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Are LGBTQ+ rights at risk in the EU election?

#USEYOURVOTE pin badges at the European Parliament, in Rabat, Malta May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
explainer

#USEYOURVOTE pin badges at the European Parliament, in Rabat, Malta May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

What’s the context?

A far-right surge in this week's European parliament election could hit progress and fuel anti-LGBTQ+ violence, campaigners say

  • Polls predict far-right gains in June ballot
  • LGBTQ+ activists fear equality measures at stake
  • Shift to right could hit funding, fuel homophobia

BRUSSELS - Europe's progress towards LGBTQ+ equality could take a hit if radical right-wing parties make big gains in the June 6-9 European Parliament election, rights campaigners say.

Polls predict gains by nationalist and eurosceptic parties that have spoken out against LGBTQ+ equality, in some cases reversing previous measures and advocating instead for "traditional" family values.

If the poll forecasts are right, and the parties are able to unite forces, they could hold major influence in the EU assembly.

Big gains might allow them to block EU funding to rights groups representing the community, and their greater prominence could also fuel anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment across the 27-nation bloc, campaigners fear.

Here's what you need to know:

What does Europe's far-right say on LGBTQ+ rights?

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party came to power in 2022 vowing to combat what she calls the "LGBT lobby" and her government has made it harder for same-sex couples to be legal parents.

In France, the hard-right National Rally's lead candidate Jordan Bardella has opposed same-sex adoption and surrogacy and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) for lesbian couples.

Germany's far-right AfD party is opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption as well as a new law allowing self-ID among transgender people.

In Spain, the Vox party wants to scrap some pro-LGBTQ+ measures such as a law which simplified procedures for trans people over the age of 16 to legally change gender.

They could be joined by far-right candidates from Geert Wilders' Freedom Party in the Netherlands, Vlaams Belang in Belgium and the ascendant Chega party in Portugal.

The seven parties are among roughly 27 radical-right parties fielding candidates for the EU parliament election.

People react during a vote to pass a proposal to strip back protections for transgender people at the regional parliament in Madrid, Spain, December 22, 2023. REUTERS/Ana Beltran

People react during a vote to pass a proposal to strip back protections for transgender people at the regional parliament in Madrid, Spain, December 22, 2023. REUTERS/Ana Beltran

People react during a vote to pass a proposal to strip back protections for transgender people at the regional parliament in Madrid, Spain, December 22, 2023. REUTERS/Ana Beltran

What are LGBTQ+ advocates' biggest policy concerns?

While most legislation related to LGBTQ+ rights is passed at a national level, rights advocates fear a marked shift to the right would weaken the parliament's recent role as a kind of rights watchdog.

During the last parliament, the assembly spoke out against anti-LGBTQ+ measures in Poland and joined an EU court case against Hungary for its anti-LGBTQ+ "child protection law".

Outgoing lawmakers also approved draft rules to ensure that LGBTQ+ parents' rights are recognised across the bloc. At the moment, some EU nations recognise same-sex unions and non-biological parents, but others do not.

A more hostile parliament could make it harder to revive plans for anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech and hate crimes to be added to a list of EU crimes.

By including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics as protected grounds, the step would establish EU-wide legal protections and access to justice for victims, as well as acting as a deterrent, backers say.

Campaigners are also pushing for the bloc to legislate protections against medically unnecessary genital surgery on intersex children.

A security officer stands guard near a huge rainbow baloon at Hungary's parliament in protest against anti-LGBT law in Budapest, Hungary, July 8, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus

A security officer stands guard near a huge rainbow baloon at Hungary's parliament in protest against anti-LGBT law in Budapest, Hungary, July 8, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus

A security officer stands guard near a huge rainbow baloon at Hungary's parliament in protest against anti-LGBT law in Budapest, Hungary, July 8, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus

How else could the result affect LGBTQ+ progress?

Big gains by far-right parties might also lead to funding cuts for LGBTQ+ rights organisations, some of which rely on EU funding to operate.

It could be part of a gradual attack on LGBTQ+ non-profits in a "death by a thousand cuts", Neil Datta, head of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, told Context.

More widely, LGBTQ+ rights could more often be used as a polarising issue to rally conservatives, fuelling homophobic sentiment.

"We have seen the far right drawing these groups into the middle of a political fight," said Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy director at LGBTQ+ organisation ILGA-Europe. "(This translates into) real violence against LGBTI organisations."

(Reporting by Joanna Gill; Editing by Helen Popper.)


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