Going back to the roots – Debating EU and LGBT issues in Bøssehuset

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On the 4th of April Jan Kjær from SF and Lave K. Broch from Folkebevægelsen joined me for a debate and discussion on the LGBT issues in the European Union at Bøssehuset in Christiania.

Mikkel was our host and moderator in Bøssehuset. He first told us about the interesting history of the house. Bøssehuset (the name means “the gay house” in Danish) was originally a gay rights political activist center which is almost as old as Christiania itself. Later their focus shifted more towards cultural activities. Nowadays they host a wide range of events, including producing their own theatre plays and cabarets.

We all agreed that Christiania in itself was an interesting venue for the EU debate, since the free town considers itself to be outside of the EU.

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Following the introduction we watched two movies: a Hungarian documentary and an interview with two Members of the European Parliament. The documentary was an award winning short film about the homophobia of common people and politicians in Hungary. The interview was made shortly after the December 2013 referendum in Croatia. The newest EU member voted then to amend its constitution to specifically prohibit marriage equality. The two MEPs shared their very contrasting opinions about gay rights in Europe. The MEP from Sweden argued for social progress ad equality while the MEP from Poland argued that gay rights activists are an aggressive minority who oppress the straight majority all over Europe, even in Poland.

The debate was a very pleasant round-table discussion, complete with coffee and cake. All participants agreed that promoting and defending human- and civil rights across borders are an important issue for them. However we disagreed the EU’s role. We also talked about ways we would deal with intolerance and unequal rights as an MEP.

While we agreed on the goal, then we disagreed on the measures to take to achieve them. Lave Broch preferred no legislation at an EU level prefering either national or international action. Jan and I wanted to see action at an EU level, and recognised that the EU has been a main driver of LGBT equality.

The EU was the 1st international organisation to recognise sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in its law. LGBT people are protected against discrimination in employment in all 28 EU Member States because of EU law. LGBT people who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity can now claim asylum everywhere in Europe because of the EU. It is also because of the EU that victims of homophobic and transphobic crimes are now guaranteed better protection. Not to mention the leadership role taken by the EU by making LGBTI equality an official part of its foreign policy.

There is much more that can be done. The EU needs to switch on its full potential to deliver greater equality for LGBTI people.

I have signed ILGA-Europe’s Come-Out Pledge and support its 10 goals. Especially I want to work for the promotion of an inclusive definition of family in EU policies, so that we all can enjoy full freedom of movement and mutual recognition of our rights as EU citizens no matter who we love. We need to ensure that EU legislation and policies are inclusive of LGBTI families and to promote respect and recognition of the rights of LGBTI families. I want to see the adoption of an EU Roadmap on LGBTI equality, so that the EU has a comprehensive action plan to champion equality. We must in the EU enforce human rights within the EU by adopting an internal human rights strategy and create a watchdog mechanism to enable the EU to respond to human rights violations within its own borders and to hold Member States accountable to their human rights commitments. I also want to actively work to combat homophobic and transphobic violence and take action against school bullying through existing EU policies and programmes.

Once again my dearest thanks for all who took part in this discussion and to Bøssehuset for hosting it!

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Karen Melchior

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