EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – EU parliament President Jerzy Buzek has thrown his weight behind international anti-homophobia day in remarks to plenary and in opening a pro-gay rights photo exhibition in the assembly.
Speaking to MEPs at the opening of the May session in Strasbourg on Monday (9 May), the Polish Christian democrat politician said the EU will honour the upcoming event on 17 May and will "live up to its responsibility" to protect minorities in line with the EU treaty.
Police deploy in Zagreb in 2010 to stop trouble surrounding the pride march (Photo: lgbt-ep.eu)
"The EU is against discrimination of all kinds, inside Europe and outside. Homophobia is not an exception. Unfortunately, people around the world are still persecuted, tortured and even killed."
Buzek on Tuesday also cut the ribbon in the EU assembly on a photo exhibition chronicling incidents surrounding gay pride marches in 2010. "A person has the right to be different," he said at the ceremony. "Homophobia is deplorable because it aims to denigrate people and deprive them of these rights on the basis of their sexual orientation."
Rights groups value statements from EU VIPs because it helps them to set the terms of acceptable debate in the union, especially in conservative societies in former Communist and Mediterranean countries.
A gay rights group in the EU assembly welcomed Buzek’s suppport.
"He is delivering on his electoral promise to defend fundamental rights, regardless of whose rights they are. The genuine engagement in favour of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] issues by a Polish EPP [conservative group] president of the parliament clearly shows that homophobia is not part of mainstream EU politics anymore," euro-deputies Michael Cashman and Ulrike Lunacek said.
The photo exhibition concentrates on Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania as well as EU-candidate countries Croatia and Turkey and EU neighbours Belarus and Russia.
One of the Lithuanian images shows a neo-Nazi counter-pride protest displaying swastikas in open defiance of Lithuanian law. Another shows a leaflet distributed by children saying "queer charged corpses on a bed of worms" will burn "in eternal fire."
A Belarusian gay rights activist, Sergey Yenin, also in the exhibition, was beaten by police during two days in jail for taking part in Slavic Pride last year.
Homophobia is rarely seen inside the EU parliament itself.
Two recent resolutions on the issue, one in December 2010 condemning anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda, and another, condemning the murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato in February, saw just one abstention and one vote against.
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