The European Parliament today voted to extend anti-discrimination protections beyond employment to cover goods, facilities and services.
Previously, provisions only applied to discrimination on sexual orientation, age, disability or religion in the workplace.
The extension on legal protection will apply to areas such as healthcare and commercial services.
It is designed as an addition to existing rules which currently only protects certain groups from discrimination or only in certain situations.
The Swedish government, which will be next to take up presidency of the EU, signalled last week it intended to implement the new provisions.
Emine Bozkurt, a Dutch member of European Parliament who led the negotiations on the issue for the European Social-Democrats, described the win as a “wonderful victory” for human rights.
She said: “Throughout the EU people are still discriminated, they are denied insurance, education or a home just because of their age, religion or sexual orientation.
“Furthermore, at the moment only three countries in Europe have legislation against multiple-discrimination.
“This means for example that a gay woman in a wheelchair who is discriminated will usually be forced to choose on what ground she suspects the discrimination took place when she files a formal complaint.
“Thanks to Social-Democrat proposals people will no longer be forced to make such an absurd choice.”
Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP, said: “I am very proud that we succeeded in getting a Parliament majority to support this extension of legal protection against discrimination beyond the labour market.
“This is a long overdue victory for the millions of people across Europe at risk of discrimination on grounds of their age, disability, sexual orientation or faith or belief.
“Despite the obvious benefits of greater equality in all areas of society, it has taken months of hard work to win support for the new legislation in the European Parliament. In the face of external pressure, I am delighted that a clear majority voted for these new rules.”