On October 24, 2018 Ignas Rekasius, a project manager at the National LGBT* rights organization LGL, took part in an advocacy network meeting in Brussels concerning the approaching elections of the European Parliament (EP) next year. On the eve of the annual conference of ILGA-Europe—an international umbrella association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) rights in Europe—participants drafted a “Come Out pledge” to be presented for the running candidates for the EP across Europe in order to hold them accountable in supporting the advancement of LGBTI rights.
The 2019 European Parliament elections come in an increasingly polarised social and political climate. The very core values and standards which the EU was founded upon are being called into question and human rights – in particular the human rights of LGBTI people – are facing a forceful challenge.
ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe Map has shown much progress in the legal and policy situation for LGBTI people across Europe in recent decades. However, increasingly, progress in some places has been accompanied by regression in others, and the strongest trend has been that of stagnation, providing fertile ground for backlash, and clearly indicating that now is the time to act to prevent backsliding of the progress achieved to date.
In the face of increasing hostility towards LGBTI rights in Europe and elsewhere, it is ever more important to openly come out in support of the human rights of LGBTI people and proactively seek opportunities to ensure their protection. The pledge, therefore, will serve as a tool for candidates to the European Parliament to express their commitment to the human rights of LGBTI people and for ILGA-Europe’s member organizations to inform voters and enable them to identify candidates who have pledged to stand up for the rights of LGBTI people.
During the meeting representatives of ILGA-Europe’s member organizations have further discussed the ways in which pledge will be used by EP representatives to bring to the table the most side-lined voices of the community, ensure continued and accessible EU funding for LGBTI organizations and legislative proposals regarding legal protection for LGBTI asylum seekers, victims of hate crime and hate speech and other discriminatory national legislature.
European Parliament elections will take place in May 23 – 26 next year, corresponding to the Presidential elections in Lithuania in May 12, 2019. Thus far, no candidate announced to be running for the EP elections in Lithuania yet.