- 12 Mar 21
The declaration was supported by 492 MEPs from across Europe. It was disturbing, nonetheless, that almost 27% of the members of Parliament opposed the resolution. Hostility to gay people is still, it seems, widely supported in Europe…
The European Parliament has today passed a ‘non-binding resolution’ declaring the European Union an LGBTIQ freedom zone. The symbolic agreement was passed with 492 ballots in favour – but there were still 141 opposing votes.
The new measure was proposed primarily as a response to policies adopted by six Polish counties that have declared themselves so called “L.G.B.T-free zones”. The EU believes that the Polish move undermines the fundamental democratic values that shape the 27-nation bloc.
The Polish municipalities who were involved in what is a clearly discriminatory approach to gay and non-binary members of the local community say that the idea behind these self-styled “LGBT-free zones” is to protect what they described as “traditional views” – ones, that is, that reject the idea of same-sex unions.
The EU had previously imposed a rare financial sanction on Polish towns that had self-designated as “L.G.B.T-free zones”. The financial embargo was conceived as a response to the conscious unequal treatment of citizens.
Today’s announcement also follows the brutal murder of a gay man in Belgium, who was lured into a date by someone he had apparently met on a dating app for gay men.
Speaking at a panel held following today’s announcement of an LGBTIQ freedom zone, Belgian MEP – and member of the political group Renew Europe, Hilde Vautmans (pictured) – said that she was unsettled to see a symbolic equality resolution still face significant opposition at the European Parliament.
“It’s incredible that even here, in this parliament, people who are elected voted against it,” Ms Vautmans said. “It worries me. Also, when I listened to the debate [held on Wednesday] it worries me.”
An EU-wide anti-discrimination directive has been stuck at its first reading stage in the European Council since 2008. The proposed directive is blocked from moving to the next stage by at least eight European ministers, who argue that it interferes with member states’ right to legal autonomy on social issues.
If it is ever passed, the directive will impose a ban on discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, religion or sexual-orientation across the EU. However, that seems less likely than ever, despite the predominance of progressive forces on social issues across the continent.
Ms Vautmans, who said she has lost a queer family member to suicide, said she would have “preferred” to see the European Parliament going beyond symbolic gestures by passing a legally binding resolution to protect members of the LGBTIQ community.
“I would prefer that we can punish those who don’t respect human rights,” she said, “because for me it’s a debate about human rights.
“It’s the right to love who you want to love, it’s the right to fall in love with somebody of the same sex, it’s the right to change your sex even.”
A STRONG MESSAGE
Belgium’s Green Party MEP Sara Matthieu also participated at today’s panel. She said that the symbolic resolution was necessary because the recent murder of a gay man in Belgium showed that members of the LGBTIQ community remain vulnerable, even in western European democracies.
“I think it’s a really strong signal that we’re giving here,” she said, “especially after what happened last weekend with the brutal murder – these homophobic acts of crime. Europe should be a safe zone for people no matter who you love, no matter who you want a family with.”
Ms Matthieu said that today’s resolution also sends a “strong message” to conservative European leaders who treat queerness as “an ideology, as a lifestyle choice” – and one that can be changed.
The Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer of the Labour Party also welcomed the resolution. He said that it was ironic to see that he and his assistant were verbally abused today, after trying to take a picture, in celebration, with the rainbow flag outside the European Parliament.
“We were insulted because we were holding a rainbow flag,” Cyrus said. “We were safe because we were in the parameters of the European Parliament, but if this was at night, maybe somewhere in some dark alley in Brussels or in Valletta, my capital city, that could have been a frightening experience.”
Artists from the LGBTQIQ community also participated in today’s panel – which was moderated by Belgian TV journalist Van Speelbeck, herself a transgender woman.
Yes! The #EU is now a #LGBTIQFreedomZone thanks to an overwhelming majority vote in the @Europarl_EN 🇪🇺🏳️🌈
🔴 Follow this insightful debate on #LGBTIQRights with other politicians, activists & artists 🎥: https://t.co/vxPFmxn7i2 pic.twitter.com/Uu7WlccBGP
— Hilde Vautmans (@hildevautmans) March 11, 2021