PACE hearing on the legal recognition in Europe of same-sex partnerships

LGBT: promoting tolerance and combating discrimination

Speaking in Paris today, Louis-Georges Tin, founder of IDAHO (International Day against Homophobia), recalled a time when Jews had no right to associate, express their views or marry as they wished.  Wondering whether this was anti-Semitism, he said that he felt that it was.  He was addressing the members of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights during a hearing on freedom of expression and assembly for LGBT in Council of Europe member states and on legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.

The Committee’s rapporteur on the subject, Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC) had opened the meeting by expressing the hope that his report would reaffirm the right of LGBT to enjoy the same fundamental rights as any other person in a Council of Europe member state, and would highlight the need to promote tolerance and the fight against discrimination.

In this context, Joke Swiebel, a former member of the European Parliament and chair of the EP’s Gay and Lesbian Intergroup, called for more information, a social climate fostering openness, and the resources that NGOs needed for their work.  She said that standards needed to be set by international organisations, and awareness needed to be raised amongst the members of our parliaments.

For Gultakin Hajiyeva (Azerbaijan, EPP/CD), however, while the rights of LGBT should be guaranteed, the same did not apply to legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.  György Frunda (Romania, EPP/CD) agreed, saying that, in a Europe of population decline, encouragement should be given to creating more families and having more children.  This was, he said, a question not of religion, but of a social model.

Igor Kon, a professor at Russia’s Academy of Sciences, expressed regret that, since the riots which had followed the holding of a Gay Pride event in Moscow, populists and clericalists had a burning desire, since it was impossible to prohibit it entirely, to make homosexuality taboo.  Jean-Charles Gardetto (Monaco, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur to include in his report a reference to the words spoken by Patriarch Alexy II, who had, in the Assembly Chamber, compared homosexuality to a disease.  The most disturbing aspect of this was the applause which had come from certain colleagues.

At the end of a long and animated debate, Mr Gross pointed out that his report would endeavour to analyse the historical, social and political reasons for the variations that existed in Europe where the recognition of same-sex partnerships was concerned, referring to the examples of Spain and Poland, which had drastically different legislation in this sphere, although they shared a very marked Catholic cultural heritage.

The hearing also saw the participation of Jeffery Weeks, Director of Research at London’s South Bank University, and of Maxim Anmeghichean, Programmes Director of the ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association). Mr Gross should be presenting a draft text on the subject to Committee members at a next meeting.