LGBTQ+ Rights in The EU: Everything You Need to Know
Written by Monika Antanaitytė
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, members of the community still face discrimination in their lives, such as when looking for jobs, and within the workplace, at school or when they apply 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 Directive 2000/78/EC, which is a “Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation”. This directive prohibits employers or colleagues from discriminating based on sexual orientation. It also prohibits any employer from firing or not providing an employment opportunity because of their sexual orientation. This directive also extends protection to those who have undergone gender reassignment.
In 2010, the EU further strengthened its laws around workplace diversity by creating a Platform of Diversity Charters. Diversity Charters encourage non-governmental organizations (NGOs), public bodies and private companies to implement diversity and inclusion policies. Companies which sign the charter have to 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, the EU came to an agreement with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube on a “Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online”.
Since then, other companies such as Dailymotion, Instagram, Tik Tok and LinkedIn have joined the agreement. 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.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation, personal data on sexual orientation is considered sensitive and is therefore subject to specific protection rules which are applied in both private and public sectors.
Also, the EU Digital Services Act – which is set to go through the legislative procedure in order to become applicable throughout the entire EU – seeks to restrict illegal hate speech. However, it remains to be seen if this will either assist or hinder the LGBTQ+ community; “illegal content” is defined in a very subjective way. For instance, in some countries, certain forms of “LGBT propaganda” may fall under this category. This law might also limit the free speech of LGBTQ+ persons or may have some other unexpected adverse effects.
Equality in the Provision of Goods and Services
While Europe has made several improvements to their laws to extend protection to those who are discriminated against, some proposed amendments are still a long way from implementation.
While Europe has made several improvements to their laws 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 currently protect EU citizens from being refused healthcare or from refusal of social security programs 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 in accordance with all EU citizens. EU countries work together on prevention, care and testing for vulnerable groups including LGBTQ+ people, persons with HIV, and those with sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and/or hepatitis, aiming for earlier diagnosis and better care for all.
Freedom of Movement Across the 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 more trouble being equally recognized in a different EU country. EU countries each have their own rights and regulations for same-sex marriages/partnerships and the adoption of children; in 2021, 10 member states refused to legally recognize same-sex couples as joint parents of their children. This could realistically lead to issues 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.
In 2018, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) recognized same-sex unions within the context of EU Freedom of Movement rules and established that same sex-spouses have the right to move across the EU, regardless of the difference in national legislations on same-sex marriage. Therefore a non-EU national who is a same-sex spouse of an EU citizenship holder is entitled to residence rights in any EU country, even if that country does not provide an inclusive marriage and/or partnership regulation.
So, he rolled up his sleeves and delved into the difficult task himself, doing archival research in Europe, sorting out the local paperwork, and gathering proof of ancestry from disparate sources. Applying his document management expertise and best practices knowledge, he managed to unravel the red tape, developing a smoother, more streamlined process along the way.
The European Union is committed to providing equal rights and protection to all of 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 the challenges and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Europe.
If you want to learn more about LGBTQ+ rights around the world, visit www.equaldex.com
Legal Same-Sex Marriage / Civil Unions in the EU
If you want to get your EU member country citizenship by ancestry and you are in a same-sex partnership or marriage, let’s take a look at what your rights are:
Hover over each country on our interactive map to learn more about the specific circumstances surrounding LGTBQ rights in that area.
The following countries recognize same-sex marriages in the EU:
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
All of these countries perform legal same-sex marriages. If your ancestors are from any of these countries and you qualify for citizenship by ancestry (each country has different citizenship laws, so please consult us for specifics), and you are in either a same-sex marriage or a civil union which has been performed in any country where same-sex marriages are legal (such as Canada), you can register your marriage in any of these countries. If you move to the country where you obtained citizenship, your spouse can join you and receive citizenship by marriage (again, each country has specific rules around this, so please contact us). For example, if you received Portuguese citizenship, your spouse will be able to get citizenship through naturalization by way of marriage, without having to move to Portugal.
If you are in a same-sex marriage, civil union, or partnership, and you are moving to any of the country member states of the European Union with your same-sex spouse, your same-sex spouse can live and work legally in any of these countries, and they qualify for social and health benefits from the government, as long as you both move together to this country. The only things which your spouse would not be able to do is get an EU passport, nor would they be able to vote in that country or partake in any EU elections, or be part of parliament (neither in that country nor in the EU), as those specific rights come just after the spouse receives actual citizenship, which is a process that may take some further time, often years.
Legal civil unions/civil partnerships:
Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia
With regards to legal civil unions and civil partnerships, your spouse/partner may be able to live and work legally in any of the EU member countries, though in most cases, they will not be able to apply for citizenship through you. In most cases, the privilege of obtaining citizenship only comes through legal marriage, which makes it difficult for same-sex couples.
As an example, I have Polish citizenship, and because of that, my same-sex common-law partner can move with me to any of the EU member countries, and live and work there legally. That being said, our relationship is not recognized in the country for which I hold citizenship (Poland). Therefore, he would not be able to get his Polish citizenship (and that would be the case even if we were married in another EU state or in Canada, as Poland does not recognize same-sex unions of any kind). In addition, he won’t be able to vote in Poland or the EU, nor would he be able to become part of parliament, or get a an EU passport.
Another factor to consider is in regard to a same-sex partner’s joint property status, as well as access to parental rights and assisted reproduction measures, as these differ in each country. A married same-sex couple may only be recognized as ‘partners’ if a country provides legal access to inclusive partnership specifically.
Same-sex unions are not recognized:
Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia
Although these countries do not recognize same-sex unions or marriages, EU Free Movement Directive rules are applied, and same-sex families can therefore live in these countries, enter the workforce, be protected against discriminatory treatment, and get most of the benefits that any other couples have access to.
Unfortunately not all benefits are available to same sex couples, such as paid sick leave to care for their partner or the partner’s child, or qualifying for a joint loan, among other benefits.
How Does EuroPassport Help?
EuroPassport makes the process of acquiring your EU citizenship by descent simpler than ever before. Our expert legal & genealogical team takes all of the headaches out of completing your citizenship application and obtaining your passport. We source all the documents required to get you the citizenship you deserve!
If you or your same-sex partner are considering acquiring European citizenship, or have more questions about your unique situation, our team is here and ready to chat with you!
NOTE: For a more comprehensive list of countries where same-sex marriages and other civil unions are legal, see: