ECJ neutral on blood ban

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European Union FlagThe European Court of Justice has ruled that blood donation bans on men who have sex with men may be justifiable and are a matter for member states to reconcile with anti-discrimination laws.

Practice varies widely across the 28 countries with some having no restrictions on blood donation based on sexual orientation and behaviour, some having lifetime bans, and others – like the UK since 2011 – having time limits. In Wales, Scotland and England, gay and bi men and their partners are barred from donating unless they have not had sex for 12 months, while in Northern Ireland there is a life ban.

The ruling came following an appeal from a man whose blood donation offer was refused in France and reflects a balance between epidemiological evidence and latest best testing techniques.

Their published ruling declares that

“(T)he Court rules that, although the permanent deferral provided for in French law helps to minimise the risk of transmitting an infectious disease to recipients and, therefore, to the general objective of ensuring a high level of human health protection, the principle of proportionality might not be respected. It is possible that HIV may be detected by effective techniques able to ensure a high level of health protection for recipients.

“The national court will have to verify whether such techniques exist, it being understood that the tests must be carried out in accordance with the most recent scientific and technical procedures.

“If there are no such techniques, the Tribunal administrative de Strasbourg will have to ascertain whether there are less onerous methods of ensuring a high level of health protection for recipients other than permanent deferral from blood donation and, in particular, whether the questionnaire and the individual interview with a medical professional are able to identify high risk sexual behaviour more accurately.”

However with recent HIV detection techniques effective just weeks after infection it will be surprising if the French courts are able to defend the life ban.

Marriage equality in Luxembourg

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Last year Luxembourg became the ninth EU country to legalise same-sex marriage – and today the law came into effect.

Jean Paul Olinger and Henri Lorenzo Huber were the first same-sex couple to take advantage of the law, with Differdange town hall opening for the ceremony despite the New Year’s Day bank holiday.

The bill passed by a landslide last summer – with 56 votes in favour and 4 against. Luxembourg has an openly gay Prime Minister, the Liberal Xavier Bettel, and also an out-gay Deputy Prime Minister, Socialist party leader Etienne Schneider.

Slovakia will vote

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European Union FlagOn Tuesday, the Slovak Constitutional Court ruled that Slovakians will be called to vote in a multi question referendum seeking to limit the rights of LGBT people and to limit sexuality education.

The questions ended up at the Constitutional Court after President Andrej Kiska was faced with a petition with 400,000 signatures organised by Alliance for Family, supported by the American far-right evangelical organisation Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Constitutional Court ruled three out of four questions were admissible. One relates to the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, whereas a second seeks to ban adoption of children by “same-sex couples or groups.”

A third question that was deemed constitutional relates to sexuality education, and seeks to include opt-outs if parents do not agree with the content of the education.

Sophia in 't Veld MEP

Sophia in ‘t Veld MEP

Only a question seeking to prohibit any future same-sex registered partnerships was deemed unconstitutional.

Opponents of equality have used referendums since the 1990s to limit the rights of LGBT people, especially in the USA. They have traditionally mobilised enough human and financial resources to ensure outcomes reflect their views.

Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup-designate of the European Parliament, Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP commented: “This debate is not about Slovakia, but about EU’s fundamental rights, tolerance and equality. We may not turn a blind eye to religious organisations fuelling intolerance towards our very own EU citizens.”

“It is distasteful that after the Croatian referendum, we again face a referendum on eliminating the rights of fellow citizens. Such a process has no place in an enlightened continent like Europe.”

“After Social Democrats, supported by Christian Democrats, constitutionally banned possible future same-sex unions, Slovakia is on a slippery slope. I urge the Slovak people to stand up for the rights of their compatriots.”

 

 

European Parliament condemns Russian clampdown

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European Union FlagIn a resolution adopted last week, the European Parliament strongly condemned the intensified clampdown on Russian civil society which will further limit work on LGBT people’s freedoms and rights there. The motion condemns the strengthened ‘Foreign Agents Law’.

In June 2014, Putin signed amendments to the law which allow the Ministry of Justice to register community groups or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as “foreign agents” at their own discretion, without the organisations’ consent. Organisations thus categorised will be subject to additional scrutiny by the government.

Dennis de Jong MEP

Dennis de Jong MEP

Hundreds of NGOs have been targeted, among which many organisations working on LGBTI rights.

Vice-President of the Intergroup-designate on LGBTI Rights in the European Parliament Dennis de Jong MEP, reacted: “LGBT people, and those who defend their rights, are under threat through legal efforts attempting to curtail their rights, as well as an increasingly homophobic climate in which violence against LGBT people goes unpunished.”

“Russia needs to be held accountable on these issues. I urge the European Commission and the External Action Service to continue raising these discriminatory and suppressive laws in their relations with Russia, to make sure that freedom of organisation for LGBT people is taken seriously.”

Tanja Fajon MEP

Tanja Fajon MEP

Vice-President of the Intergroup-designate on LGBTI Rights, Tanja Fajon MEP, added: “Organisations defending the rights of LGBT people are under attack in Russia, both by the Foreign Agents Law and the Anti-Propaganda Law.”

“For this reason, it is absurd that the ECR sought to delete just the reference to LGBTI activists in its text. This shows how out of touch their group has become with the real world. Thankfully, a reasonable majority voted to keep LGBTI activists in the resolution.”

 

 

EuroBiCon returns!

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EuroBiCon is wider than the 28 states: we’ll still be welcome even if we’ve left the EU by then!

It’s been eleven years since the last European BiCon – held in Dublin in 2003 – but the event will at last return.

The event is picking up on a UK BiCon model of incorporating a theory & research event, so today’s announcement is that the first EuroBiReCon as well as third EuroBiCon is to be held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

There’s some time to save up your pennies for the flight though as the dates are July 28-31, 2016.

We look forward to reporting further, nearer the time!

In the meantime you can follow the twitter accounts eurobicon and eurobirecon. They’ll probably be fairly quiet for a bit!

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