Last week’s meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe exposed some members’ ignorance about gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

The committee was holding its first hearing on a report on LGBT rights in the member states.

A panel of four experts addressed the committee, including an ILGA-Europe representative.

The 47-member Council of Europe promotes and protects democracy, educational and sporting co-operation and created the European Court of Human Rights.

Founded in 1949, it predates the European Union.

Last week’s hearing also focused on freedom of assembly and expression for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the Council member states.

“I think it would be fair to say that all panel members were shocked by the level of understanding of issues related to LGBT rights by some members of the committee,” said Maxim Anmeghichean, programmes director for ILGA-Europe.

“Arguments of homosexuals being on the sideline of evolution because we cannot reproduce, that marriage should be protected under constitution, that children in homosexual families will also grow up homosexual, and even that biologically homosexuals can’t have children (all of the speakers started such statements by saying “of course, I am against discrimination of homosexuals, but”) are just few examples.”

However, the committee did decide to merge three motions, on legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, on freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT in member states and on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, into one report.

Mr Anmeghichean said ILGA-Europe will continue its advocacy efforts to ensure the report reflects needs and aspirations of LGBT people throughout Europe.

The legal situation on same-sex partnerships varies across the Council of Europe area: around 20 countries enable registration of a partnership, while a similar number have no legal recognition at all.

A few countries expressly prohibit same-sex marriage in their constitutions, while three member states currently allow civil marriage of same-sex partners.

Andreas Gross, a Swiss Socialist who is preparing the report, said before last week’s meeting:

“Intolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people is still clearly present in our societies.

“Lesbian and gay people have the same fundamental rights as anyone else.”