This week will see a major debate on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg – the first for 10 years, and only the third in the history of the organisation.
The Assembly, which is made up of representatives from the parliaments of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, will debate and vote on two propositions put forward by the Rapporteur for the Assembly, delegate Andreas Gross of Switzerland:
- a Resolution making recommendations to member states on measures to combat sexual orientation and gender discrimination
a Recommendation to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which represents the governments of the 47 member states.
The Parliamentary Assembly is a consultative body, so its resolutions and recommendations are declaratory in nature. But they do represent an important indication of Europe-wide opinion. The Council of Europe is Europe’s main intergovernmental human rights organisation, and the seat of the European Court of Human Rights. It is of course quite distinct from the European Union, and has a much wider geographical range.
The draft Resolution contains 15 proposals for actions by member states, in such areas as freedom of expression and assembly, legal remedies for victims, hate speech, anti-discrimination legislation, the human rights of transgender persons, legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, and the possibility for same-sex partners to have joint parental responsibility of each other’s children.
The draft Recommendation proposes that the Council of Europe takes more action to combat sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, specifying a number of fields.
There is widespread hostility to LGBT rights in many Council of Europe member states, particularly, but not exclusively, in some of those in central and east Europe. There is therefore likely to be strong opposition in the Assembly to elements of the Resolution, particularly those relating to legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and parental responsibility, which are being presented by conservative religious organisations as an attack on marriage and the family. It is even possible that there will be attempts to try to amend the Resolution so that it proposes limitations on LGBT rights, for example in relation to freedom of religion. However, the extent of possible hostile amendments will not be known until the day before the debate, which takes place on Wednesday 27 January.
The text of the draft resolution and draft recommendation are published as part of a report by the Rapporteur (which itself contains much that it will information about LGBT rights), and can be found at:
The debate will be webcast live at the Parliamentary Assembly website, http://assembly.coe.int/default.asp
It is likely that the debate will start at 10 o’clock, on Wednesday 27, or soon thereafter. However, the agenda of the Assembly session is not finalised until Monday 25th, so there is a slight possibility that the timing will change.
ILGA Europe Council of Europe adviser