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LGBTQ+ Rights in The EU: Everything You Need to Know!

LGBTQ+ laws & rights differ all around the world and they do so within the European Union as well. Here is everything you need to know!

Over the past few decades, the world has made progress toward spreading awareness about the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community and promoting equality for all. Over 76% of citizens of the European Union believe that “gay, lesbian and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people”. Despite that, the community still faces discrimination when looking for a job, within the workplace, at school or when they need to adopt a child. Laws differ all around the world and they do so within the European Union as well.

Each country has their own laws when it comes to same-sex marriages, civil unions and adoption of children. Since 1999, the EU has taken steps to strengthen its laws to prevent discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and extend legal and social protection.

Let’s take a deeper dive into some key improvements that the EU has made to promote equality and discourage discrimination within its member states.

Discrimination in Employment

The EU enacted a Directive 2000/78/EC “Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation”. This directive prohibits employers or colleagues to discriminate based on sexual orientation. It also prohibits any employer from firing or not providing a job opportunity because of their sexual orientation. This directive also extends protection to those who have undergone gender reassignment.

In 2010, the EU strengthened its laws even more around workplace diversity by creating a Platform of Diversity Charters. Diversity Charters encourage NGOs, public bodies, and private companies to implement diversity and inclusion policies. Companies which sign a charter must commit to providing diversity and equal opportunities to everyone regardless of their age, sex, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Protection in Cyberspace

In 2016, to protect hate speech online, the EU agreed with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube on a “Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online” and since then, other companies such as Dailymotion, Instagram, Tik Tok and LinkedIn have joined on. As part of this code of conduct, these companies have to monitor content being posted online; the last evaluation that was conducted shows that about 81% of flagged content is being assessed within 24 hours and about 62.5% of the content that contains hate speech is removed.

Equality in the Provision of Goods and Services

While Europe has made several improvements to their law to extend protection to those who are discriminated against, some proposed amendments are still a long way from implementation. A proposal was made to Directive 2000/78/EC as it does not protect EU citizens from being refused healthcare or refusal of social security schemes such as pensions and financial assistance to caregivers. Protection under EU law exists for such circumstances but is granted based on race and gender.

The proposal will extend protection to all EU citizens who may face discrimination due to gender or sexual orientation and will ensure that all citizens are treated fairly and equally in areas of healthcare, social security and other goods and services. The proposal has strong support from the European Parliament but is still being stalled in the European council.

That said, the European Union is still committed to protecting the LGBTQ+ community and ensuring that they have equal and fair access to healthcare as all EU citizens. EU countries work together on prevention, care and testing for vulnerable groups including LGBTQ+ people, for HIV, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and hepatitis, aiming for earlier diagnosis and better care for all.

Freedom of Movement across European Countries

All EU citizens have the right to freely move within the 27 member states of the European Union making it easy to live, work, or study there. However, in practice, same-sex couples or children of same-sex couples may have trouble being recognized in a different EU country.

EU countries have their rights and regulations for same-sex marriages/partnerships and the adoption of children and in 2021, 10 member states refused to legally recognize same-sex couples as joint parents of their children.

This leads to an issue where the parental rights of same-sex couples are dissolved as they cross the border into a member state which does not share the same rights.

To resolve this, the European Parliament Committee on Petitions commissioned a policy brief that recommends that the “Freedom of Movement” directive should be clarified and that the rights also apply to rainbow families.

The European Union is committed to providing equal rights and protection to all its members. The European Commission supports multiple LGBTQ+ organizations such as ILGA-Europe, Transgender Europe, and IGLYO. The European Commission also provides funding to LGBTQ+ organizations through the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme and the Erasmus+ Programme. This funding is substantial in supporting the organizations that help spread awareness about challenges and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Europe.

Which Countries Recognize Same-Sex Unions?

The following countries recognize same-sex marriages:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

In these countries, legal same-sex marriages are performed. If your ancestors are from any of these countries and you qualify for citizenship by ancestry (each country has different citizenship laws, please contact us for specifics), and you are either in a same-sex marriage or civil union, which has been performed in any country where same-sex marriages are legal, such as Canada, you can register your marriage in these countries.

If you move to the country where you gained citizenship, your spouse can join you and receive citizenship by marriage (each country has specific rules around this, please contact us for details); if you received Portuguese citizenship, your spouse will be able to gain a naturalization through marriage without having to move to Portugal.

If you want to learn more about LGBTQ+ rights around the world, visit: 

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