|YOU ARE HERE: Home / Information / LGBT Issues / Europe / European Union / European Union and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights|
Find out how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people used European Union (EU) legislation to protect their rights.
On this page:
Debate on EU competence to protect lesbian, gay and bisexual rights
Until 1997, when EU member states adopted a new Treaty specifically authorising EU institutions to tackle sexual orientation discrimination, there was a debate over whether there was a duty on the EU to offer lesbians, gay men and bisexuals protection against discrimination. Before 1997 none of the provisions of EU law specifically mentioned lgb people or sexuality. There was much debate about which principles or provisions of EU law could be interpreted or implied to indicate that discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals violated EU principles and law and that the EU should tackle such forms of discrimination. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in the EU explored various possible options within EU law to seek legal recognition and protection.
Resolutions of the European Parliament
Some advocates of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights pointed to a number of legally non-binding resolutions of the European Parliament, which condemned discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people and called upon the EU member states to end such discrimination and to provide lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people with legal equality. However these resolutions did not have legally binding consequences and lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people in the EU member states could not rely on their protection. At the same time these resolutions of the European Parliament had significant political importance and encouraged other EU institutions and EU member states to address the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. One of the most significant European Parliament documents is 1994 Resolution on equal rights for homosexuals and lesbians in the EC. In this Resolution, the European Parliament called upon EU member states to provide lesbians and gay men with legal protection against discrimination and to introduce partnership registration schemes. In 1989 the Resolution on discrimination against transsexuals was passed. This Resolution called on member states to enact provisions on transsexuals' right to undergo gender reassignment treatments by endocrinological, plastic surgery, and cosmetic treatment, on the procedure, and banning discrimination against them.
Sex discrimination argument
Other advocates of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights explored the sex discrimination provisions of EU law. The EU has well-established legislation providing protection against sex discrimination. In 1998, the European Court declared that EU sex equality legislation did not protect against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. This was in the case of Lisa Grant v South West Trains. Lisa worked for the South West Trains company which provided benefits to its employees in the form of free travel for employees’ spouses and unmarried cohabitants who had been together for at least two years. South West Trains rejected such benefits to Lisa’s female partner of many years. Lisa claimed she had been discriminated against simply because of her sex - if she had been a man, and not a woman living with another woman, and applied for the benefits, she would have received them. The Court of Justice disagreed and said it was a case of sexual orientation discrimination and not sex discrimination. The Court stated that “in the present state of the law within the Community, stable relationships between two persons of the same sex are not regarded as equivalent to marriage or stable relationships outside marriage between persons of the opposite sex.”
Freedom of movement argument
Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals throughout the EU also explored one of the EU's main principles, freedom of movement, in an attempt to guarantee their rights. According to this principle, citizens of EU member states should be free to travel and seek employment in other EU member states and be joined by members of their family. However, EU member states provide different levels of recognition of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights and as a consequence lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from one EU member state enjoying certain legal recognition cannot expect to enjoy the same recognition in other states. For example, a same-sex couple who have registered their partnership in a country recognising such registration and enjoying certain benefits will not necessarily be recognised or enjoy the same benefits in another country which does not provide such recognition.
Article 13 and Employment Directive
The situation has significantly improved since 1997, when the heads of all EU member states agreed on a new Treaty of Amsterdam, which specifically allowed EU institutions to combat sexual orientation discrimination. Article 13 of the new Treaty of Amsterdam states:
Beyond Barriers (UK) accept no responsibility for the content of external sites.
|| sitemap | legal disclaimer | privacy page | copyright info ||