LGBT rights in Europe

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights are widely diverse in Europe per country. Six out of the eight countries that have legalised same-sex marriage are situated in Europe; a further fourteen European countries have legalised civil unions or other forms of recognition for same-sex couples. Despite the historic widespread persecution of lesbians and gay men stretching from the late Roman Empire until the late 20th century - including the subjection of homosexuals during the Holocaust - gay people enjoy far greater acceptance in Europe than on any other continent.

Find more information on the legal situation on the website of ILGA-Europe, the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

The most prominent current issues facing same-sex couples in Europe revolve around legal discrimination mainly in areas such as -

  • IVF access;
  • Taxation;
  • Adoption and;
  • Marriage.

Contents

History

Although same-sex relationships were quite common in ancient Greece, Rome and pagan Celtic societies, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, severe laws against homosexual behavior appeared. An edict by the Emperor Theodosius I in 390 condemned all "passive" homosexual men to death by public burning. This was followed by the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian I in 529, which prescribed public castration and execution for all who committed homosexual acts, both active and passive partners alike. Justinian's law code then served as the basis for most European countries' laws against homosexuals for the next 1400 years. Homosexual behavior, called sodomy, was considered a capital crime, and thousands of homosexual men were executed across Europe during waves of persecution in these centuries. Lesbians were less often singled out for punishment, but they also suffered persecution and execution from time to time.

Poland is probably the only European country where homosexuality was never considered a crime by the state of law. Forty years after Poland lost its independence in 1795, the sodomy laws of Russia, Prussia, and Austria came into force in the occupied Polish lands. They were officially abandoned in 1932, even though they had had actually no power since Poland regained its independence in 1918.[1][2][3]

During the French Revolution, the French National Assembly rewrote the criminal code in 1791, omitting all reference to homosexuality. During the Napoleonic wars, homosexuality was decriminalised in territories coming under French control, such as the Netherlands and many of the pre-unification German states, however in Germany this ended with the unification of the country under the Prussian Kaiser, as Prussia had long punished homosexuality harshly. On 6 August 1942, the Vichy government made homosexual relations with anyone under twenty-one illegal as part of its conservative agenda. Most Vichy legislation was repealed after the war– but the anti-gay Vichy law remained on the books for four decades until it was finally repealed in August 1982 when the age of consent (15) was again made the same for heterosexual as well as homosexual partners.

Nevertheless, gay men and lesbians continued to live closeted lives, since moral and social disapproval by heterosexual society remained strong in France and across Europe for another two centuries, until the modern gay rights movement began in 1969.

Various countries under dictatorships in the 20th century were very anti-homosexual, such as in Nazi Germany, and in Spain under Francisco Franco's regime. In contrast, after Poland regained independence after World War I, it went on in 1932 to become the first country in 20th century Europe to decriminalise homosexual activity, followed by Denmark in 1933, Iceland in 1940, Switzerland in 1942 and Sweden in 1944.

In 1979, a number of people in Sweden called in sick with a case of being homosexual, in protest of homosexuality being classified as an illness. This was followed by an activist occupation of the main office of the National Board of Health and Welfare. Within a few months, Sweden became the first country in the world to remove homosexuality as an illness.[4]. In 1989, Denmark was the first country in Europe, and the world, to introduce registered partnerships for same-sex couples. In 2001 a next step was made, when the Netherlands opened civil marriage for same-sex couples, which made it the first country in the world to do so. Since then, five other European states followed (Belgium in 2003, Spain in 2005, Norway and Sweden in 2009 and Portugal in 2010).

On 22 October 2009, the assembly of the Church of Sweden, voted strongly in favour of giving its blessing to homosexual couples,[5] including the use of the term marriage, ("matrimony"). The new law was introduced on November 1, 2009 and is the first case in the world.

Recent developments

There is also a strong possibility politically in 2010 that same-sex marriage will become legal in 3 European countries, such as Iceland, Slovenia and Luxembourg. Liechtenstein is expected to legalize registered partnership in 2010.[6] Meanwhile Ireland and the two UK Crown territories of Isle of Man and Jersey are considering civil partnership laws in 2010.[7][8][9]

Six European countries ban gays from military service: Belarus, Cyprus, Latvia, Serbia, Greece and Turkey. All other European countries allow LGBT people to openly serve in the armed forces. As of April 2010, Greece and Gibraltar are the only two jurisdictions in Europe that have a higher unequal age of consent for gay men. All other jurisdictions in Europe have an equal age of consent for all individuals.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) decriminalised male homosexual acts in 2008, the last part of Europe to do so. The law took effect on 1 January, 2009.[10][11]

Public opinion around Europe

In a 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed by the Pew Research Center, showed majorities in every Western European nation said homosexuality should be accepted by society, while most Russians, Poles and Ukrainians disagreed.[12] In 2006 a recent Eurobarometer poll surveying up to 30,000 people from each European Union countries, showed split opinion around the 27 member states on the issue of same sex marriage. The majority of support came from the Netherlands (82%), Sweden (71%), Denmark (69%), Belgium (62%), Luxembourg (58%), Spain (56%), Germany (52%) and Czech Republic (52%). All other countries within the EU had below 50% support; with Romania (11%), Latvia (12%), Cyprus (14%), Bulgaria (15%), Greece (15%), Poland (17%), Lithuania (17%) and Malta (18%) at the other end of the list.[13] Same sex adoption had majority support from only two countries: Netherlands at 69% and Sweden at 51% and the least support from Poland and Malta on 7% respectively.[13]

A more recent survey carried out in October 2008 by The Observer affirmed that the majority of Britons - 55% - support gay marriage.[14] Other polls show that the majority of the Irish public support civil unions and gay adoption, 51% and 50%, respectively.[15] France has support for same sex marriage at 62%,[16] and Russians at 14%.[17] Italy has support for the 'Civil Partnership Law' between gays at 45% with 47% opposed.[18] In 2009 58.9% of Italians supported civil unions, while 40.4 supported same-sex marriage.[19]

According to pollster Gallup Europe: women, younger generations, and the highly educated are more likely to support same-sex marriage and adoption rights for gay people.[20]


Legislation by country or territory

Four countries currently ban all forms of heterosexist discrimination: Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Membership in the European Union not only requires repeal of anti-homosexuality legislation, the Treaty of Amsterdam also requires anti-discrimination legislation to be enacted by its member states.[21]

Northern Europe

LGBT rights in: Homosexual acts legal? Recognition of same-sex relationships Same-sex marriage Same-sex adoption Allows gays to serve openly in military? Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation) Laws concerning gender identity/expression
Åland Islands (self-governing part of Finland) ✔ Legal since 1971 ✔ Legal since 2002 Demilitarised ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Denmark ✔ Legal since 1933
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 1989 ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Estonia ✔ Legal since 1992
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Unregulated, it is possible for any single individual to adopt if they can prove to be suitable to bring up a child. ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Faroe Islands (self-governing part of Denmark) ✔ Legal since 1933 ✔ (Denmark responsible for defence) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Finland ✔ Legal since 1971
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 2002 ✔/✘ Step-child adoption only ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Greenland (member country of the Kingdom of Denmark) ✔ Legal since 1933
+UN decl. sign via Denmark.
Civil unions since 1996 ✔ Only in registered partnerships and only with partner's children ✔ (Denmark responsible for defence) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Iceland ✔ Legal since 1940
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 1996 ✘ (proposed) ✔ Only in registered partnerships Has no army ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Ireland ✔ Legal since 1993
+ UN decl. sign.
The Civil Partnerships Bill 2009 is currently before the Irish lower house (Dáil Éireann) Single gay persons may adopt ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Isle of Man ✔ Legal since 1994 ✔ Legal since 2005 ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Latvia ✔ Legal since 1992
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Constitutional ban since 2006 ✘ Only married couples can adopt ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Lithuania ✔ Legal since 1993
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Constitutional ban since 1992 ✘ Only married couples can adopt Bans some anti-gay discrimination, and publication of pro-homosexual "propaganda" banned as of 2009
Norway ✔ Legal since 1972
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 1993 ✔ Legal since 2009 ✔ Bans all anti-gay discrimination
Sweden ✔ Legal since 1944
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 1995 ✔ Legal since 2009 ✔ Bans all anti-gay discrimination and publication, including hate speech against homosexuals and transgenders ✔ Sex change can only be done after recomendations by the National Board of Health and Welfare, due health and safety reasons
United Kingdom ✔ Legal since 1967 in England and Wales, 1980 in Scotland and 1982 in Northern Ireland
+ UN decl. sign.
Civil partnerships since 2005</small> ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination, as well as religion-based hate speech against homosexuals [22] Gender Recognition Act 2004

Western Europe

LGBT rights in: Homosexual acts legal? Recognition of same-sex relationships Same-sex marriage Same-sex adoption Allows gays to serve openly in military? Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation) Laws concerning gender identity/expression
Belgium ✔ Legal since 1843
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 2000 ✔ Legal since 2003 ✔ Bans all anti-gay discrimination
France ✔ Legal since 1791
+ UN decl. sign.
Pacte civil de solidarité
since 1999
✘ No ✘ Single gay persons may adopt ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Guernsey (incl. Alderney, Herm and Sark) ✔ legal since 1983 (Age of consent discrepancy) UK responsible for defence
Jersey ✔ legal since 1990 ✘ (Civil Partnerships are proposed) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Luxembourg ✔ Legal since 1795
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 2004 ✘ (proposed) ✘ (proposed) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Monaco ✔ Legal since 1793 France responsible for defence
Netherlands ✔ Legal since 1811
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 1998 ✔ Legal since 2001. First country to legalize same-sex marriage. ✔ Bans all anti-gay discrimination

Central Europe

LGBT rights in: Homosexual acts legal? Recognition of same-sex relationships Same-sex marriage Same-sex adoption Allows gays to serve openly in military? Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation) Laws concerning gender identity/expression
Austria ✔ Legal since 1971
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Unregistered cohabitation since 2003, Registered partnership will become legal on 1 January 2010. ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Croatia ✔ Legal since 1977
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Unregistered co-habitation since 2003; Registered partnership refused in 2005 Single gay persons may adopt ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination Act on the elimination of discrimination
Czech Republic ✔ Legal since 1962
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Registered partnership since 2006. ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Germany ✔ Legal since 1968 in East Germany and 1969 in West Germany
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Registered partnership since 2001 Single gay persons may adopt or a partner can adopt the other partner's child (full joint adoption is proposed)[23] ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Hungary ✔ Legal since 1962
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Unregistered cohabitation since 1996 and Registered partnership since 2009 ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Liechtenstein ✔ Legal since 1989
+ UN decl. sign.
Has no army
Poland ✔ Never punished. Legal since 1932
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Constitutional ban since 1997 Single gay persons may adopt ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Slovakia ✔ Legal since 1962
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Slovenia ✔ Legal since 1977
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Registered partnership since 2006 ✘ (proposed) ✘ (proposed) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination ✔ Sex change can be recorded in a central register, and new documents can be issued based on person's new gender identity.[24]
Switzerland ✔ Legal since 1942
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 2007 Single gay persons may adopt. Non-biological partner must provide educational and financial tutorship for his/her partner's child ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination

Eastern Europe

LGBT rights in: Homosexual acts legal? Recognition of same-sex relationships Same-sex marriage Same-sex adoption Allows gays to serve openly in military? Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation) Laws concerning gender identity/expression
Albania ✔ Legal since 1995
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ (but proposed) [1]
Armenia (terminology "European" varies on border defintions) ✔ Legal since 2002
+ UN decl. sign.
Unknown
Azerbaijan (terminology "European" varies on border defintions) ✔ Legal since 2000 ✘ Banned from military service
Belarus ✔ Legal since 1994 ✘ Banned from military service
Bosnia and Herzegovina ✔ Legal since 1996 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1998 in Republika Srpska
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Bulgaria ✔ Legal since 1968
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Constitutional ban ✘ Single gay person may adopt ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Georgia (terminology "European" varies on border defintions) ✔ Legal since 2000
+ UN decl. sign.
Unknown ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Macedonia ✔ Legal since 1996
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Moldova ✔ Legal since 1995 ✘ Constitutional ban
Montenegro ✔ Legal since 1977
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Constitutional ban ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Romania ✔ Legal since 1996
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Russia (incl. all constituent regions) ✔ Legal since 1993

(was illegal in Russian Empire in 1832-1917, was legal in the RSFSR/Soviet Union in 1917-1934)

Serbia ✔ Legal since 1994 (1981 in Vojvodina)
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Constitutional ban ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Turkey ✔ Legal since 1858 (decriminalized by the Ottoman Empire) ✘ No particular legal ban. ✘ They are exempt from the military service and marked as mentally ill. ✘ Added to constitution in 2004, but withdrawn afterwards by the government
Ukraine ✔ Legal since 1992 ✘ Constitutional ban

Southern Europe

LGBT rights in: Homosexual acts legal? Recognition of same-sex relationships Same-sex marriage Same-sex adoption Allows gays to serve openly in military? Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation) Laws concerning gender identity/expression
Andorra ✔ Legal since 1790
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 2005 ✘ (but proposed) ✔ Legal since 2005 Has no army ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Cyprus ✔ Legal since 1998
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Gibraltar (overseas territory of the U.K.) ✔ Legal since 1993 (Age of consent discrepancy) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Greece ✔ Legal since 1951 (Age of consent discrepancy)
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Banned from military service ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Italy ✔ Legal since 1890
+ UN decl. sign.
✘ Only married couples can adopt ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Malta ✔ Legal since 1973
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Portugal ✔ Legal since 1983
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 2001 ✘ (but proposed) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
San Marino ✔ Legal since 1864, recriminalised in 1974 and again legalised in 2001
+ UN decl. sign.
Unknown
Spain ✔ Legal since 1979
+ UN decl. sign.
✔ Legal since 1998 (12 of 17 communities legalised Civil unions) ✔ Legal since 2005 ✔ Bans all anti-gay discrimination La Ley de Identidad de Género (Gender Identity Law), enacted in 2007.

Disputed territories

LGBT rights in: Homosexual acts legal? Recognition of same-sex relationships Same-sex marriage Same-sex adoption Allows gays to serve openly in military? Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation) Laws concerning gender identity/expression
Kosovo (only partially recognised, claimed by Serbia) Legal since 1994 (as part of Serbia), 2008 (as partially recognised sovereign territory) ✔ Bans some anti-gay discrimination
Turkish Republic Northern Cyprus (only recognised by Republic of Turkey) ✔ Legal since 2009 ✘ No particular legal ban. ✘ Banned from military service. (with the same code in Turkey)

See also

References

  1. http://www.globalgayz.com/country/Poland/view/POL/a-brief-history-of-gay-poland
  2. http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/poland.html
  3. http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/IES/poland.html#6
  4. Jag känner mig lite homosexuell idag | quistbergh.se
  5. Kyrkomötet öppnade för enkönade äktenskap - DN.se
  6. http://www.queer.de/detail.php?article_id=11547#
  7. http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=12249
  8. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/02/22/isle-of-man-to-consider-civil-partnerships-for-gay-couples/#
  9. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/10/20/jersey-votes-to-allow-civil-partnerships/#
  10. Northern Cyprus decriminalises homosexuality. Pink news. Retrieved on 29 January 2006.
  11. N. Cyprus To Abolish Sodomy Law. 365gay.com. Retrieved on 29 January 2006.
  12. Views of a Changing World 2003. The Pew Research Center. Retrieved on 29 January 2007.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage. Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research. Retrieved on 29 January 2006.
  14. "Sex uncovered poll: Homosexuality", The Guardian, 26 October 2008. Retrieved on 7 May 2010. 
  15. Irish Ponder Same-Sex Unions, Adoption. Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research. Retrieved on 29 January 2006.
  16. French Back Same-Sex Marriage, Not Adoption. Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research. Retrieved on 29 January 2006.
  17. Same-Sex Marriage Nixed By Russians. Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research. Retrieved on 29 January 2006.
  18. Italians Divided Over Civil Partnership Law. Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research. Retrieved on 21 February 2007.
  19. Italiani più avanti della politica | Arcigay
  20. Public opinion and same-sex unions (2003). ILGA Europe. Retrieved on 29 January 2006.
  21. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/treaties/dat/12002M/pdf/12002M_EN.pdf
  22. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2008/ukpga_20080004_en_9#pt5-pb3-l1g74
  23. http://www.thelocal.de/society/20090723-20779.html
  24. www.dz-rs.si

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