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Gays unleashed in Amsterdam park

Could Queen's Park follow suit?

ACCOLADE REBUFFED. None of the provincial leaders in the last election campaign would commit to displaying their Xtra Best award. Credit: Xtra Files

Amsterdam’s Vondelpark is a 116-acre treasure of green space adjacent to the city’s famed Museum Square where 30,000 daily visitors relax, jog, walk their dogs and enjoy a respite from the hustle of city life. But while the city’s tourist websites tell you all about the roller skating and children’s theatre that goes on in the park, one thing it doesn’t mention is all the gay sex that happens there.

Amsterdam’s gay and lesbian organization, COC, says that gay men have been cruising in the park’s rose garden for decades, despite the fact that public sex — gay or straight — is illegal under Dutch law.

So Paul Van Grieken, an Amsterdam city councillor, has come up with a very practical and typically Dutch solution: If you can’t stop it, tolerate it. Earlier in March Van Griekan tabled a proposal to decriminalize public sex in Vondelpark.

“Why should we try to maintain something that is actually impossible to maintain, which also causes little bother for others and for a certain group actually signifies much pleasure?” says Van Grieken.

“Of course there are strict rules attached. Condoms must always be cleared away, it must never take place in the neighbourhood of children’s playgrounds and the sex must be restricted to the evening and night time.”

The proposal is so sensible even the national police force is endorsing it and is calling on other Dutch cities to follow suit by decriminalizing cruising in all public parks. They point out that if cops aren’t spending their time busting queers for harmless fun, they can focus their crime-fighting energies on queer-bashers who regularly attack gays in cruising grounds.

Not to be wooed into making policy decisions simply because they’re sensible, it remains unlikely that the Ontario government will follow the Dutch lead. In last fall’s annual Xtra Best campaign our readers again voted Queen’s Park as Toronto’s best public place for quickie. Last year, in the heat of the provincial election campaign, Xtra asked Ontario’s party leaders if they would display the Xtra Best award plaque in Queen’s Park if they won the election.

Green leader Frank de Jong and PC leader John Tory both said categorically “no.” NDP leader Howard Hampton offered diplomatically that he’d “want to see the plaque first.” It’s really quite lovely. Premier McGuinty didn’t make time to speak to Xtra back then, so his thoughts on the matter remain a mystery for now. But maybe, just maybe, Vondelpark will become a shining example of what public sex can be in Toronto.