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Explained: Why the EU has been declared an ‘LGBTIQ Freedom Zone’

The European Parliament has symbolically declared the entire 27-member bloc as an "LGBTIQ Freedom Zone". A majority of countries in the EU (23/27) recognise same-sex unions, with 16 legally recognising same-sex marriage.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 15, 2021 10:16:11 am
A rainbow flag flutters in the wind at the financial quarter in Brussels, Thursday, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo: Francisco Seco)

In a resolution adopted Thursday, the European Parliament symbolically declared the entire 27-member bloc as an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone” – the acronym meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex and queer.

The move comes as a response against member state Poland’s controversial move to create more than 100 “LGBTIQ ideology-free zones” around the country since 2019, and more generally against the backsliding of LGBTIQ rights in some EU countries, particularly in Poland and Hungary, the legislature said in a press release.

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LGBTIQ rights in Poland and Hungary

A majority of countries in the EU (23/27) recognise same-sex unions, with 16 legally recognising same-sex marriage. Poland is part of the small minority that does not acknowledge such relationships. Its president, Andrzej Duda last year said that “LGBT ideology” is more “destructive to man” than communism imposed on the country by the Soviet Union.

Poland is also among the countries that bar same-sex couples from adopting children together, although many such couples get around this rule by applying to adopt as single parents. The country has now announced plans to close the loophole by introducing background checks on applicants. Under the proposed law, those found to be applying as a single parent while being in a same-sex relationship will be criminally liable.

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Since March 2019, over 100 regions, counties and municipalities in Poland have adopted resolutions declaring themselves to be free from LGBTIQ “ideology”. As per these resolutions, the local governments have to refrain from encouraging tolerance towards LGBTIQ people and withdraw financial assistance from organisations promoting non-discrimination and equality.

Participants march in a LGBT pride parade in downtown Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (AP Photo: Darko Bandic, File)

The EU press release said, “MEPs (Members of European Parliament) also highlight that these ‘‘LGBTIQ-free zones’’ are part of a broader context in which the LGBTIQ community in Poland is subject to increased discrimination and attacks, notably growing hate speech from public authorities, elected officials (including the current President), and pro-government media. They also deplore the arrests of LGBTIQ rights activists, and the attacks and bans on Pride marches”.

Like Poland, Hungary has also been pushing forward a conservative Catholic social agenda. In November 2020, the town of Nagykáta adopted a resolution banning the ‘‘dissemination and promotion of LGBTIQ propaganda’’. A month later, the country’s parliament adopted a constitutional amendment to further restrict the community’s rights.

The EU resolution

The EU Parliament resolution to declare the bloc as an ‘‘LGBTIQ Freedom Zone’’ was passed by 492 votes in favour, 141 against and 46 abstentions.

The resolution reads, ‘‘LGBTIQ persons everywhere 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, and authorities at all levels of governance across the EU should protect and promote equality and the fundamental rights of all, including LGBTIQ persons.”

The declaration is the latest flare-up between Poland and Hungary on one side and the rest of the EU on the other. The two former Communist states, now run by conservative nationalist governments, have in recent years been criticised by the bloc for deteriorating democratic standards. In December last year, the two central European nations threatened to veto the EU’s budget and recovery fund after Brussels said that it would make the money conditional on respect of rule of law and democratic norms.

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