LGBTIQ Equality Strategy
The ‘LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020–2025’ is the first-ever European Commission strategy on equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people. The strategy was announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2020 State of the Union address. It sets out a series of targeted actions relating to four pillars: tackling discrimination, ensuring safety, building inclusive societies and leading the call for LGBTIQ equality around the world.
Background and status
In recent decades, legislative developments, case law and policy initiatives have helped to build more equal and welcoming societies, with an inclusive approach to LGBTIQ people. In 2015, the Commission presented its ‘List of Actions to Advance LGBTI Equality’, which was the first policy framework specifically aimed at combating discrimination against LGBTI people. Launched on 12 November 2020, the ‘LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020–2025’ continues this important work.
- European Commission: LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020–2025
One of the employment-related topics covered by the strategy is the revision of Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, which seeks to combat ‘discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as regards employment and occupation’ (Article 1).
The Commission will carry out a detailed review of the application of this directive in 2021, together with an evaluation of Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin.
In addition to monitoring the implementation of these two texts by Member States, the review will check whether all these countries have set up standards for an equality body – in line with Recommendation (EU) 2018/951 of 22 June 2018 on standards for these bodies – in their respective jurisdictions to tackle discrimination.
- European Parliament and the Council: Council Directive 2000/78/EC
- European Parliament and the Council: Directive 2000/43/EC
- European Commission: Commission Recommendation (EU) 2018/951
Despite a number of recent rulings by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Commission has stated that ‘the legal framework does not yet explicitly mention sex characteristics as a prohibited ground for discrimination’. This may lead the Commission to recommend that these two directives be revised. Although legislation in some Member States does prohibit such discrimination, this is not the case in all of them. The Commission will therefore examine how non-binary, intersex and queer people can be better protected against discrimination.
- European Commission: Trans and intersex equality rights in Europe – A comparative analysis
Another area of focus for the strategy is the free movement of citizens in the EU, which can be hindered because some Member States do not recognise all the rights of ‘rainbow families’. Such loopholes may jeopardise the free movement of workers with their families across the EU, and married couples and registered partners may encounter difficulties in travelling to and taking up residence in another Member State. In light of this, the Commission will ensure that the term ‘spouse’ – defined as ‘gender-neutral’ by the CJEU in the landmark Coman ruling in 2018 – is being complied with and applied equally to same-sex partners. If this is not the case, it will take legal action. The Commission intends to revise the guidelines on free movement in 2022 to make it easier for all families, including rainbow families, to exercise the right to free movement.
- European Commission: Union of Equality: LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020–2025, COM(2020) 698 final
- CJEU: Judgment of the Court of 5 June 2018, Case C‐673/16
The Commission urges Member States to be aware that tackling inequality in the EU is a shared responsibility requiring ‘joint efforts and action at every level’, including from social partners  and companies. To reach out to companies, it aims to support the creation of national diversity charters and engage in specific efforts to promote LGBTIQ equality through the EU Platform of Diversity Charters.
- European Commission: Diversity charters by EU country
- European Commission: EU Platform of Diversity Charters
Reactions of EU-level social partners
The main European employers’ organisations have not yet reacted to the new strategy, which has received widespread support from trade unions. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has welcomed the initiative, pledging ‘to increase its work with national trade unions to support LGBTIQ equality in work, and to press MEPs and ministers to get an effective LGBTIQ equality strategy adopted by the EU’.  The European trade union federation IndustriAll Europe fully supports the strategy, its Deputy General Secretary Judith Kirton-Darling declaring: ‘We are happy to see that the Commission clarifies that the Gender Equality Directive that enshrines the right not to be discriminated against in the world of work on the basis of sex does also apply to gender reassignment’.