EU election candidates who support the bloc’s fundamental values need to speak out on LGBTI rights

With the public discourse around sexuality and gender ever more hostile, activists are calling on the next parliament to do more to protect LGBTI people.

By Katrin Hugendubel

Katrin Hugendubel is the advocacy director for ILGA-Europe

06 Mar 2024

Over the past five years, there has been a consistent rise in the instrumentalisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people and their rights in an effort to distort and manipulate political debates. An alarming review we compiled on the human rights situation of LGBTI people in Europe documents instances of hate speech by politicians in 32 countries over the course of 2023, 19 of them EU member states.

The public discourse is becoming more polarised and hostile, particularly towards trans people, and Europe’s LGBTI community has experienced the highest levels of physical violence in decades. It is in this climate that the European Parliament elections will take place next June.

The core values and standards upon which the EU was founded – respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law – have been called into question. Human rights, and in particular the human rights of LGBTI people, are being challenged by far-right forces. LGBTI people’s rights and humanity are increasingly being exploited to sow divisions and undermine democracy and the rule of law.

Despite clear commitments to LGBTI rights at the EU level, gaps in protection against discrimination remain. Freedom of movement for LGBTI people and their families throughout all member states is still not ensured, leaving same-sex parents not recognised when crossing some borders and children without a legal parent. Health policies, strategies to tackle homelessness and poverty, measures aimed at supporting refugees, humanitarian aid and crisis responses, as well as regulations of artificial intelligence and digital rights at the EU level, do not consider LGBTI people as target groups and thus continue to fail the community.

We need a strong mandate for the Parliament and the Commission to address these gaps and continue to advance LGBTI equality for the next 2024-2029 term. A Commissioner with a strong mandate for Equality and Fundamental Rights, a European Commission envoy for LGBTI rights, as well as an ambitious successor to the Commission’s 2020-2025 strategy on LGBTIQ equality are key demands in this respect.

Europe’s LGBTI community has experienced the highest levels of physical violence in decades.

The next Commission must also put forward proposals to include gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics as protected grounds in EU legislation, to ensure trans and intersex people are equally protected.

The European Parliament has been a very strong defender of LGBTI rights during the current term. We have seen political determination to advance the fundamental rights of LGBTI rights across Europe, and moves by certain member states to limit the rights of LGBTI people are finally being addressed by all EU institutions, being publicly condemned but also challenged through infringement procedures and EU funding being withheld.  

It is with this in mind that ILGA-Europe has launched a Come Out 4 Europe pledge in the lead-up to the June elections. It is an opportunity for candidates to show how they will support and protect the rights of LGBTI people as elected members of the European Parliament. With the pledge, we aim to build strong support, which civil society will be able to count on over the next five years.

The human rights of all are at stake when one group is deliberately targeted and attacked. That’s why it is more important than ever to shape a future Europe that is fully committed to democracy, equality and freedom.


EU Institutions