Citizens’ consultation on LGBT rights in Europe: findings for the Citizens Manifesto

LGBT rights in Europe: a search for common solutions

Citizens’ consultation on the Citizen Manifesto
Friday 17 May, 3pm – 6pm
Maison des associations, 206 quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris

You can find the programme here.

Click here to download the proposals.

Findings

Discussion tables: issues discussed and introduction to the key proposals

The proposals numbered below were elaborated through discussions using the World Café methodology. They reflect the opinions held by the majority of those who participated in the public consultation, even though their opinions and ideas often displayed a variety of positions. Some of the proposals were developed on several discussion tables, but for the sake of clarity, similar concerns have been merged together.  If you wish to react to or comment on a proposal – or even suggest new ideas – please use the “comments” box at the bottom of the page.

Fighting against homophobia in the school environment
Moderator: Jean-Pierre Frémeaux, ContactThe fierce debates about how the concept of gender is introduced in textbooks and the controversies created by the cartoon “Le Baiser de la lune” – “The Kiss of the Moon” – both show that discussing sexual orientation and identity at school, and with young people in general, is not (yet) a straightforward matter in France.  Yet at that age when people start asking questions about their sexuality, homosexuality is often a target of mockery, or even of harassment.  Both formal and informal means of learning help to encourage tolerance, understanding, and acceptance.  What are the measures currently adopted by French schools to ensure that LGBT issues are not ignored in the classroom?  What are we doing to prevent harassment and hate crimes in schools?  What can we learn from positive examples set by other member states of the European Union?  What can we achieve for the Europe of tomorrow?

 Proposals regarding a child’s upbringing:

1. Teach children about sexuality and/or tolerance: ignorance, clichés, and false beliefs lead to intolerance and discrimination.

2. Get parents to support educational programmes on issues such as gender, as well as measures against homophobia.  If parents refuse, this can create a big stumbling block that sometimes pressures school officials and teachers into restraining themselves and practicing self-censorship.

Proposals regarding other places for learning (besides schools):

3. Recognise the important role that people in charge of playgrounds, holiday camps, and community centres (especially in less privileged neighbourhoods) can play in the struggle against discrimination.  In these places, children are more receptive than they are at school, and often have a more informal relationship with their supervisors.  Such places are therefore particularly suited to the teaching of tolerance.

Proposals regarding schools:Generally speaking, our schools are lagging behind in the struggle against discrimination. They should play a pivotal role in teaching children how to “live in harmony” with each other, as well as in the fight against homophobia.

4. Strengthen civic education in the classroom and create links between our schools and those organisations that fight against discrimination and homophobia – for example, the associations MAG, SOS-Homophobie, and CONTACT (in France).

5. Develop the CESC committees in French secondary schools: these committees – devoted to health and civic education – are a part of every secondary school’s institutional structure.  They serve as authoritative forums for ideas, remarks, and proposals; they devise, launch, and assess educational projects – integrated with the institution’s programme  – that deal with health and civic education, as well as the prevention of violence.  Moreover, they are responsible for organising “health and civic education days” and for contacting associations (such as those mentioned above) for help, especially in the struggle against homophobia.

 

Religion and homosexuality
Moderator: Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, Musulmans Progressistes de France (Progressive Muslims of France)As varied as they seem, arguments against marriage equality, which have recently sparked passionate debates in France, are often tied to a religion – be it Christianity, Judaism, or Islam – and seek their justification in specifically homophobic and transphobic interpretations of great sacred writings.  Indeed, one third of the organizations rallying behind “La Manif Pour Tous” – a movement opposed to the marriage equality bill – is tied to religious groups that all engage in the semantic deformation of certain spiritual texts.  With the participation of various LGBT associations representing major religious groups, this round table discussion will revolve around the compatibility of homosexuality with religious faith, and also exchange ideas on how to foster progress in an environment that is particularly hostile to LGBT people.  How can homosexuality and religion go hand in hand?  How can we support LGBT believers who are confronted with various homophobic religious views?

6. Make a distinction between individual believers and religious institutions and reject fusions of religious faith and homophobia.

7. Advertise the existence of numerous “inclusive” prayer groups for LGBT people (Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, the followers of ecumenical movements, etc.).  These groups offer LGBT people a space and community where they can live according to their faith in an environment of tolerance and respect towards their sexual identity and orientation.

Discrimination and homo-/lesbo-/bi-/transphobia in the workplace
Moderator: Sylvain Rouzel-Boisgontier, Homoboulot and Comin-GAccording to the report published by SOS Homophobie on homophobia in France in the year 2012, the number of homophobic acts in the workplace showed a substantial increase (36%) compared to the figures of the previous year.  On account of the specifically hierarchical nature of relationships in the workplace (the majority of the homophobic acts reported were perpetrated by ‘superiors’), such environments can be particularly rife with homophobic discrimination.  Inferior wages (the salaries of homosexual men are, on average, 6.2% lower than normal in the private sector, and 5.5% lower in the public sector), psychological harassment, lack of parental leave, etc.  How can we fight against homophobic discrimination in the workplace?

New initiatives should be adopted in the workplace as a result of cooperative dialogues between businesses or public authorities and their representative union organisations.

Proposals for charters that guarantee the fair and equal treatment of LGBT employees:

8. Businesses and public authorities should adopt charters that guarantee fair and equal treatment.  Example 1: annual assessment of an employee by 2-3 people, rather than by a single hierarchical superior; career development will therefore cease to depend on the “goodwill” of one person, and glass ceilings will be shattered.  Example 2: commitment to ensuring that all couples – including those of the same gender – have equal access to benefits packages.

9. Create a database listing businesses and public authorities that have adopted such a charter.

10. Establish a watchdog association and/or institution whose purpose is to ensure that both the businesses and the public authorities involved are abiding by their charters of fair and equal treatment.

Proposals for the implementation of training schemes:

11. Make all salaried employees and public officials more aware of discrimination against LGBT people.

12. More extensive training programmes for human resources managers and directors, allowing them – by means of simulation exercises – to put themselves in the shoes of LGBT people.

13. Organise lectures and conferences on homo-/lesbo-/bi-/transphobia that promote diversity in the workplace.

Proposals for the introduction of LGBT social events and coaching:

14. Sometimes businesses should organise LGBT events; it might also be necessary for LGBT associations to organise enjoyable social gatherings.

15. Invite associations to coachemployees and officials who wish to feel capable of speaking about their sexual orientation in the business or agency.

Proposals regarding transsexual, transgender, and intersex people:

16.      Draw up a set of procedures for human resources managers and directors to follow, instructing them on how to help employees and officials who are intersex or undergoing sex/gender reassignment surgery.

Freedom of movement and LGBT citizens of Europe: respecting our statutes
Moderator: Marta Molino, Sciences Po Bordeaux and the University of Turin, European AlternativesWe would like to bring a wider European perspective to the national debate concerning the right to same-sex marriage, a question that has recently provoked much discussion in France.  The upcoming public consultation in France is part of a transnational movement, and we wish to introduce a European dimension to a question that has until now been considered almost exclusively on a national level.
Regardless of the right to freedom of movement enjoyed by all European citizens, one realizes that another right has been violated where LGBT citizens are concerned.  A same-sex couple crossing from one member state to another risks being stripped of the rights pertaining to marriage (inheritance, next-of-kin, child custody) once they have entered a foreign country that has not legalized marriage for same-sex couples, something that could never happen to married opposite-sex couples.  One is therefore confronted with what is ultimately the violation of a fundamental law: the prohibition of any discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Though family laws may fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of member states, the European Union has the active authority to guarantee freedom of movement and other fundamental rights.  More specifically, The EU could appeal to the principles of mutual recognition and equal treatment in order to eliminate all discrimination against LGBT couples.

17. Increase the accessibility of information concerning freedom of movement in Europe for LGBT people.  Problems arise from the lack of general information on the EU and its latest developments, not to mention the fact that LGBT issues are approached from a national rather than a European perspective.

18. Getting all EU member states to respect the Union’s statutes is currently the best way of combatting the serious violation of human rights that occurs when EU citizens find themselves forbidden to exercise their freedom of movement (despite the fact that this right is a fundamental pillar of the Union).

19. Given the fact that those in power are unlikely to respond to this issue with concrete actions, lobbying can be an effective way to get EU nations to respect the Union’s statutes; after all, we have noticed a constantly growing European consciousness in the continent’s various countries.  By awakening this European consciousness and putting pressure on the various member states, we can probably get the ball rolling: thanks to the domino effect, once one nation gets going, the others will feel “driven” to follow suit.  One small step at a time, we will eventually establish universal respect for the EU’s statutes.

20. The (or the majority of the) decisions adopted by the Union on freedom of movement should be applied not only on the judicial level, but also on the regulatory level.  Since family laws are in the hands of individual member states, we are seemingly faced with two options:

  • The Union could create laws where workers’ rights are concerned, leaning on its mandate to foster harmonious development within the Common Market.
  • The Union could create laws in the realm of childrens’ rights (children generally being the most protected individuals in any legal system).

21. Make it easier for the public to appeal to the European Ombudsman (one must currently wade through all the levels of his or her country’s judicial system).  If European citizenship grants us the right to be “heard” by this political organ, we would like an easier and faster way to reach it.

Assisted reproductive technology (ART): the right to parenthood
Moderator: Dominique Boren, Association des Parents et futurs parents Gays et Lesbiens(Association of Gay and Lesbian Parents and Prospective Parents)ART provokes questions related to medical ethics and involves    sensitive issues regarding children with same-sex parents; it has raised doubts in France (and elsewhere), forcing lesbian couples to travel abroad in order to use ART – one thinks in particular of the “Thalys babies” (named after the train that links Paris and Brussels) conceived in Belgium.  Why not simply place same-sex couples in the same category as those that cannot produce children and grant them all the benefits of ART?  What are the underlying anxieties that turn society against this technology and how can we overcome them?  Can countries like Denmark, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK – where lesbian individuals and couples can use ART – pave the way to establishing a right enjoyed by all EU citizens?  The aim of these public consultations is to consider ART issues beyond the meetings of the National Committee of Ethics by inviting European citizens to present their views on these issues.

22. Allow lesbian couples to use ART, at least in countries where same-sex marriage is legally recognised.  According to the European Court of Human Rights in 2008, “homosexuality cannot be a justification for differences in legal treatment towards individuals who wish to become parents”.  The Court also prohibits differences in treatment regarding those who exercise their “right to procreate by means of ART”.

23. On top of legally recognising same-sex marriage and adoption, grant married same-sex couples equal status regarding presumption of parentage, and give unmarried same-sex couples the right to parenthood once they make a declaration in their town council.

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