The Mayor of Antwerp has said civil servants should not be allowed to wear rainbow t-shirts during office hours.
Speaking in an interview with Belgian newspapers Het Nieuwsblad and De Standard, Bart De Wever, a Flemish nationalist, said wearing rainbow t-shirts would conflict with a policy of neutrality in Antwerp.
He pointed to a coalition agreement which states ‘external symbols pointing to a philosophical or political conviction, support for a trade union, or sports club’ may not be worn during office.
He said: ‘There are limits to every form of expression. This is especially the case when you are sitting a a counter on behalf of the city of Antwerp.
‘I don’t want somebody with a rainbow t-shirt at a counter, because in this way a homosexual makes clear that he or she adheres to this obedience.’
However he denied having anything against gay people, telling Belgian VRT Radio: ‘I have always defended equal rights for gays and I have consistently defended this view in words and in deeds.
‘But neutrality is neutrality and to maintain this you have to identify showy expressions of personal preference.’
De Wever’s comments have been criticized by Antwerp’s main opposition party, the socialist SPA, who said neutrality and diversity should not conflict.
The Belgian youth organization Wel Jong Niet hetero also reacted by encouraging politicians who disagree with the mayor’s comments to go to parliament ‘as themselves’ next week.