The EU ‘has played a crucial role in promoting LGBT rights’

Ian McKellen has celebrated the EU's record of preventing anti-LGBT discrimination

Image: Gage Skidmore

Ian McKellen has announced his support for remaining it the European Union because of its contributions to LGBT rights.

In a piece for iNews, marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, McKellen writes:

“The European Union has played a crucial role in promoting LGBT rights to legal equality in Britain, across Europe and around the world. The EU’s guidelines for supporting human rights call for measures to end discrimination against all LGBT people. The EU funds local groups who are campaigning against homophobic and transphobic violence – many of them at great personal risk.”

The TUC has also published a briefing note this morning outlining how EU directives and laws have protected the rights of LGBT worker’s in the UK.

It highlights the case of a trans British woman who was dismissed after undergoing reassignment surgery. Against the arguments of the UK government, she had her claim of unfair dismissal upheld by the European Court of Justice.

The UK was then required to add a specific clause on gender reassignment to the Sex Discrimination Act.

The UK’s Sexual Orientation Regulations, introduced in 2003, are also based on an EU directive requiring equal treatment for LGB workers, and it was an ECJ ruling that established that same-sex civil partners should have equal access to marital benefits.

While the UK would be unlikely to specifically attack LGBT rights post-Brexit, they are among the EU-enforced worker’s protections that the Leave camp dismiss as unnecessary and bureaucratic.

‘Brexit campaigners have made no secret of their radical agenda for deregulation,’ commented TUC Equalities Officer Huma Munshi. ‘To them it’s ‘red tape’, but to us it’s our right to equality, and our right to fair compensation if we suffer discrimination.’

The human rights of LGBT people in the UK have also been advanced by European institutions, and are underwritten by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Cases taken to the European Court of Human Rights have played a part in a series of LGBT victories – decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland in 1982, the removal of the ban on LGBT people serving in the military in 2000, the equalisation of the age of consent in 2001, and the Gender Recognition Act in 2004.

While the ECtHR is not an EU institution, it is under threat from the Tory government, which wants to pull out of the convention and establish a British Bill of Rights instead. Further announcements on this policy are expected in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech.

Ironically, David Cameron believes this move is needed to restore the sovereignty of the British parliament and the democratic accountability of its laws — exactly the arguments he shouts down when made by his pro-Brexit opponents.

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