The European Union announced its first strategy to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people last week. The move was seen by many as a response to the rising anti-LGBTQ+ hate and rhetoric in Poland and Hungary. The new strategy will feature a range of actions to tackle discrimination within members states, as well as provide support to key stakeholders within local communities.
“Everyone should feel free to be who they are – without fear or persecution,” Vera Jourove, the EU vice president for values and transparency said in a statement. “This is what Europe is about and this is what we stand for. This first strategy at EU level will reinforce our joint efforts to ensure that everyone is treated equally.”
“Equality and non-discrimination are core values and fundamental rights in the European Union,” said Helena Dalli, the EU commission for equality. “This means that everybody in the European Union should feel safe and free without fear of discrimination or violence on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.”
The plan laid out last week consists of four basic elements: fighting discrimination, ensuring safety, protecting rights of rainbow families, and supporting LGBTQ+ equality in members states and around the world. The EU will take direct action to “protect LGBTI+ persons against discrimination, hate crime and hate speech” originating digitally, and address challenges to “LGBTI+ equality in education, sport, health, employment” and asylum seekers. These protections will also “safeguard the human rights of transgender and intersex people” and provide support to key stakeholders in the community.
The moves will counter a disturbing increase in homophobic and discriminatory laws that seek to eliminate the rights of LGBTQ+ communities. Cities and town across Poland have declared themselves to be "LGBTQ-free zones." Hungary recently announced a constitutional amendment requiring students be taught the binary “Christian” concept of gender. In both countries and elsewhere, right wing politicians have been attacking LGBTQ+ rights in part to solidify their voting base.
“We will defend the rights of LGBT people against those who now have more and more appetite to attack them from this ideological point of view,” Jourova said a news conference. “This belongs to the authoritarian playbook and it does not have a place in the EU.”
"We are still a long way away from the full inclusion and acceptance that LGBTIQ people deserve,” echoed Dalli, before adding “I trust we can make Europe a better and safer place for all.”