Luxembourg joins the marriage club

Luxembourg flagLuxembourg today became the ninth EU country to legalise same-sex marriage.

The bill passed by a landslide – 56 votes in favour and 4 against. The law will come into effect from January 1st next year.

Luxembourg has an openly gay Prime Minister, the Liberal Xavier Bettel, and also an out-gay Deputy Prime Minister, Socialist party leader Etienne Schneider.

Belgium gets BiFest for Pride

Visi-Bi-Lity at Belgium Pride 2014With a film screening, debate and workshops, Belgium Pride week kicks off on 10th May with Visi-BI-lity, an afternoon event focused on bi life – very much like a UK BiFest.

It’s being held at the Rainbowhouse Brussels with support from Belgian groups Er tussen in, Dubbelzinnig and Polyamour, and French bi network Bi-Cause.

The organisers say:

We hear it all too often within the LGBTQI community:  “Bisexuality does not exist’ – and people who identify themselves as bisexual, answer: “Everybody is bisexual!”

Neither statements is true, and we will be looking at what bisexuality is all about. Between these two extremes! How and when do you define yourself as bisexual, where you situate yourself? For what rights we have to fight and what about biphobic discrimination?

Find out more on the facebook event page.

EU: Serbia and Kosovo need to step up efforts to guarantee the rights of LGBT people

European Union FlagToday the European Parliament adopted two of its annual progress reports for candidate and potential candidate EU countries. MEPs have assessed the rights of LGBTI people, and recommended the two countries improve the situation.

In its report on Serbia, the European Parliament “strongly condemns the authorities’ decision to ban the planned September 2013 Belgrade Pride Parade as in the previous two years”, and urges authorities to respect the freedom of assembly of LGBTI people.

The Parliament also calls on Serbian authorities to step up efforts against violent hooligan groups threatening and attacking LGBTI people.

The report further calls for wider political support for LGBTI people’s human rights, and for the country to implement its Anti-Discrimination Strategy.

Jelko KACIN MEPIn its report on Kosovo, the Parliament expressed its concern over persistent discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation. It called for a comprehensive national anti-discrimination strategy to guarantee equality in effect.

Lastly, it recalled the homophobic violent attack on Kosovo 2.0, for issuing a magazine on sex and sexuality, and urged for perpetrators to be prosecuted.

The two reports were adopted with overwhelming majorities.

Jelko Kacin MEP, Member of the Intergroup on LGBT rights and Rapporteur on Serbia, reacted: “Slowly but steadily, equal rights are progressing in Serbia and Kosovo, but more efforts are needed to effectively guarantee the rule of law and ensure the human rights of the LGBTI minority.”

“I am particularly concerned that the anti-discrimination law isn’t implemented very well, and that Belgrade Pride was banned yet again last September.”

European funding will help tackle biphobia, transphobia and homophobia

European Union FlagToday, the European Parliament redefined the priorities of the European Social Fund (ESF) for rest of this decade. For the first time, the Fund will contribute to combating discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The ESF is one of the EU’s structural funds, designed to build social and economic cohesion in the EU. It is the main way the EU seeks to promote employment, and currently makes up about 10 per cent of the EU’s budget.

One of the fund’s priorities is to promote equal opportunities. With today’s resolution, the Parliament insisted the Fund should also aim to combat discrimination.

Today’s binding resolution specifies that discrimination based on sex should be interpreted broadly, including discrimination against (at least some) trans people, in line with EU Court of Justice rulings. It states:

(11) […] the implementation of the priorities financed by the ESF should contribute to combating discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation […]; discrimination on the ground of sex should be interpreted in a broad sense so as to cover other gender-related aspects in line with the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled several times that people who are planning to undergo or have undergone gender reassignment surgery may not be discriminated against, as this constitutes sex discrimination, which is forbidden under EU law.

Jen Yockney from BiPhoria, the UK’s longest-running bisexual organisation, welcomed the news. “We have long known that biphobia, transphobia and homophobia at school and college, at home and in wider society damages the educational attainments of bi, gay and trans people. In turn our earnings and career paths suffer as well as impacts on health and well-being.”

“For the first time now protection against discrimination including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is a funding priority in the ESF’s work . It’s a welcome step towards a more inclusive Social Fund by the European Parliament that may in turn improve life chances of LGBT people across the EU.”

European Parliament “LGBT” without the B?

European Union FlagToday the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) will start working on “a new strategy against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity”.  The debate can be watched live online from 10.30am CET.

The LIBE Committee (which covers Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) have agreed to work on a new report outlining the future contents of a roadmap.

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, author of the new report and Co-President of the Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, said: “Why does EU law prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation at work, but not at school?

“Why does the EU punish racist and xenophobic speech, but not homophobic and transphobic speech?

“These are some of the issues we will work on.”

As so often with European Parliament LGBT Intergroup publications and statements, the draft report talks about homophobia and transphobia but fails to mention biphobia.  We have to ask: does the European Parliament’s LGBT group know what the “B” stands for?

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