The European Union on Thursday unveiled its first strategy for improving the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, intersex and queer people, at a time of growing discrimination particularly in Poland and Hungary.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, plans to extend the list of „EU crimes” to include hate crime and hate speech, including when targeted at LGBTIQ people.”
It also plans to bring forward a legislative initiative to protect the rights of rainbow families so that their parenthood and same-sex partnership is recognized throughout the union, which it currently isn’t.
„Everyone should feel free to be who they are – without fear or persecution. This is what Europe is about and this is what we stand for,” the EU Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova, said in a statement.
The plan is also intended to fight discrimination in the job market and improve cross-border recognition of same-sex partnerships and integrate LGBTQI equality into EU policy. Six EU members currently don’t provide for legal same-sex partnership.
„The strategy comes at a crucial and historical moment when states like Hungary and Poland are trying to marginalize LGBTI people and remove them from society,” said Florin Buhuceanu, a Romanian gay rights activist.
„Romanian lawmakers used similar tactics especially during the 2018 referendum on marriage,” a vote which intended to make it harder than ever to legalize gay marriage. The referendum failed due to low turnout.
Romanian gay rights group Accept called the development „a firm commitment by European institutions to protect the LGBTI community, despite homophobia and transphobia which is present in post-communist states.”
The proposal is likely to meet fierce resistance from a number of countries including Hungary and Poland.
Dozens of towns across Poland have declared themselves „LGBT-free” over the past couple of years, earning a rebuke from the EU parliament.
Leaders of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party have increasingly cast LGBTIQ people as a threat to traditional families. Andrzej Duda, who won a second term as president this year, called LGBT „ideology” more dangerous than communism.
In Hungary, the nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban unveiled a draft bill on Tuesday to amend the constitution that would in effect ban adoption by same-sex couples.
The proposed legislation would bar anyone but married couples from adopting. As same-sex marriage is illegal in Hungary, same-sex couples could only adopt if one of the partners applied.
Fourteen EU states have made same-sex marriage legal and several others have some form of same-sex civil unions. Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia do not recognize same-sex partnerships.
However, all EU countries have to allow entry to the non-EU partner of an EU citizen if the partnership was registered abroad.
Each member state is urged to develop their own action plans to tackle discrimination against LGBTIQ people and promote equality.