03/02/2014 09:51 GMT | Updated 04/04/2014 06:59 BST

Equal Rights: Why Europe Needs an EU-Wide Strategy to Protect LGBTI People


It was a bold move that could have cost him his career. But when Olympic diver Tom Daley released a video announcing his relationship with a man, it was warmly welcomed by Brits. Celebrities lined up to offer their congratulations on Twitter, while many newspapers ran the news on their front pages, hailing his courage.

Yes, homosexuality is still far from being universally accepted. Ukip councillor David Silvester was suspended from the party after saying recent floods were due to the UK's legalision of gay marriage. In Paris protests continue against gay marriage more than nine months after it was approved, while the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia have reignited the debate over the situation of gay people there.

Given the scale of the challenge, the European Parliament will vote Tuesday 4 February on a resolution calling for a European strategy to combat homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. MEPs are concerned about the problems that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) continue to experience. A survey released by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013 revealed that 47% of them felt discriminated against or harassed and that 26% had been physically attacked in the previous year.

The resolution urges the European Commission to come up with a comprehensive policy, while still fully respecting the member states' competencies. It should also facilitate, coordinate and monitor the exchange of good practices among EU countries and work with them to collect regular data. Meanwhile European legislation should be beefed up to better tackle discrimination in areas such as employment, education, health and services.

The European Parliament has been a long-time supporter of upholding the fundamental rights of LGBTI people. In 1994 MEPs were already calling on member states to allow gay marriages, a full seven years before the Netherlands became the first country in Europe and in the world to do so. Other resolutions through the years have called on EU countries to respect the rights of LGBTI people and end discrimination against them. Perhaps that will mean that one day an athlete confessing his love for another man will no longer be front page news.

Photo copyright Megan Trace (released under Creative Commons licence)