EU releases plan for LGBTQ equality as some member countries move in opposite direction

The European Union has released a plan for LGBTQ+ equality across its member nations at a time when homophobia and transphobia are on the rise in some of them, including Poland and Hungary.

The European Commission, the E.U.’s executive branch, wants to criminalize homophobic hate speech, assure the recognition of LGBTQ+ people’s parental rights throughout the continent, and address other concerns of this population, the Associated Press reports. The plan was disclosed on Thursday by EU.

“This is not about ideology. This is not about being men or women. This is about love,” said Věra Jourová, vice president of the commission, according to the AP. “This strategy is not against anyone. This does not put anyone on a pedestal. But it is about guaranteeing safety and nondiscrimination for everyone.”

In Poland, several towns have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones,” and the country reelected anti-LGBTQ+ President Andrzej Duda this year. He ran on a platform of outlawing same-sex marriage, which is not allowed in the country anyway and barring same-sex couples from adopting children. He has called the LGBTQ+ movement worse than communism.

In Hungary, Justice Minister Judit Varga this week proposed a constitutional amendment mandating traditional gender roles and endorsing “children’s right to the gender identity they were born with,” a statement against transgender identities, Reuters reports. The country has already banned gender changes on identifying documents, and Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen said recently that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt children. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, once primarily anti-immigrant, is generally upping its anti-LGBTQ+ stances.

These developments are among “worrying trends” in the E.U., Jourová said, according to The Guardian. The moves in Hungary, she said, are drawn from “the authoritarian playbook and [do] not have a place in the European Union.”

Criminalizing anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech and mandating parental recognition would require the agreement of all member countries, “which would appear unlikely given the attitudes of the current Polish and Hungarian governments,” The Guardian notes. But if this does not happen, Jourová said, the E.U. can still withhold funds from governmental bodies that don’t respect LGBTQ+ equality, as it did recently with six Polish cities that call themselves “LGBT-free zones.”