We Want Human Rights for All, Not Special Rights for Some

December 19, 2013

Although reason prevailed at the recent vote on sexual and reproductive health (Estrela Report) at the European Parliament, the next attempt of lobby-driven politics is already on the agenda. With the “Lunacek Report”, special rights and privileges are being claimed for some — against equality and the same human rights for all.  

The attempt to advance special privileges for some at the cost of equality for all comes — again — in the form of an “Own Initiative Report”, a non-binding text voted in Parliament on areas that often fall outside the EU‘s competence.

The “Report on the EU Roadmap against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity” was presented on November 5 in the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and was adopted in committee this week (on December 17) with 40 MEPs in favour, 2 against, and 6 abstentions. MEP Ulrike Lunacek from the Green party in Austria — and who also serves as the Co-President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights — is the Rapporteur for this report. (Mrs. Lunacek was also one of the most outspoken promoters of the Estrela Report.)

The interests of a small but powerful lobby vs. equality for all

The Report asserts that LGBTI persons should have the same human rights as everyone else. This is an assertion that can be fully supported. The very purpose of human rights as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention and other international human rights documents is to grant a minimum level of protection of the integrity of every person because everyone has equal worth and dignity.

However, while the universal application and validity of human rights for all — regardless of personal preferences, age, or any other property — needs to be defended in the EU, the Lunacek Report turns this fundamental equality upside down by claiming that specific LGBTI rights should now be considered human rights. This turns the universal validity of human rights into its exact opposite.

This would mean that one particular group in society, which wants to push for their own particular interest, should be able to declare new human rights as they please. Such an arbitrary extension of human rights (often superficially equated with more justice) will not lead to more human rights but rather to the decay of the very concept of human rights.

To claim that LGBTI rights are human rights is as meaningful as saying “sport rights are human rights” or “classical music lover’s rights are human rights”. Human rights are not there to protect the specific interests of a particular group but to protect the innate dignity of every human person. The Lunacek report is thus profoundly against equality and advocates for more special privileges for persons who do not suffer in any way from a denial of their human rights.

Problem points in the Report

In this week’s committee vote, this lobby-driven politics were widely supported by centre-right MEPs who do not seem to grasp the anti-equality agenda pushed by this initiative. Mrs. Lunacek proposed various amendments to her own initial draft, which made it even more problematic than it was originally. The European People’s Party (EPP) group voted in favour of even the most radical of these amendments, while losing the vote on every single amendment they themselves had proposed.

Here are the top three problem statements in the text adopted this week in the LIBE committee:

First: “The Commission should mainstream issues specific to transgender and intersex people throughout the relevant EU policies, mirroring the approach adopted in the Gender Equality Strategy”.

This refers to instances when drafting future policies and proposals or monitoring the implementation of EU law. But what does “mainstream” mean in this phrase? The human rights blogger J.C. von Krempach explains: “When a particular policy is ‘mainstreamed’, this means that henceforth all political initiatives and legal measures must undergo a formal check regarding whether they stand in conflict with that particular policy. ‘Mainstreaming’ LGBT rights would mean that no legal measure can be adopted against the will of LGBT people…. This would effectively result in a sort of veto right against all and everything”. (www.turtlebayandbeyond.org)

Under mainstreaming, anything considered “hate speech” and “hate crimes” against LGBTI people could eventually be subject to specific criminal sanctions. But as von Krempach notes, the question that arises is: “Why do LGBTI people deserve a special protection that other people don’t deserve? Why does Mrs. Lunacek not come up with a proposal that would afford equal protection and equal attention to all, including non-homosexuals?”

Second: “The Commission and the Council of the European Union should consider that Member States adopting laws to restrict freedom of expression in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity breach the values on which the European Union is founded, and react accordingly”.

This means that LGBTI persons and organisations should have complete immunity against any limitations on freedom of speech (never mind that no ordinary citizen enjoys absolute freedom of speech). It also means that laws aimed at promoting appropriate sexual education — for example, not promoting homosexual lifestyles among primary school kids — should not be legitimate. And countries undertaking such efforts to protect children should be prohibited from doing so.

Third: “Member States should take account of LGBTI people within national health plans and policies, ensuring training curricula, health policies and health surveys take specific LGBTI health issues into account”.

LGBTI persons, are — according to the unanimous results of scientific studies worldwide and over 30 years — statistically a high-risk group for health issues and sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) due to their promiscuous sexual behaviour. This is confirmed by the world’s leading research institutes, including: the International Journal of Epidemiology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Koch Institute, and the American Journal of Public Health.  Even the US Gay and Lesbian Medical Association published a study that concluded that STDs are spread beyond average among active homosexuals and that the risk of infection is very high.

Should the European Parliament really push for the enjoyment of special health plan privileges for highly risky behaviour? If Mrs. Lunacek and the LIBE Committee truly wanted to advance human rights for all, they would not call for special advantages for LGBTI persons — nor would they call for special health plans for smokers, the overweight, or extreme mountaineers (all high-risk groups). Instead of granting special advantages to particular groups (especially those who have a powerful lobby in Brussels), European policy-makers should try to ensure excellent health standards for all citizens, not just a few.

What’s the intention of the Lunacek report?

Mrs. Lunacek introduced her Report by saying that it “is a wake-up call for the Commission to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people across policy areas”. This should be done, according to the Rapporteur, respecting the principle of subsidiarity, which means the Commission and the European Union’s member states should not overstep each other’s powers under the EU treaties.

But in spite of this, the Report states: “The Commission should make proposals for the recognition of the effects of civil status documents across the EU, including registered partnerships, marriages and legal gender recognition, in order to reduce discriminatory legal and administrative barriers for citizens and their families who exercise their right to free movement”. Indeed, it goes without saying that family law, including partnerships and marriages, lies within the competence of each member state, not the EU.

The real intention is hidden behind the rhetoric. While lip-service is paid to the principle of subsidiarity and the boundaries of EU competence, the Lunacek Report in fact intends to pressure the European Commission to overstep its competence and interfere with national marriage and family law – under the pretext of administrative reforms.

The unreliable results of an unscientific survey

The entire Report is based on a controversial LGBT survey conducted by the Fundamental Rights Agency earlier this year. The poor scientific quality of this survey has been largely criticized and its outcomes were predictable as soon as the questions were published. Relying on the questionable results of this LGBT survey, the Lunacek Report claims in its explanatory statement that “47% of LGBT people felt discriminated against or harassed in the last year“ and that “26% were attacked or threatened with violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity” while “only 10% feel confident enough to report discrimination to the police”.

This outcome (and the political use of the survey) was predicted by European Dignity Watchimmediately after the Fundamental Rights Agency’s presented the LGBT survey questions, which were seen as leading and suggestive. EDW’s analysis concluded that the survey was ideologically biased and unscientific. Furthermore, the survey’s apparent purpose was to manipulate public opinion. These claims are readily apparent simply by taking a look at the survey’s design.

The fact that the Lunacek Report is based on the outcomes of this controversial survey — and, furthermore, that it is the only data source found in the Report — raises questions about the entire Report and puts its political claims in doubt. Since the survey itself was not credible, the ground for the entire Lunacek Report must be questioned as well. Ignoring this to please the LGBTI lobby by advancing a narrow agenda is simply unacceptable for a democratic institution such as the European Parliament, regardless of the ideological preferences of MEPs.

Here are the main critiques of the survey:

First, the survey is anonymous. This could easily have allowed one and the same person to reply to the questionnaire as many times as he or she wanted. Second, the survey was not based on verifiable facts, or any real and provable instances of discrimination. It was based simply on the sentiments and perceptions of participants. Third, the call to respond to the survey was spread heavily across Europe’s LGBT networks, a small but politically militant segment of the non-heterosexual population who are highly attuned to political action and have a precise understanding of how to advance their agenda. It is this small group that was most likely to respond to the survey — as many times as they wished. Fourth, the questionnaire used suggestive questions and multiple-choice answers to respond to questions such as: “What would allow you to be more comfortable living as a lesbian, gay or bisexual person in the country where you live?”. Answer 1: “Anti-discrimination policies referring to sexual orientation at the workplace”. Answer 2: “Measures implemented at school to respect lesbian, gay and bisexual people”.

Promoting privileges instead of equality — with the support of the Christian Democrats

In addition to its reliance on the survey, there are several other very problematic claims in the Lunacek Report. At this week’s committee meeting, all amendments proposed by Mrs. Lunacek were adopted with surprisingly strong support from other political groups — first and foremost among these, the EPP group. In apparent disregard for the values and principles for which they traditionally stood, they agreed on several contentious paragraphs in the Report.

For example, among the amendments tabled by the Rapporteur, one amendment pushes theEqual Treatment Directive: “Member States should consolidate the existing EU legal framework by working to adopt the proposed Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation” (p. 6, point B (i)). But this highly controversial Directive — on which no consensus has been reached among member states since 2010 — is full of freedom-limiting and arbitrary claims and concepts (see European Dignity Watch’s analysis). This Directive, which would be legally binding for all member states, would establish a very problematic and subjective definition of “discrimination”, as well as interfere in an unprecedented manner with citizens’ freedoms and rights, and fundamentally distort the concepts of ‘justice’ and ‘equality’.

Citizens should oppose the Lunacek Report

The majority of 40 against 2 voting in support of the Lunacek Report in the LIBE Committee this week is an alarming sign that MEPs are bowing to a small but vocal lobby instead of thinking of the equality of all citizens. The Report would not only divide Parliament for the second time in a very short time over crucial social issues, it would also promote a division of European citizens into two classes: LGBT persons with almost sacrosanct immunity and privileges on the one hand and the rest of ordinary citizens on the other. This would seriously undermine the equality for all that the Lunacek Report ostensibly promotes.

The closer we get to the European elections, the more carefully citizens everywhere should observe their MEPs voting patterns and monitor their commitments against such irresponsible special interest proposals.

The Lunacek Report will go to plenary for vote early 2014. Please consider writing to the MEPs of your country who are members of the LIBE Committee and complain about their voting behaviour.

In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted!