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Last state criminalisation repealed in 1998.
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
Recognition of same-sex unions in 22/28 states
No recognition of same-sex couples in 6/28 states
Same-sex marriage constitutional ban in 7/28 states.
Adoption Joint adoption in 13/28 states
Step-child adoption in 18/28 states

LGBT rights in the European Union are protected under the European Union's (EU) treaties and law. Same-sex sexual activity 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 civil union, same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

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]

LGBT 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 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, on the basis of religious 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]

EU law currently takes a different approach to transgender issues. 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, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (except Gibraltar and Northern Ireland). Same-sex civil unions have been legalised in Austria, Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. In Denmark and Sweden civil unions were legal from 1989 and 1995 to 2012 and 2009, respectively. However existing civil unions are still recognised.

Austria, Germany, Hungary and Italy are considering legalisation of same-sex marriage. Italy, which was the last country from the old EU15 that failed to recognise same-sex unions, has approved the legalisation of some other form of registered partnership for same-sex couples in May, 2016. Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia have constitutionally defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

European Union law requires those member states that legalised same-sex partnerships to recognise each other's partnerships for the purpose of freedom of movement.[12] The European Parliament has however approved a report calling for mutual recognition.[13][14]

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. Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen Bühnen with regards to a German registered life 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 civil solidarity pact, which is significantly inferior to marriage than a German registered life partnership.[15][16]

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[citation needed], however this is contrary to European law and is rarely enforced.

LGBT rights in: Unregistered cohabitation Civil union Marriage Adoption Anti-discrimination laws Hate crime/speech laws
Austria Austria Yes (Since 2003)[17] Yes (Registered Partnership since 2010)[18] No (Pending)[19][20] Yes (Since 2016) [21] All[22] Yes[22]
Belgium Belgium No Yes (Legal Cohabitation since 2000)[23] Yes (Since 2003)[24] Yes (Since 2006)[25] All[22] Yes
Bulgaria Bulgaria No No Constitutional ban[26] No All[22] No
Croatia Croatia Yes (Since 2003)[27][28] Yes (Life Partnership since 2014)[28] Constitutional ban[29] Partner-guardianship (de facto step-child adoption) (Since 2014) All[22] Yes
Cyprus Cyprus No Yes (Civil Cohabitation since 2015) [30] No No All[31] Yes[32]
Czech Republic Czech Republic Yes (Since 2001)[33] Yes (Registered Partnership since 2006)[34] No No(Step-child adoption pending)[35] All No
Denmark Denmark Yes (Since 1986)
(Registered Partnership from 1989 to 2012; certain partnerships are still recognised) Yes (Since 2012)[37] Yes (Since 2010)[38] All[22] Yes
Estonia Estonia No Yes (Cohabitation Agreement since 2016)[39] No Step-child adoption (Since 2016) All[22] Yes[22]
Finland Finland No Yes (Registered Partnership since 2002)[40] Yes (From 2017)[41] Yes (From 2017) All[22] Yes[22]
France France Yes (Since 1999)[42] Yes (Civil Solidarity Pact since 1999)[42] Yes (Since 2013)[43] Yes (Since 2013) All[22] Yes
Germany Germany No Yes (Registered Life Partnership since 2001)[44] No (Pending)[45][46][47] Step-child adoption;[44] (Joint adoption pending) Some[22] No
Greece Greece No Yes (Cohabitation agreement since 2015)[48] No No All Yes
Hungary Hungary Yes (Since 1996)[49][50] Yes (Registered Partnership since 2009)[51] No (Pending)[52][53]
Constitutional ban
No (Pending) All[22] Yes[22]
Republic of Ireland Ireland Yes (Since 2011)[54] (Civil Partnership from 2011 to 2015; certain partnerships are still recognised)[54] Yes (since 2015)[55] Yes (Since 2015) All[22] Yes
Italy Italy Yes (since 2016)[56] Yes (Civil Union since 2016)[57] No (Pending)[58][59][60] Stepchild adoption admitted by the Court of Cassation[61] Some No
Latvia Latvia No No Constitutional ban[62] No Some No
Lithuania Lithuania No No Constitutional ban[63] No All[22] Yes[22]
Luxembourg Luxembourg No Yes (Registered Partnership since 2004)[64] Yes (Since 2015)[65] Yes (Since 2015) All[66] Yes[67]
Malta Malta No Yes (Civil Union since 2014)[68] Recognition of marriage celebrated abroad (Since 2014)[69][70] Yes (Since 2014)[68] All[71] Yes[22]
Netherlands Netherlands Yes (Since 1979)[72] Yes (Registered Partnership since 1998)[73] Yes (Since 2001)[74] Yes All[22] Yes
Poland Poland No No Constitutional ban[75] No Some No
Portugal Portugal Yes (Since 2001)[76] Yes Yes (Since 2010)[77] Yes (Since 2016) All[22] Yes
Romania Romania No No No No All[22] Yes
Slovakia Slovakia No No Constitutional ban[78] No All[22] Yes[79]
Slovenia Slovenia No Yes (Registered Partnership since 2006)[80] No Step-child adoption since 2011 All[22] Yes[22]
Spain Spain Yes (Since 1995)[81][82] Yes/No (In 16 out of 17 regions and both autonomous cities) Yes (Since 2005)[83] Yes All[22] Yes
Sweden Sweden Yes (Since 1988)[84][85][86] (Registered Partnership from 1995 to 2009; certain partnerships are still recognised)[87] Yes (Since 2009)[88] Yes (Since 2002)[citation needed] All[22] Yes
United Kingdom United Kingdom (incl. British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar Gibraltar) (Since 2006 in Scotland)[89] Yes (Civil Partnership since 2005; in Gibraltar since 2014)[90][91] Yes/No (Since 2014 in England and Wales and Scotland; not in Northern Ireland and Gibraltar)[92][93] Yes (Since 2005 in England and Wales, 2009 in Scotland[citation needed], 2013 in Northern Ireland[citation needed] and 2014 in Gibraltar) All[22][94] 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 All Yes

Public opinion[edit]

Below is the share of respondents per country who agreed with the following statements in the 2015 Special Eurobarometer on discrimination.[95] The last column is the change from the 2006 Eurobarometer where respondents were presented the slightly different statement "Homosexual marriages should be allowed throughout Europe".[96]

Member state "Gay and lesbian people
should have the same rights
as heterosexual people"
"There is nothing wrong
in a sexual relationship between
two persons of the same sex"
"Same sex marriages should be
allowed throughout Europe"
Change from 2006
on last statement
 European Union 71% 67% 61% +17
 Austria 70% 67% 62% +13
 Belgium 81% 82% 77% +15
 Bulgaria 51% 27% 17% +2
 Croatia 48% 39% 37% n/a[97]
 Cyprus 62% 40% 37% +23
 Czech Republic 62% 60% 57% +5
 Denmark 90% 88% 87% +18
 Estonia 44% 40% 31% +10
 Finland 74% 71% 66% +21
 France 81% 83% 71% +23
 Germany 70% 74% 66% +14
 Greece 62% 42% 33% +18
 Hungary 49% 44% 39% +21
 Ireland 87% 82% 80% +39
 Italy 72% 61% 55% +24
 Latvia 42% 23% 19% +7
 Lithuania 44% 30% 24% +7
 Luxembourg 75% 80% 75% +17
 Malta 77% 71% 65% +47
 Netherlands 96% 91% 91% +9
 Poland 37% 37% 28% +11
 Portugal 71% 59% 61% +32
 Romania 36% 24% 21% +10
 Slovakia 36% 33% 24% +5
 Slovenia 54% 55% 54% +23
 Spain 90% 87% 84% +28
 Sweden 95% 93% 90% +19
 United Kingdom 84% 75% 71% +25

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. ^ "ILGA-Europe". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  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 "ILGA-Europe". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  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" (PDF). Council of the European Union. 17 June 2010. 
  10. ^ "EU foreign affairs ministers adopt ground-breaking global LGBTI policy". The European Parliament 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" (PDF). Council of the European Union. 24 June 2013. 
  12. ^ DIRECTIVE 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely
  13. ^ Report on civil law, commercial law, family law and private international law aspects of the Action Plan Implementing the Stockholm Programme, European Parliament
  14. ^ EU-Wide Recognition of Member States’ Gay Marriage, Civil Partnership a Step Closer, WGLB
  15. ^ "Same-sex civil partners cannot be denied employment benefits reserved to marriage". ILGA-Europe. 13 December 2013. 
  16. ^ "PRESS RELEASE No 159/13" (PDF). Court of Justice of the European Union. 12 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "HUDOC Search Page". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  18. ^ (German) Gesamte Rechtsvorschrift für Eingetragene Partnerschaft-Gesetz
  19. ^ (German) Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, Änderung (49/A)
  20. ^ (German)Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, Änderung (498/A)
  21. ^ "Österreich hebt Adoptionsverbot für Homo-Paare auf". Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  22. ^ 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 "ILGA-Europe". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  23. ^ (German) Gesetz zur Einführung des gesetzlichen Zusammenwohnens
  24. ^ (Dutch) Wet tot openstelling van het huwelijk voor personen van hetzelfde geslacht en tot wijziging van een aantal bepalingen van het Burgerlijk Wetboek
  25. ^ "LOI - WET". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
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  28. ^ a b (Croatian) Zakon o životnom partnerstvu osoba istog spola
  29. ^ "Ustav Republike Hrvatske" (PDF) (in Croatian). Ustavni sud Republike Hrvatske. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  30. ^ [1]
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  33. ^ "glbtq >> social sciences >> Prague". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  34. ^ (Czech) 115/2006 Sb. o registrovaném partnerství a o změně některých souvisejících zákonů
  35. ^ "Sněmovní tisk 320 Novela z. o registrovaném partnerství" (in Czech). Parlament České republiky. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 
  36. ^ "1985-86, 1. samling - L 138 (oversigt): Forslag til lov om ændring af lov om afgift af arv og gave. (Lempelse af arveafgiften for samlevende søskende og samlevende personer af samme køn)." (in Danish). Retrieved August 11, 2016. 
  37. ^ (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
  38. ^ "L 146 Forslag til lov om ændring af lov om registreret partnerskab, lov om en børnefamilieydelse og lov om børnetilskud og forskudsvis udbetaling af børnebidrag" (in Danish). Folketinget. Retrieved August 11, 2016. 
  39. ^ "Riigikogu". Riigikogu. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  40. ^ (Swedish) Lag om registrerat partnerskap
  41. ^ (Swedish) Lag om ändring av äktenskapslagen
  42. ^ a b (French) Loi n° 99-944 du 15 novembre 1999 relative au pacte civil de solidarité
  43. ^ (French) LOI n° 2013-404 du 17 mai 2013 ouvrant le mariage aux couples de personnes de même sexe
  44. ^ a b (German) Gesetz über die Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft
  45. ^ (German) Gesetz zur Einführung des Rechts auf Eheschließung für Personen gleichen Geschlechts (18/8)
  46. ^ (German)Gesetz zur Einführung des Rechts auf Eheschließung für Personen gleichen Geschlechts (273/15)
  47. ^ (German)Gesetz zur Abschaffung des Eheverbots für gleichgeschlechtliche Paare (18/5098)
  48. ^ Greece legalizes same-sex civil partnerships
  49. ^ (Hungarian) 1996. évi XLII. törvény a Magyar Köztársaság Polgári Törvénykönyvéről szóló 1959. évi IV. törvény módosításáról
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  51. ^ (Hungarian) 2009. évi XXIX. törvény a bejegyzett élettársi kapcsolatról, az ezzel összefüggő, valamint az élettársi viszony igazolásának megkönnyítéséhez szükséges egyes törvények módosításáról
  52. ^ (Hungarian) T/5423 Magyarország Alaptörvényének 6. módosítása
  53. ^ (Hungarian)T/5424 Az azonos neműek házasságkötéséhez szükséges jogi feltételek megteremtéséről
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  55. ^ Marriage Bill 2015
  56. ^
  57. ^ (Italian) [2]
  58. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 15
  59. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 204
  60. ^ (Italian) Atto Senato n. 393
  61. ^
  62. ^
  64. ^ (French) Loi du 9 juillet 2004 relative aux effets légaux de certains partenariats
  65. ^ "Chambre des Députés du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  66. ^ (French) Mémorial A n° 207 de 2006
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  68. ^ a b ACT No. IX of 2014
  69. ^ [3]
  70. ^ [4]
  71. ^ AN ACT to amend the Constitution of Malta
  72. ^ Major legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnership for different-sex and same-sex partners in the Netherlands
  73. ^ Aanpassingswet geregistreerd partnerschap
  74. ^ (Dutch) Wet openstelling huwelijk
  75. ^ "The Constitution of the Republic of Poland". Sejm RP. Retrieved 5 May 2015. Marriage, being a union of a man and a woman, as well as the family, motherhood and parenthood, shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland. 
  76. ^ (Portuguese) Lei n. 7/2001 de 11 de Maio
  77. ^ (Portuguese) Lei n.º 9/2010 de 31 de Maio
  78. ^ Radoslav, Tomek (4 June 2014). "Slovak Lawmakers Approve Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  79. ^ "ILGA-Europe". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  80. ^ (Slovene) 2840. Zakon o registraciji istospolne partnerske skupnosti
  81. ^ "Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission". Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  82. ^ (Spanish) Ley 29/1994, de 24 de noviembre, de Arrendamientos Urbanos
  83. ^ (Spanish) Ley 13/2005, de 1 de julio, por la que se modifica el Código Civil en materia de derecho a contraer matrimonio
  84. ^ (Swedish) Lag (1987:813) om homosexuella sambor
  85. ^ (Swedish) Lag (1987:813) om homosexuella sambor
  86. ^ (Swedish) Sambolag (2003:376)
  87. ^ Lag (2009:260) om upphävande av lagen (1994:1117) om registrerat partnerskap
  88. ^ (Swedish) Lag (2009:253) om ändring i äktenskapsbalken
  89. ^ Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006
  90. ^ "Civil Partnership Act 2004". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  92. ^ "Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  93. ^ Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014
  94. ^ Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (c. 4)
  95. ^ "Special Eurobarometer 437: Discrimination in the EU in 2015" (PDF). European Commission. October 2015. 
  96. ^ "Eurobarometer 66: Public opinion in the European Union" (PDF). European Commission. December 2006. 
  97. ^ Croatia, which became a EU member state in 2013, was not included in the 2006 Eurobarometer

External links[edit]