The European Parliament on Thursday declared the EU an “LGBTIQ freedom zone.” The resolution was adopted by a vote of 492 to 141, with 46 members abstaining from the vote. The move is in direct response to Poland and Hungary’s growing repression of LGBTIQ rights.
Same-sex relationships do not enjoy legal recognition in Poland. In March 2019, the country declared its first “LGBTIQ-free zone” in the town of Świdnik. At present, more than 100 areas in the country are declared free from LGBTIQ “ideology,” and governments in these zones are expected not to encourage tolerance towards the community, and withdraw their financial assistance from organizations promoting non-discrimination and equality.
Poland’s sociopolitical climate is one of growing intolerance, with violent attacks on Pride parades, arrests of LGBTIQ activists and hate speech from officials and pro-government media. Just hours ahead of the adoption of the European Parliament’s resolution, Poland announced its plan to ban same-sex couples from adopting children and scrutinize applications filed by single people, which will effectively bar all adoptions by LGBTIQ persons.
Hungary in December adopted a constitutional amendment excluding non-binary people from the notion of gender and passed a law permitting only married couples to adopt children. In November, the country’s town of Nagykáta banned the “dissemination and promotion of LGBTIQ propaganda,” and in May, it barred registering a sex change in civil status.
The European Parliament’s press release stated:
Although the Commission rejected applications for EU funding under its town-twinning [program] from Polish towns that adopted [LGBTIQ-free zone] resolutions, MEPs urge the institution to go further. The Commission should use all tools, they say, including infringement procedures, Article 7 of the Treaty on EU, as well as the recently adopted regulation on protecting the EU’s budget, in order to address violations of the fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people in the EU.
“[The European Commission] should ensure full implementation of all relevant EU directives and CJEU judgements in every member state,” said Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director of ILGA-Europe, the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. “It has to hold EU governments accountable to the principles set out in the EU treaties and the Charter for Fundamental Rights.”
The European Commission presented its first-ever LGBTIQ equality protection strategy in November, proposing to extend the list of EU crimes to cover hate crime and ensure EU policymaking reflects the community’s concerns.