The European Union's executive branch announced a strategy Thursday to provide protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, nonbinary, intersex, and queer people as discrimination against those groups increases in Europe.
At a news conference in Brussels, European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova said it is becoming increasingly apparent the protections are needed. "Too many people cannot be themselves without fears of discrimination, exclusion or violence," she said.
Jourova cited attacks on pride marches and the adoption of anti-gay legislation in countries such as Hungary and Poland, where there has been an effort to create "LGBTIQ ideology-free zones."
European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli said the strategy to fight such discrimination is based on four pillars: reducing discrimination against LGBT people, ensuring their safety, building inclusive societies and calling for equality around the world.
The commission proposed tackling discrimination against LGBT people, in particular when it comes to employment and ensuring their safety, also protecting them from online hate speech by including homophobic hate crime and hate speech in a list of "Eurocrimes."
Jourova added that COVID-19 lockdowns made the situation for LGBT people worse.
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen called out Poland's LGBT ideology-free zones in her state of the EU speech in September, saying "Being yourself is not your ideology, it's your identity." She said such zones have no place in the European Union.
The commission cited a report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, which found 43% of LGBT people last year declared that they felt discriminated against compared with 37% in 2012, even though EU acceptance of LGBT people is improving.