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A Union of Pride: The Case for LGBT People to Remain in Europe

19/06/2016 18:25 | Updated 19 June 2016

Standing in solidarity with Orlando, amongst thousands of LGBT people and our allies, in Soho earlier this week was a powerful expression that 'LGBT pride' can only be secured through co-operation. We did not just come together to withstand hatred, but to demonstrate the power of our fraternity and aspirations for peace and harmony. These principles bring nations and people together in 'European Union'.

The devastation caused by Omar Mateen in Orlando was an act of terror derived from the poisonous ideas of extremists who seek to spread fear amongst LGBT people and hatred towards us. Our community and supporters in Soho and elsewhere demonstrated that we will overcome even the most deep rooted homophobia and transphobia. That means working with EU partners to challenge hatred and promote equality.

London is 'proud' and the LGBT community is stronger for it. Our capital city is a beacon of hope, illuminated by the amazing Soho gathering for 'love is love'. With a Muslim Mayor reflecting the vibrancy of the LGBT rainbow and Londoners being so compassionate, we can move forward with our common endeavour for inclusion and tolerance.

With prejudice thriving in tabloids, the rise of the right and increasing hate crime, many LGBT people are fearful. Sadly, gay men feel inhibited from a kiss, gay women from holding hands and people with transgender experience from being loved. In the UK and across Europe, especially as you go Eastwards, LGBT people frequently 'filter' their behaviour or hide their identity to avoid unwanted attention. That's why people will be coming together this weekend at London Pride to encourage "live your life as you."

Greater awareness and acceptance of LGBT rights has resulted in EU legislative protection. Discrimination at work on grounds of sexual orientation is illegal due to the Employment Equality Framework Directive (2000). It applies to access to conditions of employment and self-employment, vocational training, as well as guidance and membership of workers' and employers' organisations in both private and public sectors. Accompanying the Race Equality Directive and Equal Treatment Directive on gender, this framework helped inform the UK's Equality Act (2010) and acted as a catalyst for change elsewhere in Europe.

Although some countries have legislated against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in goods and services, this isn't universal across member's states. That's why it is important for UK influence to remain at the heart of the single market, to facilitate further anti-discrimination measures. It makes no sense for LGBT people to have protection at home, but subject to discrimination elsewhere in the single market. Retreating with a Brexit vote isn't going to change that unsatisfactory position.

The EU's highest court has ruled that people are entitled to the same benefits anywhere in the EU in a civil partnership as a straight married couple. However, with varied laws on marriage for trans people within the UK itself, as well as across Europe, There is still much work to be done to reform and harmonise law in this area.

Article 1 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees the right to human dignity, while Article 21 prohibits discrimination on grounds that include gender and sexual orientation. Although agreed in 2000, it only came into force in 2009 with the Lisbon Treaty. It empowers the European Court of Justice to hold EU institutions to account in applying the fundamental rights when legislating. Member states are also bound by The Charter when implementing EU measures.

The Charter provides a basis for tackling LGBT hate crime. However, efforts to form targeted policies for combating hate crime are hampered by under-recording. Few EU Member States collect comprehensive data on such offences. In addition, a lack of trust in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems means that the majority of hate crime victims do not report their experiences, leading to under-reporting. That underlines the importance of taking EU-wide action. Therefore, work conducted by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency is being developed to improve the reporting of crime against LGBT people.

The EU is a force for good around the world and it plays a crucial role in raising awareness. It spends €320 million on its rights and equality fund, which supports projects to tackle discrimination and champion equality in the EU and beyond. We benefit in Britain from that agenda, whilst LGBT people around the world are better supported than ever before. Pulling up the drawbridge will undoubtedly setback the freedoms of LGBT people.


Just last week we marked the 801st anniversary of Magna Carta. It is a timely reminder that we need to reinforce our commitment to freedom and rights for all our citizens, including LGBT people.

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