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Europe gets specific on discrimination

Thu 13 Dec 2007 In: International News View at Wayback

The European Union has become the first international body to have a treaty containing explicit language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Charter of Fundamental Rights was signed on Wednesday at a ceremony in Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament. Parliamentary President Hans-Gert Poettering, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and the current head of the Council of EU member states, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates put their signatures to the document amid cheers from some member states and jeers from others. Britain and Poland had wanted the charter put to a referendum and have refused to sign onto the document. The Charter brings together into a single document all of the separate EU laws and regulations on human-rights but despite the fanfare it has no legal force. That will only happen when the parliaments of all 27 member states ratify a concord called the Lisbon Treaty that reforms the way the EU operates. The International Lesbian and Gay Association - Europe hailed the Charter on Wednesday and urged member states to ratify the Lisbon Treaty saying that the document will advance the rights of LGBT people throughout Europe. "While welcoming the first ever international treaty containing an explicit ban on sexual orientation discrimination, we are disappointed by the decision of the UK and Polish governments to opt out of their duty to provide their citizens with the same rights as the rest of EU citizens," said Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe. "While the reasons for not ratifying the Charter are different in both countries, we believe the lack of unanimity among the EU member states weakens the strength and authority of this significant document." The dissident government could still hold national referendums on the Charter. Even so, they have negotiated an 'opt out' clause that could be used to negate some of the Charter's rights.    

Credit: News Staff

First published: Thursday, 13th December 2007 - 10:53am

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