BRUSSELS – The European Union Executive Commission on Thursday launched its first strategy to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, a challenge facing right-wing governments in Poland and Hungary, which have become increasingly homophobic over the past year.
The commission said that LGBTQ people in Europe are facing increasing discrimination, although most of the people in the bloc are increasingly accepting homosexual rights.
“We will defend the rights of LGBT people against those who are now increasingly hungry to attack them from this ideological point of view,” said Vice-President of the EU Commission, Vera Jourova, at a press conference. “This is part of the authoritarian playbook and has no place in the EU.”
The commission launched its LGBTIQ gender equality strategy which defines the term “lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex and queer”.
According to polls cited by the Commission, 43 percent of LGBTQ people said they experienced discrimination in the past year, up from 37 percent in 2012. This increase was despite 76 percent of EU citizens saying that lesbians, gays and bisexuals should heterosexuals have the same rights, down from 71 percent in 2015.
“It’s 2020 and hatred and discrimination against people from sexual minorities really don’t belong in Europe,” said Jourova.
The new strategy comes from the fact that right-wing governments in some former communist Eastern EU member states have made the campaign against homosexual rights a central part of their ruling ideology.
Before his re-election at the beginning of this year, the Polish President Andrzej Duda campaigned against an “LGBT ideology” which he described as more destructive than communism. He has pledged to ban teaching gay rights in schools.
This week the Hungarian government proposed a constitutional amendment to bring up children with a “Christian” interpretation of gender roles and a law that effectively bans adoptions by same-sex couples.
“Family law is the responsibility of the Member States and we fully respect it,” said Jourova. “In applying national law, however, Member States must respect their international human rights obligations and applicable EU law. Member States should also respect the fundamental values on which the Union is based, including equality and human rights.”
Earlier this year, the Commission cut EU funds for some Polish cities that have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”. The Polish government compensated the cities.
“We can never accept LGBT-free zones because they are actually humanity-free zones,” said EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, to the press conference.
Jurova and Dalli made it clear that the EU would not fund projects that do not respect LGBTQ rights.
The Commission has proposed adding homophobic hate crimes to a list of so-called “Eurocrimes”, serious crimes such as terrorism and human trafficking, for which the EU can set minimum rules. This would require unanimity among EU members.
The EU strategy also aims to ensure that the legal status of relationships in families with LGBTQ people cannot be revoked when crossing the border.