The European Union has officially been declared an “LGBTIQ freedom zone”, following a vote passed in European parliament. The largely symbolic move comes in response to rising discrimination and anti-LGBTQ+ policies in Poland and Hungary.
492 MEPs voted in favour of the new resolution, with 141 voting against and a further 46 abstentions. Those supporting the resolution say that people “in the EU should enjoy the freedom to live and publicly show their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of intolerance, discrimination or persecution”.
“Authorities at all levels of governance across the EU should protect and promote equality and the fundamental rights of all, including LGBTIQ persons.”
Despite waves of protests, the right-wing government of Polish president Andrzej Duda has presented a threat to LGBTQ+ rights since he was elected in 2015, and re-elected by a slim margin last year. Since 2019, many Polish regions have adopted “LGBT-free zones”, which discourage tolerance toward LGBTQ+ people and the promotion of their rights (branded an “ideology more destructive than communism” by Duda).
Ahead of the recent EU vote, the Polish government also announced plans to ban those in same-sex relationships from adopting children, even as a single parent, with the introduction of strict background checks. Joint adoptions by same-sex couples are already illegal in the country.
In Hungary, LGBTQ+ communities similarly face increasing opposition from the far-right government of Viktor Orbán. In late 2020, the country introduced similar restrictions on adoption, alongside laws that stop trans people legally transitioning within the country. Individual regions have also taken steps to ban the “dissemination and promotion of LGBTIQ propaganda”.
Addressing the European parliament on the “LGBTIQ freedom zone” vote, German Greens MEP Terry Reintke suggested that the declaration may only be a first step. “We know our lives are still in danger, our rights restricted, our freedoms brutally suffocated in far too many places in the European Union," Reintke said, as reported by the Guardian. "But it is a step. We are many, we are everywhere and we are strong.”