After a decision from the European Union’s (EU) top court on Thursday, November 7, LGBT refugees who face prosecution in their home countries may be granted asylum in any of the twenty-eight EU states.
The court decision was based on cases of three refugees from Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. All faced imprisonment in their home countries due to anti-gay laws.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ), based in Luxembourg, said that anti-gay legislation, including the imprisonment of LGBT citizens, “may constitute an act of persecution,” if strictly enforced.
The court added that a gay person should not have to veil their sexuality to live without discrimination and persecution, since that would require forsaking a “characteristic fundamental to a person’s identity.”
Currently, there are seventy-six countries that still have anti-gay legislation. However, the ECJ also ruled that the mere existence of anti-LGBT legislation is not grounds for asylum. Because some of those seventy-six countries do not always strictly enforce their anti-gay laws, it will be up to the ECJ to determine whether or not an applicant’s situation is enough for asylum.
Amnesty International, a global campaign to end abuses of human rights, is disappointed with the limitations of the ruling, saying that the court should have determined that even the existence of anti-gay laws should be enough, “even when they have not recently been applied in practice.”
While some EU states, including the Netherlands, have already granted asylum for LGBT people facing persecution in the past, the ECJ ruling makes it an official policy to be abided by all twenty-eight EU member states.
On Thursday, Dutch authorities said the court ruling “appears to be in line with the current policy in the Netherlands.”
Jeff Parshley and Adam Bouska, co-founders of the NOH8 Campaign, said they are happy with the decision made by the ECJ, as well as the progress being made in international advocacy.
“We’re proud of the European Union for taking an international stand against anti-gay discrimination and providing an invaluable and potentially life-saving option to LGBT people who are forced to flee their country in fear of prosecution due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” Parshley and Bouska wrote in a statement to 429Magazine.
“As we continue our work to spread the message of #NOH8Worldwide, we’re glad to know our brothers [and]sisters in danger have a safe place to go until that message reaches their home country,” the statement continued.
The EU court has yet to decide how national authorities will determine if a refugee’s claim of homosexuality is legitimate.