Activists unhappy that EU discrimination directive excludes marriage

Tony Grew July 3, 2008
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The International Gay and Lesbian Association has broadly welcomed the new discrimination directive announced by the European Commission yesterday.

However, ILGA-Europe said that gay and lesbian people who want to get married will still face discrimination.

Juris Lavrikovs, a spokesman for the group, said he was pleased that education is to be included in the new directive.

“We really appreciate that the proposed directive covers all grounds of discrimination – something we’ve been working on for months. It’s very positive,” he told EUobserver.

“There is no reference to differential treatment regarding marriage.

“This thus maintains unequal treatment of same-sex couples.”

The Commission said that marriage is in the “competence” of the member states.

“Marriage is not considered a service,” spokeswoman Katharina von Schnubein said.

ILGA-Europe said:

“We are concerned with the fact that the proposed directive leaves out protection against differential treatment on the basis of marital/family status and in the area of reproductive rights.

“Introducing an exception to the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination on the grounds of marital/family status will result in discrimination for many LGBT families and their children across the EU in accessing social protection, gods and services.

“Discrimination and consequent disadvantages experienced by LGBT families and their children were particularly highlighted as a serious cause for concern in a report published by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency this week.”

Yesterday the Commission adopted a proposal for a directive which provides for protection from discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief beyond the workplace.

All goods and services which are commercially available to the public, including housing, will be covered by the directive.

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.

There is at present no EU law protecting LGB people from discrimination in areas such as goods and services which exist for race and gender.

All forms of discrimination at work are already covered by directives.

The directive will cover direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment and victimisation.

However, member states will remain free to “maintain measures ensuring the secular nature of the State or concerning the status and activities of religious organisations.”

National equality bodies will give advice to victims of discrimination while civil society organisations will also be able to help victims in judicial and administrative procedures.

According to an EU survey published yesterday, Europeans think that discrimination remains rife, particularly when it comes to sexual orientation (51%), disability (45%), age and religion (42% each).

Around 1 in 3 Europeans report witnessing discrimination or harassment in the past year, and 48% think that not enough is being done.

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