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21st Jun 2018

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Green, left and Liberal MEPs lead way on gay rights

  • Revellers at the Brussels gay pride event on 17 May (Photo: Tomas Miglierina)

Green, left and Liberal MEPs led the way on gay rights in the outgoing European Parliament, but right-wing populists could hold them back in future.

A new study by the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament, a cross-party body, shows the political bloc voted in huge numbers in favour of the minority on more than 250 occasions between 2009 and 2014.

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Zooming in on one resolution, condemning a Lithuanian censorship law in September 2009, 100 percent of MEPs from the Greens and the left-wing S&D and Gue/NGL groups, as well as 88 percent of Alde liberals, voted in favour.

By contrast, 20 percent of deputies from the centre-right EPP voted Yes. But nobody from the anti-federalist ECR group, which contains British Tories, or the eurosceptic EFD group, did so.

A resolution urging the UN to do more on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-sexual and intersex (LGBTI), in September 2011, saw the green-left-liberal bloc vote 97 percent to 100 percent in favour.

Fifty eight percent of the EPP, 48 percent of the ECR, and just 16 percent of the EFD voted Yes.

A more controversial topic - the mutual recognition of same-sex marriages in EU states, in March 2012 - again saw green-left-liberals score 95 percent to 100 percent.

The EPP scored 14 percent and the EFD 15 percent, but the ECR caused surprise when 77 percent of its deputies backed the idea.

The figures, based on roll-call votes collated by the votewatch.eu website, come out ahead of an international anti-homophobia day on 17 May and ahead of EU elections on 25 May.

There are no hard statistics on the size of the EU’s LGBTI population, in part because people are reluctant to come out of the closet in some member states.

But rights groups estimate some 2.5 percent, or 10 million voters, in the EU fall into the categories.

“Voting records in the parliament show that a vote cast for Green, Liberal or Social-Democratic candidates will almost always result in LGBTI-friendly voting by comparison to others,” Michael Cashman, a British socialist MEP who co-chairs the Intergroup, told this website.

He added, however: “There is a good number of EPP colleagues who hold progressive views on the fundamental rights of LGBTI people, and a few in the ECR, EFD, and non-attached members too.”

He noted the EPP’s top candidate for the European Commission President post, Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, said in his first TV debate that gay people need more protection.

Cashman added that opponents of EU intervention in the area do it in the name of "subsidiarity" - a legal concept that the Union should leave as much as possible for member states to decide by themselves.

Non-discrimination is enshrined in article two of the EU treaty and constitutes an enlargement criterion for EU-aspirant states.

Some Christian societies in Europe hold conservative views on sexual minorities.

The issue was put in the foreground when a transvestite won the Eurovision song contest on 10 May, prompting some Russian MPs to call for a boycott of the contest.

But Cashman said minority rights are “at the root of Europe's DNA”.

He said the fact the EU parliament adopted 118 resolutions on the subject in recent years proves “the majority of elected members found it important - this represents voters' concerns.”

But with far-right parties and EFD group parties polling to increase their share of seats on 25 May, Cashman warned “this will translate into slower support for human rights” in future.

He added: “We have no doubts that, overall, support for LGBTI people's rights will increase as it has done steadily over the past years. But we're very concerned by the rise in racist and xenophobic views, as well as members opposing women's rights in all areas.”

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

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