Yesterday, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) together with the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU (all 28 Member States) held a conference in Brussels on ‘Tackling sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination’. With more than 200 representatives from the 28 Member States and civil society organizations in attendance, the high-level conference pushed for stronger sanctions -- including criminal ones -- against such ‘discrimination’.

But the conference’s agenda was based entirely on the unreliable results of the FRA’s survey on discrimination against LGBTI, which has been much criticized during the past year -- in the media and by many Brussels-based NGOs – because of serious flaws in its design. At yesterday’s conference, despite more questions from the floor about its methodology -- and the rather ideological and unscientific nature of the entire survey – these remained unanswered.

Push for Horizontal Equal Treatment Directive based on allegations of  ‘discrimination’

During the opening session, the FRA’s director, Morten Kjaerum, summarized the survey’s results as follows: “Some 66% of respondents in all EU Member States are scared of holding hands in public with their same-sex partner. Such a normal everyday thing to do. Over 80% said that casual jokes about LGBT in everyday life were widespread. And homophobic and transphobic discourse among politicians is still a reality in some EU Member States”.

Then outgoing EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Martine Reicherts, said  that the unanimity required at the European Council to pass the Horizontal Equal Treatment Directive (which as been stalled since 2008) would be hard to achieve. The surprising ‘solution’ she proposed was to simply change the underlying legal basis from ‘anti-discrimination’ (requiring unanimity) to ‘enhanced cooperation’ (requiring only a majority vote).In this way, firm opposition against the Directive coming from Germany and other Member States would be entirely circumvented. She then encouraged her successor, Ms. Vera Jourova: “The general Equal Treatment Directive has been blocked for years. This is a real pity. Banning discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation (among others) in access to goods and services, social security and education would fill an important gap in the EU antidiscrimination acquis”. As one of her explicit aims, she wants businesses to be punished with the loss of a contract if they were seen to discriminate on LGBTI issues.  

Kjaerum also pushed for the controversial 5th Equal Treatment Directive, saying: “Discrimination is prohibited across the EU in the area of employment. Plans to extend this to other areas -- such as access to goods and services – under the so-called EU’s Horizontal Directive have been stalled for a long time. There is now a new window of opportunities to move forward with the Directive’s adoption since the European Commission has explicitly made this Directive one of its priorities”.

Despite firm opposition against the Directive form the German government, Caren Marks, Parliamentary Secretary of State for the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth went openly against her own government with the words: “I work pro-actively for a positive position from the (German) Government on the Horizontal Directive.“

A seriously flawed methodology

Back in 2013, European Dignity Watch had reported that the FRA survey on LGBTI discrimination was fundamentally flawed. It seemed designed to generate allegedly ‘scientific’ results in order to justify a push for profoundly illiberal laws in the EU. There were no control group with whom to compare the results of the survey; no safeguards against multiple (or unlimited) entries; no objective fact-checking of ‘discrimination’ (only subjective statements); no differentiation between attacks made by the homosexual community upon themselves and those done by others (otherwise, how can something truly be considered a ‘Hate Crime’?).

At yesterday’s meeting, despite questions about the flawed methodology used and the validity of the results obtained, both the FRA and the representatives of the 28 Members States present continued to stubbornly ignore criticism. Questions were asked from the floor as to why a better methodology was not used for the survey. But these questions were met with derision from large parts of the audience. Presumably, daring to ask questions about the way the conclusions were reached. It seems scientific standards should not get in the way of getting the ‘right’ answers.

The survey’s results indicate that 26% of respondents have felt threatened or been attacked as members of the homosexual community. But how much of that is attributable to their sexuality - and not just, say, criminal involvement, ethnic abuse, ‘ageist’ abuse, bad manners, etc. – is unclear. No such questions were asked. A former police officer from Sweden explained that it should not be important what happened or how but rather ‘why’ it happened.  What she was saying -- without any opposition from anyone in the audience -- is that the role of law enforcers should henceforth no longer be to punish all crimes irrespective of motive or victim but, rather, that a crime should be punished harder based on an officer’s perception of the event.

In a sign of disagreement from a number of NGOs, leaflets showing the FRA’s non-scientific survey methodology were distributed at the main entrance of the Council building. At the same time, a vigorous exchange was taking place on Twitter with a significant number of tweets denouncing the ideological nature of the survey and the conference.  

Partners in this FRA survey project are has Europe’s biggest LGBT NGO, ILGA-Europe, and its affiliates. €400,000 of taxpayer money was spent on the survey.

Same-sex domestic partnerships and LGBT education in every European school

The entire speaking panel at yesterday’s conference was made up of those who actively want a Europe of same-sex domestic partnerships, homosexual education in every school and homosexual adoption.  Italy’s representative opened the conference with an appeal for all to be ‘free to be what we want and how he or she feels’.  Opposition to such an agenda was seen as coming only from those holding ‘traditional’ values, whereas the real values to be promoted by the EU should be ‘equality’ and ‘happiness’.

They call it ‘legal protection’ but what they mean is ‘thought police’

‘Legal protection’ for LBGTI people is as necessary and justified as it is for any other member of society. Whoever is physically attacked, injured or threatened deserves legal protection regardless of his or her sexual orientation. Fortunately, such legal protection already exists for everyone. And if better enforcement is needed, it should be equally applied to all, not just to some based on their sexual orientation. True equality means precisely this: equal protection for all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation or other characteristics. It does not mean to sanction expressions of non-aggressive disagreement with a certain lifestyle. But this is precisely what several speakers at the conference called for under the name of ‘legal protection’. What they are really asking for is a de facto eradication of any opposition to the LGBTI lifestyle, even if expressed in a peaceful and democratic way.

The Deputy Minister of Justice from Croatia, Sandra Artukovic, blamed her own people for having voted in a recent referendum by an overwhelming majority in favour of a constitutional amendment to define marriage between one man and one women. Artukovic, speaking as an official representative of the Croatian government, said the referendum was ‘unfair’ and spoke about the difficulty of getting past the traditional values in her country. But nearly 20% of the totality of eligible voters in Croatia had called upon the government to hold the referendum. And she ignored the fact that when the votes were finally cast, two-thirds were in favour of defining marriage as a union between a man and a women – despite massive counter-campaigning from the government and the media.

Irish Minister Aidan O’Riordan saw the same difficulties in view of the upcoming Irish referendum on marriage to be held in the Spring 2015. He blamed the ‘power of the religious institutions’ and committed himself to removing the ability of these institutions to ‘discriminate’ in their employment conditions. Ireland would be a ‘more productive workplace if LGBTI people could be who they are in the workplace as elsewhere’, he concluded.  

The rest of the panels were highly emotional interventions. Sarah Halilovic from the Gay Straight Alliance denounced the fact that “bullying at school because of sexual orientation or gender identity [is] still being a problem. And it destroys love and lives”. In a video message, Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President of the European Parliament, gave her not quite legal reasons for an EU LGBTI Roadmap, saying: “We don´t decide with who do we fall in love. It simply happens. And it is a beautiful feeling”. In a similar way, Conchita Wurst, Austrian musician, performer and self-proclaimed spokesperson for equality, inspired the audience by asking “for the most natural thing: to live in peace and be respected” as a citizen of the EU.

5th Equal Treatment Directive: battleground for true freedom and equality

Governments, European institutions and NGO groups are funding -- and are being funded -- to push this profoundly illiberal agenda through at all costs. It could have a seriously worrying impact on the remaining 98% of cititzens who don’t belong to the LGBTI community.  But in order to overcome any opposition to their agenda, any means seem to be acceptable – even anti-democratic ones.

The immediate battleground will  be the 5th Equal Treatment Directive – at both the national and European levels.  And if you don’t favour these ‘fundamental rights’ as defined by these special intrest groups, then you will probably lose some of yours.

You can watch the entire record of the conference here.