Amsterdam has turned 20 years since the world’s first gay marriages by floating an inflatable pink cake with candles by sending rainbow flames down the canal.
Twenty years ago, on April 1, the city hosted a historic event when the mayor married four couples in town hall and the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage. .
Thursday’s celebrations mark a milestone after two decades in which LGBT rights have flourished in many parts of Europe and beyond, with 16 Western European countries now legalizing same-sex marriage.
But activists warn that the job is not done. According to Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA, the rise of authoritarian and populist leaders and politicians in some European countries in recent years has gone hand in hand with a backlash against LGBT rights.
“Across Europe, the fact that the situation has deteriorated so much is forcing everyone to recognize that the job is not done,” he tells Euronews. “There is a mobilization of supporters who may have become a little too complacent.”
She says that the kind of populist politics that has emerged in countries like Hungary and Poland is one that “thrives on scapegoating parts of the population, and LGBTI communities have been scapegoated” targeted for political action. and also rhetoric.
Reaction against LGBT equality in Europe
The rights to which LGBT people are now entitled in much of the world are still lacking in some European countries, such as Russia, Poland and Hungary. There, activists continue the fight for more equitable treatment before the law and society.
Hungary and Poland, in particular, are at odds with the European Union on the issue. Hungary recently passed a law that de facto prohibits adoption for same-sex couples.
And in Poland, the EU withheld subsidies to several Polish cities that had adopted so-called “LGBTI-free zones” or had signed discriminatory “family rights” decrees.
“The values and fundamental rights of the EU must be respected by member states and public authorities,” said Helena Dalli, EU Equality Commissioner at the time.
“On the one hand there have been many advances with other countries in Europe, but in recent years we have seen a backlash in some countries like Poland, where even today the leader of the ruling party says that as long as they rule, there will be no place for LGBT or gender ideology, ”says an activist in Poland on the front lines of the battle for LGBT rights.
Kamil Maczuga was nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for human rights in 2020, for his work mapping municipalities in Poland that were signing decrees declaring themselves “LGBT-free zones”.
His work on the online tool ‘Atlas of Hate’, together with the support of the European Parliament, slowed down the dissemination of these decrees.
“A strong push from the European Parliament helped stop the spread of these so-called LGBT-free zones, I think there have been no new statements since last year,” he tells Euronews.
“Even the ruling party is warning local governments that accepting such statements could cost them money from the EU. So now they are aware that their actions could have some consequences. “
But he adds that the Polish government, which targeted the LGBT community with rhetoric during last year’s presidential elections, is still working to discriminate against LGBT people.
“What we need now is strong support, we must work together, no matter where the country is. Even when there is an equal marriage in some countries, there is still discrimination, so we need to create alliances and work together.
Reasons to be hopeful
Paradis says it “could get worse before it gets better”, but points to a re-mobilization of the campaign in the face of backlash.
“There are many reasons to be hopeful that we will continue to see progress,” he says, including taking a firmer position by the EU on the issue.
“I want to think that in five or ten years we will be in a position where things have improved.”
Same-sex marriage has been legalized in 28 countries around the world, as well as on the autonomous island of Taiwan.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism