European Union and LGBT rights
Over the last two decades the European Union has become increasingly committed to the active promotion of human rights.
A significant manifestation of this commitment was the inclusion in the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam of Article 19 (former Article 13) which empowered the European Union to "take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation." This led in 2000 to:
- The adoption of the Employment Directive, which obliges all Member States to introduce legislation banning discrimination in employment on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation by December 2003.
- Countries wishing to join the Union will also be obliged to introduce legislation. Given the number of countries affected, the Employment Directive is arguably the most important single legislative initiative in the history of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights.
- A Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination, involving the expenditure of EUR100 million over the period 2001 to 2006, to fight discrimination in a number of areas, including sexual orientation.
- The revision of the 1976 equal treatment directive in 2002. Discrimination based on gender identity – that is, discrimination linked to a transgender person’s identity or the process of gender reassignment – will be in breach of the Directive. Deadline for national implementation is October 2005.
- The Gender Recast Directive from 2006 - aimed at consolidating the existing provisions on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between men and women and providing a simplified legal framework on the area of sex discrimination.
In 2000, the European Union also adopted the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. This includes sexual orientation discrimination as a prohibited ground of discrimination in its non-discrimination article 21, being the first international human rights charter to do so. The Charter became binding after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on the 1 December 2009.
These developments, together with a series of resolutions of the European Parliament, are increasingly establishing a rule that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is - so far as the European Union is concerned - unacceptable. This opens up the possibility of making progress with eliminating discrimination in all areas of activity, which lies within the competence of the European Union and particularly in employment, access to goods and service, asylum and immigration.
On 8 June 2010 the Council of the European Union’s Working Party on Human Rights adopted the Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People.
Find information about the Fundamental Rights Agency's work on LGBT issues.
The European Parliament has been a principal driving force in bringing LGB rights onto the European political agenda.