The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning anti-gay laws in Europe last week, specifically calling on Russia, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania as well as Ukraine to address existing and draft legislation and ‘demonstrate, and ensure respect for, the principle of non-discrimination’.
The resolution was adopted with 430 in favour and 105 against, saying it was “gravely concerned by developments which restrict freedom of expression and assembly on the basis of misconceptions about homosexuality and transgenderism”.
It added that EU Member States should be “exemplary in the application and protection of fundamental rights in Europe”.
14 Conservative MEPs voted in favour of the resolution with 12 either abstaining or being unable to vote. 9 Labour MEPs voted in favour of the move with 3 abstaining or unable to vote. All but two absent Liberal Democrat MEPs voted for the resolution.
The resolution specifically addressed laws in several European countries, condemning laws against ill-defined ‘propaganda’.
The Parliament was concerned that in Russia “criminal and administrative laws against the ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ were enacted in the regions of Ryazan in 2006, Arkhangelsk in 2011, and Kostroma and Saint Petersburg in 2012, and the regions of Novosibirsk, Samara, Kirov, Krasnoyarsk and Kaliningrad are currently considering such laws”.
In Ukraine, the Parliament is “examining two draft laws put forward in 2011 and 2012 which would make it an offence to ‘spread homosexuality’, including by ‘holding meetings, parades, actions, demonstrations and mass events aiming at intentional distribution of any positive information about homosexuality’ and provide for fines and up to five years’ imprisonment”.
The resolution drew attention to Moldova’s recent laws prohibiting the ‘aggressive propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientations’ and, in one city, ‘Muslim activity’.
In Latvia a draft law was tabled to combat ‘gay propaganda’ and in Lithuania the legality of promoting the acceptance of homosexuality remains unclear.
Labour MEP Michael Cashman had condemned the Tories’ European Conservatives and Reformists group for not co-signing the resolution last week accusing them of holding “Neanderthal” opinions, but acknowledged their support for the resolution in the subsequent vote.
Michael Cashman MEP, who is also Co-President of the Intergroup, added: ”Homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia are still a cruel reality for too many in Europe.
“We must take action now: the anti-discrimination Directive, the Framework Decision on hate crimes, the recognition of civil status documents and their effects… these are tangible measures we can take within the next two years. We hope Viviane Reding and the Council will show all the good will they promised in this debate.”
Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament, commented: ”Such a huge support from across political groups shows that homophobes are losing their ground in Europe.
“Politicians in Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova should take note: all political families in Europe find it unacceptable to limit freedom of expression as they do. We will not rest until these laws are repealed, and LGBT people in these countries can live without fear.”
Speaking on behalf of the ECR group, to which the Tories belong in Europe, Timothy Kirkhope told the resolution’s plenary debate: “As George Weinberg once said: the roots of homophobia are fear, fear and more fear. As people begin to fear for their economic security it is important that we do not allow those fears to grow and manifest themselves in discrimination or in the dehumanisation of any group of people.
“Our progress towards building a more tolerant society should not be allowed to go into reverse gear. Of course, we all have different views as to what role the EU can play. Personally, I believe that the EU has a limited role in social policy, but it is a stark reality that some European nations have moved faster towards equality. And let us not forget that many started their journey a long time after others.
“However, I believe that it is important that we stand united today to say that it is a fundamental value of our continent that all people deserve humanity, dignity, personhood and rights, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Sarah Ludford, Vice President of UK Liberal Democrats’ LGBT+, said: “It is absolutely shocking that blatant homophobia persists in EU countries as well as in the wider Europe, and that LGBT people are dying through hate crimes despite the professed commitment to European human rights standards. A culture of homophobic intolerance driven by fear has no place in modern Europe.
“While we look forward to World Pride in London, Riga’s Baltic Pride is threatened with cancellation and Budapest Pride only just survived an attempted police ban. Laws against homosexual ‘promotion’ or ‘propaganda’ interfere outrageously with free speech.
“I look forward to strong support for this resolution from centre-right MEPs. Progress based on cross-party agreement can be rapid, as the UK has shown. We have a Tory Prime Minister who once backed ‘section 28’ and who now supports LibDem plans for equal marriage, helping make the UK top in Europe for LGBT human rights.”
Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London and a member of the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament, co-signed the resolution and said: “Whilst the UK has made significant progress in creating equality before the law, many European citizens still suffer from homophobic attacks, abuse and mistreatment. However, today’s vote proves that those who fan the flames of anti-gay hatred face concerted opposition.
“The European Commission must now take concrete, positive steps to move forward with tangible measures such as the Anti-Discrimination Directive and the recognition of civil status partnerships to prove once and for all that intolerance and violence will not be accepted in the EU and should be opposed in other countries.”