Since the Treaty of Amsterdam ratified in 1997, the European Union is equipped to take measures against discrimination. The current Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, one of the highest EU law texts, reads:
Without prejudice to the other provisions of the Treaties and within the limits of the powers conferred by them upon the Union, the Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Article 19, Paragraph 1
This is reaffirmed in the Charter on Fundamental Rights, an equally important and binding piece of EU legislation:
Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic
features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority,
property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Article 21 on Non-discrimination, Paragraph 1
Following the Treaty of Amsterdam, the European Union has made anti-discrimination laws compulsory in a variety of fields since the early 2000s. The EU plays a central role in combating discrimination in Europe, and partly thanks to the European Parliament; but there are still significant shortcomings throughout the EU, which the Intergroup seeks to address.
Why is this a priority?
The table below summarises the current status of EU-wide anti-discrimination law:
|The myths||The facts|
|"The report doesn’t respect subsidiarity."||Yes, it does. Paragraph 5 of the report states that the roadmap "must respect the competences of the European Union, of its agencies, and of Member States".|
|"The report creates special rights for LGBT people and undermines universal human rights."||The report never mentions any special rights. It makes suggestions to ensure that the fundamental rights enjoyed by all can also be enjoyed by LGBT people. For instance, it recommends making sure that Directive 2000/78 on equal treatment in employment applies to lesbian and gay people so that, like everyone else, they aren't fired because of their personal characteristics.|
|"The report promotes ‘gender theory’, which says that people can choose their sex."||There is no such thing as 'gender theory' in this report.The report mentions gender identity, an individual characteristic like age, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Transgender people face specific problems (for instance, they are considered mentally ill), which the report seeks to address.|
|"The report will make it illegal for those who disagree with gay rights to express their opinion."||No, it won't affect freedom of expression. The report asks the Commission to review the Council Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia to also punish incitement to hatred or violence against LGBT people.|
|"The report imposes teaching gay issues in schools to Member States."||No, it won't. The report proposes to facilitate the exchange of good practice in the field of education among Member States, in a non-binding way through the Open Method of Coordination.|
|"The report will force Member States to allow same-sex marriage, adoption, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy for same-sex couples."||The report says this nowhere. EU treaties clearly state that the EU cannot modify national family law. The report proposes to ensure that marriages and partnerships that already exist don't dissolve at the border, leaving families including children in a legal limbo.|
|"The report will provide money to ILGA-Europe or other LGBT organisations."||The report doesn’t refer to money or funding anywhere.|
|"The report was written by 'the gay lobby', or promotes 'the gay agenda'."||The report was written by elected MEPs from five different political groups. It received overwhelming support in committee (40 votes in favour, 2 votes against and 6 abstentions), from the EPP, S&D, ALDE, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL groups.|
|"Children will be subjected to homosexual propaganda."||There is no such thing as 'homosexual propaganda'. What the report does promote is the principle that LGBT people deserve equality and respect, full stop.|
|"The report includes an EU-wide veto mechanism for the LGBT community."||No such mechanism exists anywhere, and it would be legally impossible in the EU.|
We aim to ensure that all the grounds (as well as multiple discrimination) are protected under the law in all spheres of life, as well as ensure that ‘gender’ specifically covers gender identity. But the current legal coverage is far from universal. Significant advances would be made with the horizontal anti-discrimination directive proposed by the European Commission in 2008, thanks to which items ‘In discussion’ would become covered under EU law (according to the current proposal produced by the European Commission).
This has been on the EU’s fundamental rights agenda since the Employment Directive (2000/78/EC) was passed into law in 2000. President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso first announced a Commission proposal in 2004, and the final proposal was finally issued in July 2008, following repeated pressure from the Parliament. The European Parliament approved the Commission’s proposal in April 2009, and all 27 Member States are currently discussing their position in the European Council.
What is the Intergroup doing?
Since the Lisbon Treaty, the decision-making procedure for the directive has changed from ‘consultation’ to ‘assent’ (see an explanation of decision-making in the EU), which means that the Parliament will now need to express its opinion (and give or withhold its assent) on the text from the Council. This will be particularly important since the Council may not converge with the Parliament’s position. Therefore, the Intergroup on LGBT Rights is closely following the negotiations around the directive, in partnership with other Intergroups and civil society groups.
In addition to the horizontal anti-discrimination directive, the Intergroup also follows developments in Member States and candidate countries, for example in the case of Macedonia’s anti-discrimination law.
- All Intergroup news related to combating discrimination
- European Commission: A renewed commitment for non-discrimination and equal opportunities
- Summary of EU legislation on equal treatment between persons
- Status of the horizontal anti-discrimination directive in the Legislative Observatory
- ILGA-Europe campaign for a new anti-discrimination directive