The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency has said that greater legislative protection and wider support within the EU is required for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans citizens.

A legal analysis of the situation in all 27 member states was released by the FRA today.

The report concluded that the rights and advantages of married couples should be extended to same-sex partnerships, including those benefits for spouses and partners related to free movement and family reunification.

It is the first of two reports related to homophobia and discrimination experienced by members of the LGBT community. A second, detailing the social aspects, will be released later in the autumn.

The FRA report “identifies differences in treatment and protection by the law and a lack of full and equal enjoyment of rights in areas of EU competence, particularly with regard to same sex partnerships.”

It also called for EU-wide criminal legislation on homophobic hate speech and hate crime.

The publication of a new Communication by the European Commission later this week will open a wider debate in the EU about discrimination.

The Commission has said it now backs a “horizontal,” or cross-cutting directive aimed at combating discrimination on grounds of age, disability, religion and belief and sexual orientation in areas outside the field of employment, such as goods and services.

“Equal treatment is a fundamental right that all members of our society should enjoy,” said FRA director Morten Kjaerum. He took up the role at the start of this month. The 50-year-old was previously director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is an independent body of the European Union that provides member states and EU institutions with assistance and expertise and supports them when they take measures or formulate courses of action on fundamental rights.

“The fact that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals are not treated equally in some aspects of EU legislation, particularly concerning same-sex couples should be a cause of concern for us all,” said Mr Kjaerum.

“More comprehensive legal protection, as well as wider powers and resources for equality bodies are required, and I urge that the new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU will ensure this.”

The report found that in 18 out of the 27 EU member states the LGBT community enjoy legal protection and rights in the areas of employment, access to public goods and services, housing and social benefits.

“The new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU should therefore, commensurate to the EU Fundamental Rights Charter, extend legal protection to all the areas covered by the EU’s racial equality legislation and in all member states,” the report stated.

A summary of FRA’s report entitled Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States Part I – Legal Analysis is available at http://fra.europa.eu

The discrimination was going to only cover discrimination against the disabled at one point.

The European Commission announced in April that opposition from Germany and other member states meant that European Union citizens would not be protected from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the new directive.

However earlier this month, the Commission had a change of heart and widened the scope, adding age, religion and sexual orientation to the list.

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.

The European Parliament’s all-party social affairs committee voted for a framework directive against all forms of discrimination, despite firm opposition by right-wing MEPs.