Comment: Why Liberals will always fight for LGBT rights in Europe
Giles Goodall, a Lib Dem European Parliamentary candidate for South East England, writing for PinkNews, reflects on European liberal parties’ input into pushes for equal marriage across the EU, and why there is a need for them to keep working together going ahead.
Last weekend, over a thousand liberals from around Europe met in London for their annual congress, hosted by the Lib Dems and opened by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – the European family of liberal parties – became the first to adopt their joint manifesto for next May’s elections to the European Parliament.
But a second historic event took place at the congress: the launch of a new European liberal campaign for LGBT rights: Liberals for Equality. LGBT rights are human rights, and human rights are, for me as a Lib Dem, a defining liberal characteristic. Liberals were in government in five of the eight EU countries to have introduced equal marriage so far, and the next most likely to do so – Luxembourg – looks set to be led by a (gay) liberal Prime Minister soon.
That is why we as liberals want to play a leading role in promoting equality. We need to push the agenda forward and to campaign strongly, consistently and loudly for equality, all over Europe. The Liberals for Equality network will bring together campaigners from Europe’s liberal parties – such as LGBT+ Lib Dems – to promote equality and combat homophobia across Europe. We will work together with ministers, parliamentarians and activists, through our parties, and across borders. Our objectives are to campaign, educate, stimulate debate, and provide support to liberal equality campaigners.
Europe is as diverse as its people and every country’s situation is unique, especially concerning LGBT rights. That’s why the network will provide a tailor-made approach, by country, in the quest for equal rights. I was very pleased to welcome the support of a series of inspiring liberal equality campaigners at our launch event: Birgitta Ohlsson (Sweden’s EU Affairs Minister), Lousewies van der Laan (Vice-President of the European Liberals), Tamara Van Ark (Member of the Dutch Parliament) and Remigijus Šimašius (Deputy Leader of Lithuania’s Liberal Movement). Evelyne Paradis (Executive Director of ILGA-Europe) and Adrian Trett (Chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems) brought their expertise as activists to the event, which was also supported by Baroness Liz Barker, Lib Dem Member of the House of Lords.
I’m particularly proud, as a Liberal Democrat, that it was London that hosted this first LGBT network event, in the same year that Lib Dem in government helped to achieve full equal marriage for same-sex couples. As a candidate in next year’s European Parliament elections, I want to make equality issues a priority. Europe has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights and I want this to continue in the future. By joining forces, liberals will continue to fight for equality right across Europe.
Giles Goodall is a Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary candidate for South East England
For more information about the network or to get involved, contact Giles.