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The rights of LGBTI people in the European Union

Written by David de Groot,

© Lisa F. Young / Fotolia

The prohibition of discrimination and the protection of human rights are important elements of the EU legal order. Nevertheless, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people persists throughout the EU and takes various forms, including verbal abuse and physical violence.

Sexual orientation is now recognised in EU law as grounds of discrimination. However, the scope of the provisions dealing with this issue is limited and does not cover social protection, health care, education or access to goods and services, leaving LGBTI people particularly vulnerable in these areas.

Moreover, EU competence does not extend to recognition of marital or family status. In this area, national regulations vary, with some Member States offering same-sex couples the right to marry, others allowing alternative forms of registration, and yet others not providing any legal status for same-sex couples. Same-sex couples may or may not have the right to adopt children and to access assisted reproduction. These divergent legal statuses have implications, for instance, for partners from two Member States with different standards who want to formalise/legalise their relationship, or for same-sex couples and their families wishing to move to another Member State.

Combating discrimination has become part of EU internal and external policies, and is the subject of numerous resolutions of the European Parliament. However, action in this area remains problematic when it touches on issues pertaining to areas traditionally the preserve of Member States, such as marital status and family law.

This is a further updated version of a briefing originally drafted by Piotr Bakowski. The previous edition, from November 2020, was by Rosamund Shreeves.


Read the complete briefing on ‘The rights of LGBTI people in the European Union‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

See our video on ‘The road to LGBTI equality‘ on YouTube.

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