LGBT rights in the European Union

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LGBT rights in European Union
European Union
European Union
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Never criminalised in EU law.
Last state criminalisation repealed in 1994.
Military service Allowed to serve openly in every state except Cyprus.
Discrimination protections Outlawed in employment with further protections in some member states' law
Family rights
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage in 10/28 states
Same-sex civil union in 15/28 states
no recognition of same-sex couples in 9/28 states
Same-sex marriage constitutional ban in 7/28 states.
Adoption Joint adoption in 9/28 states
Step-child adoption in 12/28 states
Biological step-child adoption in 13/28 states

LGBT rights in the European Union are protected under the European Union's (EU) treaties and law. Homosexuality is legal in all EU states and discrimination in employment has been banned since 2000. However EU states have different laws when it comes to any greater protection, same-sex marriage and LGBT adoption.

Treaty protections[edit]

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union makes in Articles 10 and 19 provisions for combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. These provisions were enacted by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999.[1][2]

Furthermore, Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights asserts that "any discrimination based on any ground such as [...] sexual orientation shall be prohibited." The Charter was agreed in 2000 and became legally binding in 2009.[1][2][3]

Legislative protection[edit]

Gay rights in the European Union

Following the inclusion of the Treaty of Amsterdam's abovementioned provisions, the directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation was enacted in 2000. This framework directive compelled all EU states to adopt, within three years, anti-discrimination legislation in employment. That legislation had to include provisions to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[2]

In practice, this protects EU citizens from being refused a job, or from being fired, because of their sexual orientation. It also protects them from being harassed by a work colleague due to their sexual orientation. It does not cover being refused medical services or treatment, refusal of being given a double room in a hotel, protection from bullying in a school and refusal of social security schemes (e.g. survivors’ pensions and financial assistance to carers). Protection under EU law in these circumstances is however granted on the grounds of race or gender.[4]

Proposed directive[edit]

A proposed European anti-discrimination law would outlaw discrimination in the areas of social protection, social advantages, education and access to supply of goods. This would be on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age, and sexual orientation.[5] However the directive has been stalled in the Council, despite strong support from the European Parliament.[6]

Transgender rights[edit]

Transgender protection is not covered in the same way in EU law. Despite the European Parliament adopting a resolution on transsexuals’ rights as early as 1989, transgender identity is not incorporated into any EU funding and was not mentioned in the law establishing the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) as sexual orientation was. However, the case law of the European Court of Justice provides some protection by interpreting discrimination on the basis of 'sex' to also refer to people who have had 'gender reassignment'. Thus all EU sex discrimination law applies to transgender people.[2] In 2002, the 1976 equal treatment directive was revised to include discrimination based on gender identity.[7]

Other actions[edit]

Between 2001 and 2006, a Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination involved the expenditure of €100 million to fight discrimination in a number of areas, including sexual orientation.[7]

In 2009 the European Commission has acted to tone down a law in Lithuania that included homophobic language and also aimed to support the gay pride parade in the country and others under threat of banning.[2]

Foreign relations[edit]

In June 2010, the Council of the European Union adopted a non-binding toolkit to promote LGBT people's human rights.[8][9]

In June 2013, the Council upgraded it to binding LGBTI Guidelines instructing EU diplomats around the world to defend the human rights of LGBTI people.[10][11]

Same-sex unions[edit]

Same-sex marriage has been legalised in Belgium, Denmark, Finland (effective from 1 March 2017), France, Luxembourg (effective from 1 January 2015), the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (except Gibraltar and Northern Ireland). Same-sex civil unions have been legalised in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia (effective from 1 January 2016), Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

Austria, Germany, Ireland and Italy are considering legalisation of same-sex marriage. Cyprus, Greece and Italy are considering the legalisation of some other form of registered partnership for same-sex couples. Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia have constitutionally defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

While the EU legislates to improve the free movement of persons, there is no provision for mutual recognition of same-sex partnerships. The European Parliament has however approved a report calling for mutual recognition.[12][13]

According to EU Court of Justice case law based on the Employment Equality Framework Directive, employees in a civil partnership with a same-sex partner must be granted the same benefits as those granted to their colleagues upon their marriage, where marriage is not possible for same-sex couples. The Court established this principle in 2008 in the case of Tadao Maruko v. Versorgungswerk der deutschen Bühnen with regards to a German registered partnership. In December 2013, the Court confirmed this in the case of Frédéric Hay v. Crédit agricole mutuel (C-267/12) with regards to a French PACS, which is significantly inferior to marriage than a German partnership.[14][15]

State laws on sexual orientation[edit]

For detail, see: LGBT rights in Europe#Legislation by country or territory

Openly gay people are allowed to serve in the military of every country except Cyprus, however this is contrary to European law and is rarely enforced.

LGBT rights in: Civil union Marriage Adoption Anti-discrimination laws Hate crime/speech laws
Austria Austria Yes (Registered Partnership since 2010)[16] No (pending)[17] Biological step-child adoption[18] Some[19] Yes[19]
Belgium Belgium Yes (Statutory Cohabitation since 2000)[20] Yes (since 2003)[21] Yes (since 2006)[22] All[19] Yes
Bulgaria Bulgaria No No, constitutional ban No All[19] No
Croatia Croatia Yes (Life Partnership since 2014)[23] No, constitutional ban Partner-guardianship (similar to step-child adoption) All[19] Yes
Cyprus Cyprus No (proposed) No No All[24] No
Czech Republic Czech Republic Yes (Registered Partnership since 2006)[25] No No All No
Denmark Denmark No (Registered Partnership from 1989 to 2012) Yes (since 2012)[26] Yes (since 2010) Some[19] Yes
Estonia Estonia Yes (Cohabitation Agreement from 2016)[27] No Step-child adoption All[19] Yes[19]
Finland Finland Yes (Registered Partnership since 2002)[28] Yes (from 2017)[29] Step-child adoption (joint adoption pending) Some[19] Yes[19]
France France Yes (Civil Solidarity Pact since 1999)[30] Yes (since 2013)[31] Yes (since 2013) All[19] Yes
Germany Germany Yes (Registered Life Partnership since 2001)[32] No (pending)[33] Step-child adoption[34] (joint adoption pending) All[19] No
Greece Greece No No No Some Yes
Hungary Hungary Yes (Registered Partnership since 2009)[35] No, constitutional ban No All[19] Yes[19]
Republic of Ireland Ireland Yes (Civil Partnership since 2011)[36] No (proposed) No (Step-child adoption proposed) All[19] Yes
Italy Italy No (pending)[37][38][39] No (pending)[40][41][42] No Some No
Latvia Latvia No No, constitutional ban No Some No
Lithuania Lithuania No No, constitutional ban No All[19] Yes[19]
Luxembourg Luxembourg Yes (Registered Partnership since 2004)[43] Yes (from 2015)[44] Yes (since 2015) All[45] Yes[46]
Malta Malta Yes (Civil Union since 2014)[47] No Yes (since 2014)[47] All[48] Yes[19]
Netherlands Netherlands Yes (Registered Partnership since 1998) Yes (since 2001)[49] Yes All[19] Yes
Poland Poland No No, constitutional ban No Some No
Portugal Portugal No Yes (since 2010)[50] No All[19] Yes
Romania Romania No No No All[19] Yes
Slovakia Slovakia No No, constitutional ban No All[19] Yes[51]
Slovenia Slovenia Yes (Registered Partnership since 2006)[52] No No (proposed) All[19] Yes[19]
Spain Spain Yes Yes (since 2005)[53] Yes All[19] Yes
Sweden Sweden No (Registered Partnership from 1995 to 2009) Yes (since 2009) Yes (since 2003) All[19] Yes
United Kingdom United Kingdom (incl. British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar Gibraltar) Yes (Civil Partnership since 2005; in Gibraltar since 2014)[54][55] Yes/No (Since 2014 in England and Wales and Scotland; not in Northern Ireland and Gibraltar)[56][57] Yes (since 2002 in England and Wales, 2009 in Scotland and 2013 in Northern Ireland and Gibraltar) All[19][58] Yes

Due to the Cyprus dispute placing Northern Cyprus outside the Republic of Cyprus' control, EU law is suspended in the area governed by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

LGBT rights in: Civil union Marriage Adoption Anti-discrimination laws Hate crime/speech laws
Northern Cyprus Northern Cyprus No No No Yes Yes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, European Union 2009
  2. ^ a b c d e Perspective: what has the EU done for LGBT rights?, Café Babel 17/05/10
  4. ^ What is the current legal situation in the EU?, ILGA Europe
  5. ^ Why ILGA-Europe supports the proposed Anti-Discrimination Directive, ILGA Europe
  6. ^ European Parliament renews call for anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people, LGBTQ Nation
  7. ^ a b European Union and LGBT rights, ILGA-Europe
  8. ^ "MEPs welcome new toolkit to defend LGBT people’s human rights". The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights. 30 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People". Council of the European Union. 17 June 2010. 
  10. ^ "EU foreign affairs ministers adopt ground-breaking global LGBTI policy". The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights. 24 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex (LGBTI) persons". Council of the European Union. 24 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Report on civil law, commercial law, family law and private international law aspects of the Action Plan Implementing the Stockholm Programme, European Parliament
  13. ^ EU-Wide Recognition of Member States’ Gay Marriage, Civil Partnership a Step Closer, WGLB
  14. ^ "Same-sex civil partners cannot be denied employment benefits reserved to marriage". ILGA-Europe. 13 December 2013. 
  15. ^ "PRESS RELEASE No 159/13". Court of Justice of the European Union. 12 December 2013. 
  16. ^ (German) Gesamte Rechtsvorschrift für Eingetragene Partnerschaft-Gesetz
  17. ^ (German) Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, Änderung
  18. ^ Adoptionsrechts-Änderungsgesetz
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Rainbow Europe Country Index
  20. ^ (German) Gesetz zur Einführung des gesetzlichen Zusammenwohnens
  21. ^ (Dutch) Wet tot openstelling van het huwelijk voor personen van hetzelfde geslacht en tot wijziging van een aantal bepalingen van het Burgerlijk Wetboek
  22. ^ Wet tot wijziging van een aantal bepalingen van het Burgerlijk Wetboek, teneinde de adoptie door personen van hetzelfde geslacht mogelijk te maken
  23. ^ (Croatian) Zakon o životnom partnerstvu osoba istog spola
  24. ^ "Cyprus: Penal code amended to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity". PinkNews. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  25. ^ (Czech) 115/2006 Sb. o registrovaném partnerství a o změně některých souvisejících zákonů
  26. ^ (Danish) Lov om ændring af lov om ægteskabs indgåelse og opløsning, lov om ægteskabets retsvirkninger og retsplejeloven og om ophævelse af lov om registreret partnerskab
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ (Swedish) Lag om registrerat partnerskap
  29. ^ (Swedish) Lag om ändring av äktenskapslagen
  30. ^ (French) Loi n° 99-944 du 15 novembre 1999 relative au pacte civil de solidarité
  31. ^ (French) LOI n° 2013-404 du 17 mai 2013 ouvrant le mariage aux couples de personnes de même sexe
  32. ^ (German) Gesetz über die Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft
  33. ^ (German) Gesetz zur Einführung des Rechts auf Eheschließung für Personen gleichen Geschlechts
  34. ^ (German) Gesetz über die Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft
  35. ^ (Hungarian) 2009. évi XXIX. törvény a bejegyzett élettársi kapcsolatról, az ezzel összefüggő, valamint az élettársi viszony igazolásának megkönnyítéséhez szükséges egyes törvények módosításáról
  36. ^ Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010
  37. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 239
  38. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 314
  39. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 1211
  40. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 15
  41. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 204
  42. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 393
  43. ^ (French) Loi du 9 juillet 2004 relative aux effets légaux de certains partenariats
  44. ^ 6172A
  45. ^ (French) Mémorial A n° 207 de 2006
  46. ^ Criminal Code of Luxembourg (Law of 16 June 1879) (excerpts)
  47. ^ a b ACT No. IX of 2014
  48. ^ AN ACT to amend the Constitution of Malta
  49. ^ (Dutch) Wet openstelling huwelijk
  50. ^ (Portuguese) Lei n.º 9/2010 de 31 de Maio
  51. ^ Law change criminalises homophobia
  52. ^ (Slovene) 2840. Zakon o registraciji istospolne partnerske skupnosti
  53. ^ (Spanish) Ley 13/2005, de 1 de julio, por la que se modifica el Código Civil en materia de derecho a contraer matrimonio
  54. ^ Civil Partnership Act 2004
  56. ^ Marriage (Same-sex couples) Act 2013
  57. ^ Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014
  58. ^ Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (c. 4)

External links[edit]