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by Rex Wockner
International News Briefs
Anti-gay MPs delayed a plan at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to pass two important pro-LGBT measures Jan. 27.
One measure contains recommendations to the 47 member nations of the Council of Europe on combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The other would submit LGBT-related proposals to the CoE’s Committee of Ministers, which represents the governments of the 47 countries.
It was only the third time PACE had tackled LGBT issues and the first time in 10 years.
But the effort fell apart when opponents introduced some 70 hostile amendments.
“There was not time to consider these fully in the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee before the debate in the full assembly,” said Nigel Warner of the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. “So it was decided to hold the main debate as planned, but postpone the voting to the April session of the assembly.”
The measure that is aimed at CoE member countries contains 15 proposals for pro-LGBT action in areas such 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 joint parental responsibility in same-sex families.
The other measure recommends that the Council of Europe itself increase efforts to combat sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in numerous arenas.
The hostile amendments, which were introduced mainly by Russian MPs and by Italian MPs linked to the Vatican, included:
– prioritize freedom of religion over the rights to private life and nondiscrimination;
– challenge wording that could be construed as limiting the freedom of individuals and religious bodies to speak against LGBT people;
– demand a place for moral judgment in human rights issues relating to LGBT people;
– remove language supporting legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, gay adoption and same-sex family rights;
– eliminate some references to gender identity and to transgender medical care and family life;
– and protect the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education and the provision of services.
Despite the postponement of voting, the debate went “very well,” ILGA’s Warner said.
“Spokespersons for all the main political groups (were) supportive and (there were) only two hostile speakers,” he said. “But one of these was applauded loudly. So it seems there is still plenty of opposition, even if not publicly expressed in the assembly.”
It is unclear what will happen next. In one scenario, the measures would be sent back to the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee and amended before returning to the full assembly in April.
PACE is a consultative body, so its resolutions and recommendations are advisory only. But they are seen as an important indication of European opinion.
The Council of Europe is Europe’s main intergovernmental organization with a human rights focus and is the seat of the European Court of Human Rights.
There is strong opposition to LGBT rights in some CoE member nations, much more so in parts of Central and Eastern Europe than in Western Europe.
Two anti-gay MPs from Azerbaijan, Gultekin Hajibeyli and Sabir Hajiyev, went so far as to boycott the assembly session.
“I think it wrong to raise this issue in PACE,” Hajiyev told news.az.
Religious bodies in Ukraine also expressed disapproval of the assembly’s even considering LGBT rights issues.