States reject watered-down EU declaration on LGBTIQ rights

Poland and Hungary accused of attacking core EU values by opposing LGBTIQ reference

An attempt by Austria to placate opponents of LGBTIQ rights by deleting references to them in an EU declaration has been roundly rejected by other EU member states.

Unable to secure Polish and Hungarian support for the declaration in its original form, the Austrian EU presidency duly issued it in a largely unamended form as a presidency statement, a device to get round the unanimity requirement.

Nineteen states, including Ireland, on Thursday rallied behind a separate Maltese initiative to strongly endorse European Commission action on LGBTIQ rights.

At a meeting of the social affairs council, ministers debated a declaration on "gender equality, youth and digitalisation" which had been watered down at the instigation of Hungary and Poland. They have long opposed the inclusion of gay rights in EU equality policy, and compromise wording had referred instead to "sexual orientation".


List of Actions

Attending the meeting, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty welcomed the fact that Ireland had signed up to the Maltese statement to continue and where possible expand the work done on the EU's LGBTIQ List of Actions.

“As the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage through a popular vote, Ireland has been in the vanguard of promoting equal rights for the LGBTIQ community,” she said.

“However, we can’t be too complacent, and more effort needs to be done to address the marginalisation and wellbeing of LGBTIQ persons and to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind.”

An earlier draft of the proposed council declaration listed “young people of low socio-economic status, young people from ethnic minorities including Roma, young persons with disabilities, young people in rural areas, young people with a migrant background and young LGBTIQ persons” among those who needed protection.

‘Gender equality’

The version proposed by the Austrian presidency, which is responsible for managing the council agenda, speaks of “sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation”. There was no mention of “gender equality” or LGBTIQ.

Diplomats argued that although there was a traditional willingness to reach a compromise to achieve agreement on texts, the Polish and Hungarians were attacking core values of the European Union.

This isn’t the first such spat. In October, EU member states failed for the first time to sign off on Europe’s Fundamental Rights Charter because Poland objected to the inclusion of a section on LGBTIQ rights.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times