EU unveils first plan to address LGBT rights, discrimination

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union unveiled Thursday its first strategy for improving the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, intersex and queer people, amid deep concern about widespread discrimination, notably in Poland.

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, wants to extend the list of crimes in Europe to cover homophobic hate speech, propose new laws to guarantee that same-sex parenthood will be recognized across the 27 member nations, and to ensure that LGBTQI concerns are better reflected in the bloc’s policies.

“This is not about ideology. This is not about being men or women. This is about love,” Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova said. “This strategy is not against anyone. This does not put anyone on a pedestal. But it is about guaranteeing safety and non-discrimination for everyone.”

The commission said some progress is being made toward LGBTQI equality, but that according to a European Fundamental Rights survey in 2019, about 43% of people still feel discriminated against based on their sexual orientations and gender identities. Coronavirus lockdowns are thought to be making things worse by forcing some young people to remain in places where they might face violence, hostility and bullying or suffer anxiety or depression.

In Poland, for example, the president and some other officials in the right-wing government have cast the movement for civil rights for LGBT people as a threat to families led by heterosexual couples and to the country’s Roman Catholic values. Dozens of towns in conservative parts of eastern and southern Poland have passed symbolic resolutions declaring themselves free from “LGBT ideology.”

The rise in hostility has left many Poles who identify as gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender living in anger or fear, and some have emigrated.

“We are still a long way away from the full inclusion and acceptance that LGBTQI people deserve. Together with the (EU) member states, I trust we can make Europe a better and safer place for all,” EU Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli said as the new strategy was made public.

The plan is intended to fight discrimination, notably in Europe’s job market, ensure people’s safety with new laws and by extending the list of hate crimes, boost rights like the cross-border recognition of same-sex partnerships, and promote LGBTQI rights around the world through EU foreign and neighborhood policy.

Dalli urged member countries that don’t have a national LGBTQI equality strategy to adopt one suited to the specific needs of their citizens. The commission plans to monitor for improvements and review any progress made in 2023.

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