HRC Blog

Recent Gains and Setbacks Seen in Fight for LGBT Rights in Europe

Post submitted by Hannah Monson, HRC Global Engagement Intern 

Last week, the government of Croatia officially adopted a new law that will recognize same-sex unions and grant same-sex couples many of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, with the exception of adoption. On July 15, Croatia’s parliament passed the law approving “life partnerships” with 89 votes for and only 16 against. The law goes into effect on September 1.

The legislation was proposed by Prime Minister Zoran Milanović. Zagreb Pride Coordinator Marko Jurčić recognized the law as an important step toward marriage equality:  “Almost every country that now has marriage equality has had this step in between… Anyone who wants to get married can in the meantime still enjoy a huge number of rights, rights they deserve.”  Tuesday’s law grants homosexual couples in Croatia many of the same rights as those enjoyed by married couples, such as inheritance rights, social benefits, medical care, and tax deductions.

Although Croatia has had a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage since December 1, 2013, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) gave Croatia a score of 56 out of 100 for its national legal and policy human rights situation of LGBTI people in May 2014, naming it the 12th most LGBT-friendly country in Europe. 

Elsewhere in Europe, the Lithuanian parliament voted on July 15 to delay discussion of a bill that would adopt an anti-LGBT law that is similar to the horrific “anti-propaganda” law enacted in Russia a year ago.  Lawmakers will resume debate on the proposed anti-gay laws when they reconvene after the summer break.  It is unknown whether or not the bill will get majority support from members of the parliament. In the week prior, the Lithuanian government rejected amendments that would have legalized gender reassignment. Although sex-reassignment surgeries are technically allowed for unmarried adults under the civil code, legal obstacles make them almost impossible to obtain.

Elsewhere in Europe, a July 11 poll revealed that support for same-sex marriage in the Czech Republic has been decreasing.  In 2012 and 2013, fifty-one percent of respondents agreed that gay and lesbian should be granted the right to marry. In this year’s poll, the number dropped to forty-five percent. Seventy-three percent of Czechs approve of civil unions for LGBT citizens, which have been legal since 2006.

Slovakia amended its constitution to ban same-sex marriage on June 4, and Macedonia’s parliament followed suit July 16.  Although Slovakia’s anti-marriage-equality law passed easily, some conservatives are calling for more extreme measures. The Alliance for Family (AZR) is collecting signatures to demand a referendum to strengthen anti-LGBT laws. They have collected 300,000 signatures out of the 350,000 needed.

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