European leaders have stopped lesbian, gay and bi people from getting the basic anti-discrimination protection they need for six years.
Now the openly lesbian Vice President of the European Parliament, Ulrike Lunacek MEP, has appealed for help to get the measure passed.
It would give lesbians, gay men and bisexuals – and other groups like disabled people, religious minorities and the elderly – the same anti-discrimination protections currently on offer across Europe on the basis of race.
It would stop hotels from refusing double beds to same-sex couples, for example. Schools would have to show they are not homophobic and tackle anti-gay bullying.
The Equality Directive was first introduced by the European Commission, the body that proposes European Union laws, in 2008.
The European Parliament also agreed with it.
But since 2009 it has been sitting in the European Council – made up of Europe’s heads of state.
Prime ministers and presidents have been haggling over the details but can’t agree. Germany is reported to be the biggest block on progress. And it needs them all to agree before it can pass.
Lunacek told business leaders at a Deutsche Bank and IBM pride lunch in the City of London, the new law would help LGBTI people in her own country, Austria.
She said: ‘In my home town of Vienna in January, in one of these old, traditional, beautiful cafés, two lesbians were thrown out because they kissed.
‘They cannot go to the courts because of being discriminated against like that. Two straight, black people, thrown out because of kissing like that, could go to the courts because of discrimination.
‘That’s why we need this Equality Directive.’
She also wants support in getting the EU to support a ‘roadmap’ on LGBTI rights.
This was put forward two years ago by the European Parliament. But the Commission has not yet acted and it would also need the Council to agree.
The roadmap wouldn’t be a law but would become a policy of the EU – to ‘mainstream’ LGBTI rights in everything it does in every country.
It would impact EU health, education and foreign policy – including a bigger push on arguing for LGBTI rights around the world.
And it would help with every day issues – like recognizing LGBTI families when they move around Europe to visit, live and work.
Lunacek, who is also the co-President of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, told the business leaders in London the EU couldn’t force member states to offer same-sex marriage.
But she added: ‘We can push for non-discrimination, for making gay and lesbian people more visible, and we can push for people being less afraid.’
She called on them to support both initiatives and to use their influence with their own governments to lobby for change.
‘This is something also important in the business world,’ she said.
Unlike gay people, transgender and intersex men and women are protected under a gender equality directive that has passed the EU – although the rules are not always fully applied.