European Union makes LGBT protections mandatory for candidate member states

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By Ryan Collett

A new policy has been passed in the European Union preventing any candidate-nation that does not have current laws protecting the LGBT-community from joining. However, the policy does not require it of countries that are already members of the European Union.

The new policy was announced by the European Commission, the 27-member executive panel of the European Union, in a statement earlier this week. The statement uses the 1993 “Copenhagen criteria” of EU eligibility and the second article of the EU Treaty which prohibits discrimination against minorities as validating reasons. 

“Rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people thus form an integral part of both the Copenhagen political criteria for accession and the EU legal framework on combatting discrimination. They are closely monitored by the EU commission, which reports annually on the progress made by enlargement countries with regard to the situation of the LGBT community,” read the statement.

Technically, the new policy functions more as a statement of clarification than law, but still holds relevant implications.

The Commission’s statement was issued in response to an Armenian cleric’s desire for Armenia to become a member of the European Union. Armenia has consistently scored low in terms of LGBT protections and accommodations in studies conducted by European human rights groups.

“It’s not in our culture to accept homosexuals,” said Bishop Hovakim Manukyan in an interview with the EUobserver. “We don’t reject the person, but we reject the sin and this is our freedom as Armenians. Our culture does not accept this.”

The European Commission’s denial of Armenia’s entry to the Union sends a strong message of LGBT tolerance. While all nation members currently have laws protecting homosexuals, the extent of those laws vary. Actual legal protections of same-sex relationships still do not exist in some. 

The Commission’s statement is another step in the EU’s support of LGBT rights across Europe. Earlier this month, the EU pledged 10,000 euros in support of the 2012 Pride House – a LGBT safe-haven – for the Summer Olympics in London next week.

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