European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

European Union and LGBTI Rights

Find here information about where the European Union has actively promoted of human rights and eqaulity for LGBTI people.

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 to:

  • 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.
  • In 2000, 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.
  • In 2002, the revision of the 1976 equal treatment directive in. 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.
  • In 2006, the Gender Recast Directive - 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 2011 and 2013, the European Union improved asylum directives which recognise persecutions on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity as legitimate grounds for claiming asylum in the EU. They require Member States to adequately train their asylum authorities’ personnel.
  • In 2012 the European Union adopted a directive (Victims of crimes protection directive) setting minimal standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. It acknowledges that victims of crimes motivated by bias or discriminatory motives related to their personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender and gender identity or expression, may require specific protections during investigations and court proceedings. This Directive is the first international piece of legislation referring to gender expression.
  • In 2013, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union adopted Guidelines To Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons.

These developments, together with a series of resolutions of the European Parliament [link], are increasingly establishing a rule that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is - so far as the European Union is concerned - unacceptable.