17th Jun 2019


Keen on wedding invites; the EU can do more for LGBTI equality

  • Irish drag performer and LGBTI rights campaigner Panti Bliss (Photo: Marit Fahlander)

At first glance, you might not think that a California-born judge in his late 70s would have much in common with a self-styled gender discombobulating drag queen from the west of Ireland.

Yet Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Panti Bliss have both become readily recognisable symbols of significant equality victories in the USA and Ireland.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The buzz generated by the Obergefell v. Hodges decision and the recent Irish referendum tells us that these are momentous steps. This is why the words of First Vice President Timmermans, calling for equal recognition of same-sex couples, resonated so quickly across Europe after our European Equality Gala in Brussels. However, if you feel a caveat approaching, then you'd be right.

Of course, marriage equality is huge for those same-sex couples who have the means and desire to get married. Even with the introduction of civil partnerships, the fact remains that, in some European countries, certain rights and entitlements are only available to couples who are married.

Socially, it is incredibly important to have same-sex relationships recognised as equal in the eyes of the state. ILGA-Europe don't want to downplay that for a moment. But we have a long way to go before we can say our equality work is done.

Here comes that promised proviso.

- Marriage equality is not the be all and end all.

- Marriage equality is very important but… marriage equality does not equate to total equality.

- Marriage equality is very important but… marriage equality is only immediately relevant to those LGBTI people with an interest in getting married in the first place.

- Marriage equality is very important but… personal safety or the health of their family might be a higher priority for many LGBTI people.

And where the EU is concerned, marriage equality is clearly not one of their competences. But so many practical changes are.

There is a veritable mountain of equality measures that the EU institutions can introduce that will make daily life better for people all over Europe, including LGBTI families.

Safety concerns

The EU has the power to ensure that LGBTI people are protected against physical or verbal abuse when they walk down the street. This fear is not hypothetical; 34% of the trans people in the FRA's 'Being Trans in the EU' report said they had experienced threats or physical violence in the five years preceding the survey.

The EU should address the gaps in its legislative framework when it comes to homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

We know this will not happen overnight, so in the meantime, the European Commission can make sure that every country gives effect to existing legislation on the protection of victims. It can develop a police training curriculum to be used across the EU and it can support effective reporting of violence.

LGBTI children or the children of LGBTI parents need to feel safe at school and the EU has the ability to work in this area.

'Supporting LGBT Lives', a report by Irish ILGA-Europe member GLEN, found that 20% of those surveyed skipped classes as they feared being hurt because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Commission can address the EU-wide phenomenon of LGBTI school bullying by enabling practical exchange of good practices and supporting EU countries in developing their own policies on safe school environments for all.

Non-stigmatising healthcare

When LGBTI people get sick, the EU can safeguard them against discrimination when accessing medical care.

In Portugal, 37% of LGBT people state that they did not dare to disclose crucial info about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to healthcare staff. In Hungary, this figure rises to a shocking 74.7%.

In too many member states, trans people simply do not find specific health care services relating to gender reassignment.

Member States can bring about real change by finally adopting comprehensive equal treatment legislation, including in access to health, while the EU Commission can support universal access to appropriate and non-stigmatising healthcare, for example by providing specialised training for health care staff.

Health, education, personal safety – all of these issues can play on people's minds when they wake up in the morning and the EU has the power to take that worry away.

The recent marriage equality victories on both sides of the Atlantic should encourage Europe's decision-makers to push for more reform, not cause an easing-off in efforts to fight for full equality.

There is a danger that lots of people within the LGBTI community could be forgotten amid all the marriage equality conversations.

ILGA-Europe do not want EU institutions to overlook necessary action, such as the push to close legal gaps on hate crime or the interminable wait for a horizontal anti-discriminative directive.

The EU should not let itself be blinded by marriage equality confetti; we have a lot of work left to do.

Author bio

Evelyne Paradis is Executive Director of ILGA-Europe - the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.


This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Climate policy in Nordics: how to maximise global impact?

To maximise the global impact of climate policy, Norwegian economists recommend a shift of focus - from national emissions reductions, to clean technology development and better use of international emissions-trading systems, notably EU market mechanisms.

A new strategy to promote gender equality through football

Recognising the passion for women's football and its potential offers vast untapped opportunities, FIFA is committed to reaching an ambitious goal: by 2026, the number of women's footballers is to be doubled from 30 million to 60 million players worldwide.

Digital 'Iron Curtain' makes no sense in 5G era

5G technology is a product of global innovation and cooperation. Drawing an Iron Curtain would therefore have an impact on all: Chinese, Europeans, Americans, and others alike.

News in Brief

  1. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July
  2. Austria's Strache will not take up EU parliament seat
  3. Tanker attacks pose questions for EU on Iran deal
  4. Johnson skips TV debate for UK prime ministership
  5. Slovakia's first female president takes office
  6. Irish immigration officers flew back business class
  7. Catalan MEP denied taking seat in European Parliament
  8. EU plans to restructure eurozone bonds

Stakeholders' Views

This EUobserver section provides a platform for EU stakeholders to communicate positions, views and activities.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  2. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  3. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  4. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  5. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  6. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  7. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  8. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us