Members of the European Parliament’s LGBT rights group and the International Lesbian and Gay Association are calling on the European Commission to propose a “horizontal” EU directive tackling discrimination on basis of sexual orientation.

EU directives are legislation that requires member states to, for example, deal with discrimination, but leaves it up to the states to decide on the best course of action to take.

A new EU directive will be decided on by the Commission in the coming months.

Activists are concerned at signs that age, religion and belief and sexual orientation will not be included.

Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty, covering race and employment directives, requires EU member states to introduce legislation to outlaw unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability and age in the fields of employment and training.

The directive also applies to areas such as education and goods and services.

A directive to combat discrimination on the remaining grounds of Article 13 was announced in the Commission’s work programme for 2008.

Last week the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, reportedly told members of the MEPs Women’s Committee that the discrimination directive will not cover discrimination on the grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation.

In 2004 Mr Barroso made a statement before the Parliament promising to personally ensure that the legal protections would be enlarged to all forms of discrimination.

The European Parliament has called for such a directive at least on seven occasions in the past eight years.

MEPs pointed to last week’s European Court of Justice ruling that that same-sex partnerships can not be discriminated in the question of survivors pensions.

Although social security is not an area regulated by the Employment Directive, the court recognised that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the case was direct.

“It would be really sad if European citizens would be forced to go to the European Court of Justice every time they experience discrimination outside employment,” said Raul Romeva, Vice-President of the Intergroup for LGBT Rights.

“One single horizontal directive prohibiting discrimination in other areas than employment would effectively solve the situation and would better protect our European citizens.”

Lissy Gröner, Vice-President of the Intergroup said:

“The commission is planning to propose a directive banning discrimination only on the grounds of disability and not on other grounds as sexual orientation, religion and age. This is unacceptable.

“If a person is lesbian and disabled and suffers discrimination, it will create a very complicated situation as the perpetrator of the discrimination will be able to refer to her sexuality to escape legal consequences.

“Hence not including discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the forthcoming directive will also weaken protection against discrimination on other grounds.”

Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe Executive Board, said:

“We encourage all our members in the European Union, all our allies and supporters to actively get involved in this campaign.

“Contact your Commissioner, talk to your government officials. Let them know that lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Europe still suffer from discrimination in education, healthcare, in accessing goods and services and that they need to be protected.

“Discrimination is not just an abstract concept. Discrimination is an unfortunate lived reality for many people.

“Mobilise your members, colleagues, friends and relatives to send a clear demand to the Commission and to your government – the current EU hierarchy of protections against discrimination has to end now.”