What is the current legal situation in the EU?
In this section you can find information of the current legal situation and read examples on how this can affect the daily life of LGBT people living in the European Union.
At the moment, EU law protects people against discrimination based on sexual orientation – as well as age, disability, religion and belief – in the area of employment (Employment Framework Directive 2000/78). Unfortunately, EU law does not at present contain an explicit prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of a person’s gender identity and gender expression. Indeed, the EU treaties only entitle the EU to take action to combat “discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation” only, without mentioning trans issues. Neither does a prohibition on discrimination against trans people appear in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
In practice, this means that you are legally protected across the EU against, for example:
- Being refused a job or fired because of your sexual orientation
- Being harassed by colleagues at work because you are gay or lesbian
However, European legislation does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, disability, religion and belief, in other areas of life such access to goods and services (including housing), social protection and social advantages, education and health care.
In practice, this means that not everyone in the EU is protected against:
- Homophobic bullying in school
- Refusal of medical services and treatment to openly LGBT people
- Refusal to give a double room in a hotel to a same-sex couple
- Refused access to social security schemes, such as survivors’ pensions and financial assistance to carers
The grounds of race and gender enjoy stronger protection in the European Union:
- The 2000/43 Race Equality Directive protects against discrimination based on race and ethnic origin in all areas of life
- Sex discrimination is prohibited by EU law in employment and in access to goods and services (Equal Treatment Directives 2006/54 and 2004/113). Trans people are partly covered by these instruments. More information on how trans people are covered by existing EU law can be found in the following Report ordered by the European Commission. and in the following guide published by our friends from Transgender Europe.
It is important to note that the legal protection against discrimination based on the different grounds varies from one EU country to another. All Member States have legal rules going beyond what is already required by European law, but:
- discrimination on some grounds (age, disability and sexual orientation) is less covered by national laws than other grounds
- national laws may prohibit discrimination for all the grounds but only in some areas of life
- and there are no minimum applicable standards of non-discrimination across the EU