The European Commission has prepared a strategy to ensure equality for gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and other members of the LGBTIQ community over the next five years, however, the document might have the exact opposite effect than its authors intended, writes Marek Kerles in his commentary for Czech news portal Info.cz: What should transform interpersonal relationships and become a kind of revolution in the perception of human sexuality and human personality is officially entitled: “Union of Equality: LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025”. In reality, it is nothing more than a guide for the EU to reach a state of society within five years in which any difference can be tolerated. The authors of the strategy quote the words of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who said in last year’s speech in her state of the union: “I do not intend to slow down in the effort to build an equality union. A union where you can be who you are and love who you want – without fear of blame or discrimination. Because being yourself is not your ideology. It’s your identity. And no one can ever take it from you.” But the European Commission’s “equality” strategy goes much further than the declared rejection of discrimination against the LGBTIQ community. The document represents an attempt to concretize some measures to protect the rights of gays, lesbians, transsexuals, or intersex people, but at the same time, it is not specific enough to guide a truly unambiguous interpretation. And that is its greatest danger. Everyone can take from it what they see fit. It just all depends on the way you read it. Instead of sticking either to a general (but even clearer) rejection of discrimination or finding the courage to propose concrete measures, the “equality strategy” is a heterogeneous mix of various vague recommendations that remain somewhere in the middle. And many readers can easily wonder if this is not the original intention. Undisputed evidence is missing in the EU’s arguments Already in the introduction, the authors commit an error that compromises other conclusions arising from the text. They are deliberately trying to give the impression that the LGBTIQ community is particularly affected by the current COVID-19 crisis and, therefore, deserves special attention in this regard.
The document states that “measures restricting the free movement of persons have imprisoned many young and older LGBTIQ people in hostile environments where they may be at risk of violence or risk of increased anxiety or depression. Widespread false reports even accuse LGBTIQ people of spreading coronavirus.” Everyone has to wonder whether LGBTIQ members (for example, compared to seniors) in the European Union are really so particularly affected by the coronavirus crisis that they deserve special treatment and protection. Undisputed evidence is missing in the document, as it only refers to a questionnaire among community members. Moreover, the EU document treats the basis for arguments in many other cases similarly. For example, the document also states that although there is greater social acceptance and promotion of equal rights in the EU, this has not always been reflected in a clear improvement in the lives of LGBTIQ people. This argument alone should lead the authors of the document to ponder on this strange paradox. Although liberal laws in favor of the rights and freedoms of the LGBTIQ community — same-sex marriage, registered partnership, adoption of children by homosexual couples, recognition of gender reassignment without medical intervention — are approved every year in EU countries, it apparently does not lead to improving the quality of life for gay, lesbian or transgender people. They feel more discriminated against than before.
In addition, the equality strategy speaks openly about the need for inclusion of people from the LGBTIQ community in the work environment and schools. However, the authors no longer specify what this should look like. In the future, will employers across Europe be rewarded for employing a person with a different sexual orientation than the majority one? Or will they even be told? And how would heterosexual, homosexual, and intersex men apply for a position in such a case? At the same time, the European Commission promises a strategy that, as an employer, it will set an example in the inclusion of members of the LGBTIQ community. Again, it doesn’t explain what this means in practice. Will identities hidden behind the abbreviation LGBTIQ have to be equally represented in the official body of the Commission (or even directly in the Commission)? The centralization of family law across the EU The most controversial passage, however, involves the effort to unify the rules for protecting the rights of the LGBTIQ community across all the EU. And this is a demand which, despite all the liberalization to date, has so far sounded very quiet and cautious in the public sphere. Although the EU is based, among other things, on the unification of trade rules, each country creates its own family law and rules on gender reassignment or same-sex partnerships. The European Commission also sees this diversity of family law laws as a problem. The so-called rainbow families (same-sex couples) with children sometimes become practically illegal when traveling or moving to another country in the EU with less liberal laws. And the solution? The Commission will reportedly seek mutual recognition of family relationships in the EU. “If someone is a parent in one country, they are a parent in all countries. In 2022, the Commission will propose a horizontal legislative initiative to promote mutual recognition of parenthood between Member States, such as the recognition of parenthood in one Member State, legally recognized in another Member State,“ the document said.
Logically, this can mean nothing more than the victory of the most liberal approach. If a state recognizes the marriage of homosexuals, as well as their right to adopt or conceive a child (with the help of a surrogate mother), then this form of family would have to be recognized by all states. Another point of contention may be the issue of gender recognition in different EU countries. According to the EC document, four states in the union have already adopted a law allowing gender reassignment without medical intervention. This means that a woman or a man longing for this identity change no longer has to undergo surgery, but so-called personal self-determination is enough. If they get an opinion from a psychologist that they feel like they are a member of the opposite sex, they do not need to undergo the appropriate procedure. But while in one state a man with male genitals may be a woman, in another not. What will happen, for example, during an inspection at an international airport? In this respect, too, the equality strategy calls for unification or mutual recognition of rules. “The Commission will promote the exchange of best practices between member states on how to implement accessible gender recognition legislation and gender recognition procedures based on the principle of self-determination and without age restrictions,” the document said.
And again: a concrete procedure is missing. If the European Commission is really working to eliminate discrimination against members of the LGBTIQ community, it should first and foremost seek to dispel fears that this effort threatens the traditional family or simply the rights of others. That is the essence of the whole dispute, nothing else. Instead, the Commission is developing an equality strategy full of factual and argumentative errors as well as unanswered questions and pervasive confusion.