According to Pink News, the UK’s Conservative and UKIP Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) did not sign a pledge to advance LGBT rights in the European Union (EU) over the next five years.
Twenty-one of the seventy-three newly elected UK MEPs signed the pledge, but none of them were from UKIP or the Conservative party.
The pledge was organized by the LGBT equality campaign group ILGA-Europe and gained support from 185 MEPs in the 751-seat European Parliament.
The Labour Party, Green Party, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National Party MEPs all signed the pledge.
The Labour party criticized the Conservatives for passing over the pledge, with newly elected MEP Seb Dance telling Pink News their decision “echoes UKIP’s paranoid language on what the European Union is all about.
“The Conservatives are essentially saying Member States cannot work together to eliminate discrimination against the LGBTI community in Europe. Given the threats faced by LGBTI people across Europe this is surely an issue they ought to be prioritising and pursuing with other countries.”
While in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative party did contribute to making marriage equality a reality with the Marriage (Same-Sex) Couples Act. However, some are questioning their motive behind the decision not to back the improvement of European Union LGBT rights.
The Conservative LGBT campaign group has defended the decision, claiming that signing the pledge would remove the UK’s independent freedoms when it came to LGBT rights.
The chairman of LGBTory, Colm Howard-Lloyd, told Pink News: “ILGA, an NGO [non-governmental organization] funded by the European Commission, have a very specific agenda; a comprehensive approach to LGBT issues at EU-level.
“Many countries (including the UK, Spain, and Portugal which have same-sex marriage) and political parties disagree with this as the way to further equality, and believe it should remain a member-state competence.
“We have discussed with ILGA that disagreeing with taking powers away from the UK, is not the same as opposing equality. Conservative MEPs believe in equality, but were unable to sign a pledge that gave just one solution delivered via an expanded and federal Europe.”
In short, the Conservative party believe their work towards marriage equality could be threatened if they were to enter an EU dictated pledge to fight for LGBT rights.
However, ILGA-Europe clarified that it was “wrong to suggest we even address marriage equality in our work at EU level. Family law is clearly within Member States’ competences. What we are calling for is an EU-wide strategy for LGBTI equality, similar to those already existing on gender equality…and people with disabilities.”
He added: “It is regrettable that the UK which has such great experience on LGBTI equality does not want to share its experience and help other EU Member States to progress in this field.”
UKIP have tried desperately to promote an anti-EU stance in the UK, believing that it is removing the UK’s independence. With the Conservative party following suit with the LGBT rights issue, their refusal to sign the pledge has placed them alongside the extreme right-wing UKIP party.
According to the Guardian, Prime Minister David Cameron recently made clear that he will attempt to block any anti-EU MEPs from trying to push forward their agenda.