Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans activists, decision makers and experts will attend a conference in Slovenia next month which aims to draw attention to the to the lack of recognition and existing discrimination LGBT families face in Europe.

At present only three of the 27 EU member states legally recognise same-sex marriage, six allow equivalent civil registration schemes and a further seven have schemes which provide considerably less rights and protections than marriage.

12 allow some form of same-sex adoption.

The conference is being held in Slovenia as they currently hold the EU presidency.

The purpose of the two-day event, from 4th to 6th March, is to enhance a dialogue between European institutions and civil society on the topic of legal recognition of LGBT families.

The European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), an LGBT equality and human rights organisation, has partnered with Slovene LGBT organisation LEGEBITRA to organise the conference.

“This conference is also an opportunity to continue discussion on what is considered to be a family,” said Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe Executive Board.

“Currently, most EU member states and the EU itself have a very narrow interpretation and understanding of what constitutes a family – married heterosexual couple and their children.

“We want to shed the light on the lived realities and draw the attention of European decision makers to the fact that people live in a variety of arrangements and families.

“We believe it is not a matter for a state or the EU to prescribe how people should organise their lives, but rather to acknowledge, recognise and support every family in all their diversity.”

Simon Maljevac, Chair of LEGEBITRA, said:

“To host an event such as this conference during the Slovene Presidency of the European Union is an honour and a challenge for our organisation.

“We believe that the discussions facilitated within this conference and the relevant issues brought forward will further contribute to the better understanding of the diversity of the LGBT families in Europe and in the long run have a positive effect in many EU member states.

“Our hope is that the discussions, experiences and findings presented will influence and encourage national as well as international opinion-makers and authorities towards the enforcement of more inclusive and protective legal support needed for LGBT partnerships and families in EU member states.”

Currently LGBT families are legally recognised only in a few EU member states:

Belgium, Netherlands, and Spain have introduced same-sex marriage while Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK have legalised alternative registration schemes for same-sex couples alternative to marriage.

Belgium, France, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Slovenia have introduced alternative registration scheme which provide considerably less rights and protections than marriage and Hungary will do so later this year.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK allow joint adoption by same-sex partners and second parent adoption in same-sex couples.

Denmark and Germany only permit second parent adoption.

At next month’s conference ILGA-Europe will launch two new reports on LGBT families.

The first report provides an overview of international law affecting LGBT families and of the problems these families face because of lack of legal recognition.

The second report examines the implications of the EU five-year programme on closer cooperation in justice and home affairs for LGBT families.

Additionally, ILGA-Europe is also launching a series of 12 posters and postcards portraying the diversity of LGBT families.

The posters and postcards highlight the challenges and issues they face because of the lack of legal recognition, as well as various positive developments at European level advancing the legal situation for LGBT families.

“With this conference, we want to put the issue of diversity of family models and their recognition firmer on the EU agenda,” said Deborah Lambillotte, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe Executive Board.

“Unfortunately, only a few EU member states recognise and embrace families in all their diversity.

“In most EU countries, LGBT families and their children are still ignored, excluded and discriminated against.

“There is no protection or recognition of LGBT families on EU level and as a result LGBT people, same-sex couples and their children face serious disadvantages.”