EU lawmakers seek to declare LGBTQ2S + ‘zone of freedom’ bloc
WARSAW, POLAND – European Parliament lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that would declare the entire 27-member European Union a “freedom zone” for LGBTQ2S + people in a debate that s ‘is held on Wednesday.
The resolution largely comes in reaction to developments over the past two years in Poland, where many local communities have passed largely symbolic resolutions declaring themselves free from what conservative authorities have called “LGBT ideology”.
These cities say they seek to protect traditional families based on male and female unions, but LGBTQ2S + rights activists say the designations are discriminatory and make gays and lesbians feel unwelcome. The areas have become colloquially known as “LGBT-free areas”.
The resolution is the work of a multi-stakeholder group in the European Parliament, the LGBTI Intergroup, which claims to have garnered enough support to endorse the largely symbolic resolution. The vote is scheduled for Thursday.
Group vice-chair Liesje Schreinemacher told other lawmakers this month marks the second anniversary of the first Polish community to pass an anti-LGBTQ2S + resolution.
“Since then, more than 100 places in Poland have followed – a disgrace on European soil,” said Schreinemacher, a Dutch lawmaker, before listing other challenges for LGBTQ2S + people across the bloc.
European Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli welcomed the initiative, saying LGBTQ2S + people were increasingly under attack from political and religious leaders and other public figures.
“This has led to an increase in the scapegoating of people (LGBTQ2S +), who are for example presented as a threat to children,” said Dalli. “The EU must be a zone of freedom for all of us, without exception.”
Ryszard Legutko, a member of the ruling Conservative Party in Poland, which is behind the local resolutions, denounced the debate, telling those who support the resolution that he sees them as the “radical left” and the debate as an “ideological madness”.
Legutko argued that the EU was exceeding its competence with the resolution. He said that marriage based on the union of a man and a woman is a principle enshrined in the Polish constitution that the Poles have the right to defend.
“It is our right to defend families. We cannot violate this right,” Legutko said.
The resolution says the human rights of LGBTQ2S + people have also been “severely hampered” recently in Hungary due to a de facto ban on legal gender recognition for transgender and intersex people. It also notes that only two member states – Malta and Germany – have banned “conversion therapy”, a controversial and potentially harmful attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation.
Dozens of local governments in conservative eastern and southern Poland began in March 2019 to pass either resolutions declaring themselves free from ‘LGBT ideology’ or family charters defending traditional families in this predominantly Catholic nation. .
They have proved costly for Poland’s international image and for the finances of local authorities. The EU and Norway – a non-EU country that funds some developments in EU countries – have cut funding to some communities.
“Hate speech kills, and Poland’s so-called LGBTI-free zones are symbols of hate,” said lawmaker Sophie in ‘t Veld. “And they’re terrible marketing in town, by the way.”
Bart Staszewski, a Polish activist who protested against the local resolutions, said he saw the EU resolution as “important and necessary”.
But he also noted that local governments stopped passing such resolutions months ago and some communities have already withdrawn theirs. Others have passed resolutions declaring their support for all types of families.
“There are some really good changes,” Staszewski said. “I see this as a very good sign for the future.”