EU Court of Justice: Preliminary ruling on homophobic statement by Romanian football club owner

Yesterday the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a preliminary ruling on the responsibility of employers in the case of homophobic or discriminatory statements.

The Court of Justice of the European Union CJEUGeorge Becali, a former Romanian MEP notorious for his homophobic statements and currently owner of the Steaua București football club, declared he did not want gay men to play on his team.

Human rights NGO ACCEPT complained about such a homophobic statement by Mr Becali as owner of the football club, and employer of its players.

EU Directive 2000/78 prohibits discrimination in employment, including on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Romanian judiciary asked the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (different from the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights) to indicate how the EU judges believed EU law should apply to this case.

In a statement yesterday, the EU Court of Justice explained that even though Mr Becali doesn’t formally employ his club’s players, his negative statement towards gay men could indicate a bias from his club.

According to the Directive, the club would now have to prove they do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when hiring players.

Reacting to the preliminary ruling, Renate Weber MEP said: “I wholeheartedly welcome the Court’s interpretation. From the very beginning my understanding of this Directive was that employers could not discriminate, even if only in words. Every employer must behave accordingly, and even more so when they are a politician and Member of Parliament.”

Raül Romeva i Rueda MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup and Rapporteur on the new equality directive, added: “This shows the importance of EU anti-discrimination law. Currently such discrimination is forbidden in employment only, but we can see how necessary such a law would be outside of employment.”

“Germany, and with it the Council of the European Union, have been sitting on this proposal for almost five years now. It’s high time they made serious progress on this file.”