At its 40th Session, 16 June 2021, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe examined the situation of LGBTI people in Europe based on a report prepared by Andrew Boff (United Kingdom, ECR) and Yoomi Renström (Sweden, SOC/G/PD).
The Congress adopted a resolution and a recommendation on the role of local and regional authorities on protecting LGBTI people in the context of rising anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination, asking central governments to develop national action plans reinforcing anti-discriminatory and human rights measures, including LGBTI people.
“Across Europe, the rights and recognition of LGBTI people are under pressure,” stated rapporteur Andrew Boff.
“Rising hate speech is creating divisions between the citizens of our towns and regions. Against this, local and regional authorities must strengthen the social rights and well-being of their LGBTI citizens and promote dialogue. We have a duty to all our fellow citizens to create inclusive societies,” he added.
The Congress also adopted a resolution on the role of local authorities with regard to the situation and rights of LGBTI people in Poland following a fact-finding mission on November 2020.
“Since 2019, more than 90 Polish towns and regions had passed resolutions declaring themselves free from so-called ‘LGBT-ideology’. Elected local politicians’ role is not legitimising rejection against LGBTI people. Their role is to promote diversity and uphold human rights. We have asked Polish local authorities to annul such resolutions and declarations,” stated the Rapporteur.
On this occasion Congress President Leendert Verbeek expressed concerns about the worrying developments on the social and political front. “The rising anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination is one of those and it is indeed very worrying to learn about the legislation passed by the Hungarian parliament yesterday, particularly at a time when Hungary presides over the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe” he added.
Condemning the exclusion and hatred that LGBTI people suffer in several European countries and the infringements of their rights, the Congress calls on local and regional authorities to take action against such conduct through local measures and programmes and by urging states to launch national plans in this area.
Andrew Boff (United Kingdom, ECR), author of the report on “Protection of LGBTI people in the context of rising anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination: the role of local and regional authorities” noted that hostile and even violent speech and attitudes are again on the rise, for instance in Estonia, Russia and Poland and, more recently, in Hungary. Although this trend was clearer in some countries than in others, the rapporteur stressed that it was a phenomenon that could be observed throughout Europe. In his view, it was unacceptable that some local elected representatives were involved in campaigns of this kind, when they should instead set a good example when it came to diversity as well as inclusion and protecting the rights of all citizens. Referring to the frequency of attacks against LGBTI people, he stressed the particular vulnerability of young LGBTI, who needed support from local and regional authorities. His report advocated the establishment of information spaces for them at local level and called on national local government associations to exchange best practices on these issues. With the report, the Congress wished to send a message of support to LGBTI people as citizens, and also to the towns and cities that defended them.
During the debate, Lia Montalti (Italy, SOC/G/PD) pointed out that in 2019, in spite of strong opposition, the Regional Assembly of Emilia-Romagna had adopted a text on combating gender or sex-related violence. However, Belinda Gottardi, (Italy, SOC/G/PD) expressed disappointment that the draft national legislation against homophobia had been defeated in the Italian Parliament because of the weight of family traditions. Mara Dalzocchio (Italy, NR) was more critical of the report regarding the way in which more traditionalist or conservative individuals were presented, which she felt was sometimes pejorative, and stressed that it should be possible for all views to be heard. Lastly, Fabio Travaglini (Italy, EPP/CCE) stressed the importance of networking with civil society organisations on the subject.
Gudrun Mösler-Törnström (Austria, SOC/G/PD) and Gabriele Neff (Germany, ILDG) strongly condemned the Polish and Hungarian authorities’ attitude towards LGBTI people. Ms Neff also suggested decking out with rainbow flags the stadium in which the football match between Germany and Hungary would be held on 23 June. For his part, Axel Boongars (Netherlands, SOC/G/PD) referred to the importance of helping young LGBTI people to get information and answers to their questions. While most of the speakers supported Andrew Boff’s report, Dusica Davidovic (Serbia, SOC/G/PD) nevertheless stated that the situation in her country described in the report had changed significantly in recent years.
The resolution and the recommendation were subsequently adopted by 85 and 86 votes in favour, 28 and 26 against and seven and six abstentions respectively.
Cancel your anti-LGBTI declarations: our appeal to Polish local and regional elected representatives
The Congress debated and then adopted a resolution following the fact-finding visit made to Poland at the end of 2020 in response to the decision by a number of municipalities to declare themselves “LGBT ideology-free zones”. Andrew Boff, rapporteur of the document entitled “The role of local and regional authorities with regard to the situation of LGBTI people in Poland” condemned the unacceptable nature of these types of measures, which made LGBTI people “scapegoats caught between the supporters of two opposing views of Polish society”. “We call on Polish local authorities to head up a movement to put things in order again”, he said, before noting with satisfaction that some municipalities which had introduced such measures had reversed them in recent weeks.
Speaking on the subject, Marcin Golaszewski (Poland, EPP/CCE) wholeheartedly endorsed the Congress’s initiative aimed at protecting threatened individuals, but also called on towns and cities that were considering ending their twinning arrangements with municipalities in favour of these LGBTI-free zones not to go ahead with their threats. Like Marc Cools (Belgium, ILDG), who said that, only three or four years ago, he could never have imagined that a member state of the Council of Europe and the EU would introduce such measures, several members and youth delegates reiterated their concerns about these “unacceptable” decisions. Brigitte van den Berg (Netherland, ILDG) welcomed the speed with which the Congress had reacted to the Polish situation, while calling for “an equally firm response to the new homophobic crusade launched by Hungary”. “Our resolution is not a threat, but a call for inclusion” was the concluding comment from Andrew Boff before the resolution was put to the vote and adopted by 83 votes in favour, 23 against and nine abstentions.
Speech of Andrew Boff on the first report (only available in English)
Speech of Andrew Boff on the fact-finding report on Poland (only available in English)
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