EU lawmakers to debate declaring bloc an LGBT ‘freedom zone’

National News

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The European Parliament is scheduled to debate a resolution on Wednesday that would declare the entire 27-member European Union to be a “freedom zone” for LGBT people.

The resolution comes largely in reaction to developments over the past two years in Poland, where many local communities have adopted largely symbolic resolutions declaring themselves to be free of what Polish conservative authorities have been calling “LGBT ideology.”

The towns say they are only seeking to defend their traditional Catholic values, but LGBT rights activists say they are discriminatory and make gays and lesbians feel unwelcome. The areas have come to be colloquially known as “LGBT-free zones.”

But the resolution also stresses that it wants to address problems across the bloc faced by gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, intersex and queer people.

The resolution says the fundamental rights of LGBT people have been “severely hindered” recently in Hungary due to a de facto ban on legal gender recognition for trans and intersex people. It cites problems in Latvia, and notes that only two member states — Malta and Germany — have banned “conversion therapy,” a controversial and potentially harmful attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation.

The resolution is the work of the a cross-party group in the European Parliament, the LGBTI Intergroup, which says it has the support to pass the largely symbolic resolution.

Liesje Schreinemacher, the vice chair of the group and a Dutch lawmaker with Renew Europe, a liberal political group, said the resolution is timed to roughly mark the second anniversary of the first Polish community, Swidnik County, passing an anti-LGBT resolution.

She also referred to problems elsewhere, including suspicious that a man murdered in Belgium recently was the victim of a homophobic attack.

“We wanted to send a strong signal in Poland that we consider all of Europe to be an LGBTI freedom zone,” she told The Associated Press. “But every European country has work to do.”

Dozens of local governments across conservative eastern and southern Poland began in March 2019 to pass either resolutions declaring themselves to be free from “LGBT ideology” or family charters defending traditional families in the mostly Catholic nations.

They have proven hugely costly to Poland’s international image, and to the finances of local communities. The EU and Norway — a non-EU member that funds some development in EU nations — have cut off funds to policies they view as discriminatory.

Bart Staszewski, a Polish activist who created an art project on the “LGBT zones” that drew the ire of the government and conservatives, said he sees the EU resolution as “important and necessary.”

But he also notes that local governments stopped passing such resolutions months ago and some communities have already withdrawn theirs. Others have passed resolutions declaring support for all types of familes.

“There is some very good change,” Staszewski said. “I see this as a very good sign for the future.”

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