinion is debatable. If you employ somebody as a pump attendant at a gas station, you’re not going to refuse service to homosexual motorists either, are you now? If you’re paid to pump gas, you pump gas. If you’re paid to marry people, you marry them. If you don’t like the job, because those people at the pump are always rude to you – and in some cases travel with somebody of the same sex, you should go and do something else.
But that is not the way our man Maarschalkerweerd is thinking. He scoffs that politicians “often think” that homosexuality is generally accepted. It’s not, he claims: at best it is silently tolerated.
This statement gives a little insight in Maarschalkerweerd’s tolerance-levels. If you’re different you may as well move to the North Pole, as far as he is concerned.
But our man is not about to get emotional: he refers to the law. And the constitution says, Maarschalkerweerd points out, that everybody has to be treated equally in equal circumstances.
Good point. Citizens are entitled to freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and personal beliefs. People’s privacy is also protected under the constitution. These rights are valid for all citizens, also for civil servants, our man from Veenendaal argues. Again: good point.
Then he dives into the number of same sex marriages in the Netherlands. In 2009, there were 1, 358 of such unions, or 1.8 percent of the total number of marriages. In spite of these marginal numbers, opponents of same sex marriage claim that they are a threat to the “traditional” marriage. But Maarschalkerweerd does not make that point.
So what is his point? He claims that “the obligatory execution of legislation established by politicians” has at times, and also recently, had disastrous results. A pity this argument is not substantiated with examples. Instead, the writer experiences the current situation with a feeling of déjà vu, the sadness of Befehl ist Befehl (a touching reference to the attitude of the Germans in the Second World War) and “religion is the people’s opium.”
The last remark is coming out of left field and does not seem to have any bearing on the matter at hand. Let’s cut to the chase. Maarschalkerweerd throws out religion as a key to the argument, though he maintains that “the christian conviction is a morally justified point of departure.”
This is the core of the argument: a large majority of people are heterosexual and every other orientation is per definition aberrant. “As long as not every sexual orientation equates heterosexuality, there is no reason for preferential treatment of homosexuality,” Maarschalkerweerd claims. On this basis, he adds, one is able to reject same sex marriage in good conscience.
Maarschalkerweerd claims that the parliament, by getting ready to come down on the weigerambtenaren “limits the right to freedom of conscience” adding for good measure that the freedom of religion is also under pressure.
But is this really so? Everybody is free to follow her or his conscience. But a job is a job, and if that job brings civil servants in conflict with their conscience they should not scream blue murder, but they ought to ask to be placed in a different function.

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