EU's Fundamental Rights Agency: Rights and advantages of married couples should be extended to same sex couples

1 Jul 2008

Equal protection by EU anti-discrimination law remains an ideal not a fact for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals (LGBT) living in many parts of the European Union (EU). Greater legislative protection and wider support within the EU is required. Legal analysis covering the EU 27 released today by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) identifies differences in treatment and protection by the law and a lack of full and equal enjoyment of rights in areas of EU competence, particularly with regard to same sex partnerships. As the European Union begins its debate on non-discrimination with the publication of a new Communication by the European Commission on 2 July, the FRA believes that the equal right to equal treatment should underpin the legislative direction.
"Equal treatment is a fundamental right that all members of our society should enjoy", said FRA's Director Morten Kjaerum, "the fact that Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals are not treated equally in some aspects of EU legislation, particularly concerning same sex couples should be a cause of concern for us all. More comprehensive legal protection, as well as wider powers and resources for equality bodies are required, and I urge that the new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU will ensure this".
The report finds that in 18 out of 27 EU Member States, any artificial "hierarchy" of those facing discrimination has been disregarded and members of the LGBT community enjoy legal protection and rights in the areas of employment, access to public goods and services, housing and social benefits. The report also concludes that rights and advantages of married couples should be extended to same-sex partnerships. This is equally relevant for rights and benefits for spouses and partners related to free movement and family reunification.
The principle of equal treatment, a fundamental EU value, is guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights: Article 21 prohibits any discrimination based on grounds such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation. The new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU should therefore, commensurate to the EU Fundamental Rights Charter, extend legal protection to all the areas covered by the EU's racial equality legislation and in all Member States of the Union.
Homophobic hate speech and hate crime represent obstacles to the possibility for individuals to exercise their free movement and other rights in a non-discriminatory manner. This can be combated using EU wide criminal legislation. The report also documents incidents of banning LGBT demonstrations, such as "pride parades". In addition, the continuing misunderstandings concerning the gathering and compilation of statistical data needs to be addressed to ensure that efforts to combat discrimination can make full use of the tools available and rely on solid and comprehensive statistics.
Transgender issues, often ignored or forgotten, are also treated in this report, which calls for a clarification of their treatment under anti-discrimination legislation.
The report highlights examples of good practice to overcome underreporting of LGBT discrimination, to promote inclusion and to protect transgendered persons.
FRA's legal analysis is the first of two reports related to homophobia and discrimination experienced by members of the LGBT community. The second report detailing the social aspects will be released later in the autumn.
A summary of FRA's report entitled "Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States Part I - Legal Analysis" is available at