European framework

Rights affecting LGBT people in the European Union are protected under several European Union’s treaties and law. To find out what rights are protected in all EU states and what important differences there are between EU states with regard to LGBT rights, please read the following text.

The legal status of LGBT people in Europe
At EU-level, in 2015 the European Commission presented the “List of Actions to Advance LGBTI Equality”. Following this, in November 2020, the first LGBTIQ Equality Strategy (2020-2025) was introduced. This strategy includes actions across four pillars: 1. Tackling discrimination against LGBTIQ people; 2. Ensuring LGBTIQ people’s safety; 3. Building LGBTIQ inclusive societies; 4. Leading the call for LGBTIQ equality around the world. These targeted actions will be combined with attention to specific LGBTIQ concerns in enhanced equality mainstreaming into all EU policies, legislation and funding programmes.

However, the legal status of LGBT people still varies greatly across Member States, ranging from constitutional protection and recognition of LGBT people (e.g. Malta, Finland) to those without or with very limited legal recognition such as Cyprus or Hungary. As of 2020, marriage equality and adoption for same-sex couples is limited to some countries (e.g. Austria, Belgium, Malta, Spain), whilst comprehensive transgender rights such as self-determination and the lack of a necessary disorder diagnostic are also limited. These issues are regulated on a country basis.

The legal protection of LGBT people in Europe against anti-LGBT hate crimes
Both the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU include references to the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, whereas transgender and intersex people have received a more limited protection drawing from European Parliament resolutions and case law from the European Court of Justice. Beyond the EU-framework, hate crime legislation across Member States is fragmented. In this regard, not all countries include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) as protected status or basis of legal protection, whilst some countries do not contemplate neither hate crimes as a specific category nor SOGIE criteria.

The rights of victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes in Europe
The “Victims’ Rights Directive”  (2012/29/EU) establishes minimum rights for crime victims across the EU. Paragraph 56 addresses gender identity and sexual orientation when defining victims’ needs, stating that individual assessments should consider “the type or nature and the circumstances of the crime such as whether it is a hate crime, a bias crime or a crime committed with a discriminatory motive”.