Utrecht’s Gay Rights Memorial

I was born and raised in Florida, but moved to North Carolina (NC) when I was 16. I’ve lived there off and since then, so it’s a state I have some affection for, as well as some feelings of frustration. The recent vote in North Carolina to amend the state’s constitution to ban gay marriage and essentially remove many rights of anyone not in a traditional marriage left me particularly frustrated. The US is legally a secular country, so religious beliefs shouldn’t influence political decisions. I may be an atheist myself, but I have a number of friends in NC, of varying faiths, who fought hard against this vote. It’s a nice reminder that many people of faith practice the loving side of their religion, rather than trying to limit the freedoms of others.


About a month ago, I came across a story on one of the Utrecht news site about a gay memorial that stands in the Domplein (Cathedral Square) here in the city. Finally, yesterday, I went to go see it for myself. The memorial is for the 18 Utrechters who were imprisoned and killed for being gay in the 1730s.

The nave of the cathedral was destroyed in a storm in 1674, and the ruins became a meeting place for those known as sodomieten. In 1730-31, after complaints from the sacristan of the cathedral, the government stepped in and began arresting people and interrogating them. Other meeting places were discovered and a wave of arrests followed. Some people in important positions were tipped off in advance and escaped, but in the end, 18 people were sentenced to death and strangled.

The memorial to this atrocity stands on the historic church grounds. It also shows the way thinking has changed from the 18th century to today. The memorial describes how in the 18th century, it was called sodomy and punishable by death. Today, it is called homosexuality and it comes with freedom and choice.


The memorial is dated June 1999. Since then, gay marriage has been legalized in the Netherlands. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, it will be legal everywhere and we will look back with horror at the way the GLBT community has been treated and isolated.


9 thoughts on “Utrecht’s Gay Rights Memorial

  1. Thank you.

    I’m a gay woman, living in California. My domestic partner (damn you, California!) and I have considered moving to the Netherlands… largely because of the anti-gay attitude in the States, even here in California.

    So… I really appreciate having this little window into NL gay history. Thank you.

    • I had friends in California working against Prop 8, as well. It’s so frustrating to see these kinds of things still happening. I’ve got friends here who had to move here in order to stay together, since the US doesn’t allow for partnership visas. Just another reason why marriage should be an option for everyone. I’m glad I could share this.

  2. Amen to this!
    I hope that one day too that we will also look back in horror not just at the treatment of the GLBT community but also for: women, all religions, people of different ethnicities and colour.
    Here’s to tolerant steps forward every day, and not steps back.

    • Amen, indeed! The steps backward that the US is taking in terms of gay rights, women’s rights, etc. is just awful. I’m constantly left spluttering in anger and disbelief. Nothing but big steps forward very soon would be wonderful. Someday …

  3. I have seen and photographed the memorial in Utrecht promising myself to look up the story behind it, but I never actually got round to it. Thanks for sharing this!
    I am appalled to read and hear that only 10 countries in the world recognise same-sex marriages; this means that thousands and thousands of people are being denied their rights.
    Let’s hope that Pres. Obama’s recent statement supporting same-sex marriage has made more people aware in the US that no one should still be fighting to have their rights recognised in the 21st century.

    • I know the memorial was being repaired recently, but I’m not sure how I missed it in the past. Regardless, I’m glad it’s there, and it was definitely interesting learning about it and knowing that someone went to the effort to install the monument, particularly in that spot. It really is awful how many people have their lives affected by small-mindedness. It does seem that more and more people are starting to realize that everyone should be treated equal. Let’s hope the growing numbers lead to real action sooner rather than later. It needs to be done at the federal level, too, not just the state level.

  4. Pingback: Pride and Remembrance | A Flamingo in Utrecht

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