Lib Dem European Parliamentary candidate for South East England Giles Goodall writes for PinkNews on the EU as a force for good in the fight for equality, but says discrimination and isolation are still rife for LGBT people and momentum needs to be maintained.

On LGBT rights, voters face an important choice in May Equality is a European value, and over the years the EU has become a strong advocate for LGBT rights. We have the EU to thank for Europe-wide laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and providing special protection for victims of homophobic and transphobic crime. EU pressure has changed the lives of millions of LGBT people for the better in its newer member states in central and eastern Europe, where homosexuality was still a criminal offence as recently as the 1990s.

Of course that doesn’t mean that all is rosy for LGBT communities in Europe. An EU survey last year found that fear, isolation and discrimination are still all too common. Two out of three LGBT people reported hiding their sexuality when they were at school (68% in the UK), while 60% were bullied or called names. 26% of people said they had been attacked or threatened with violence in the past five years. In the UK, the figure was even higher, at 31%.

As a candidate in May’s European elections, I have made equality issues a priority. I want the EU to remain a strong force for LGBT rights and to do even more in the future. That’s why I’m backing ILGA-Europe’s Come Out 2014 European Election Pledge and committing to fight for equality if I’m elected as an MEP.

We need a comprehensive action plan for LGBT rights in Europe and protection against LGBT discrimination in access to goods and services, healthcare and education. We need to support national efforts to combat homophobic bullying, such as the recent initiative by Lib Dem equalities minister Jo Swinson. And we need to make sure that LGBT families do not face denial of their rights because they cross a border in Europe.

We cannot take our rights for granted. With far-right and populist parties forecast to make big gains in the European elections, equality could come under threat. Voters have an important choice on 22 May: back a party which has championed equality at home and abroad, or risk turning back the clock for LGBT communities all over Europe.

Giles Goodall is a Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary candidate for South East England

As with all comment, this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews.