The Fight Isn’t Over: European Parliament, LGBTQ+ Rights and the Pink Vote

Kirsten recently wrote a blog piece about queer emancipation in the Netherlands. The main take-away from that piece is that, while the Netherlands has come leaps and bounds in regards to LGBTQ+ tolerance and acceptance, there are still some strides to go. This also goes for other LGBTQ+ friendly states and doubly so for more traditional and conservative states. With the European Parliament Elections approaching fast, perhaps now is the time to look at the various LGBTQ+ stances of the political parties and groups in the elections.

Registration

The time to register is now. Between May 23 and 26, European citizens will vote to elect the new European Parliament. In The Netherlands the election day will be May 23 (Thursday). If you are Dutch, you can directly head to your polling station on May 23 and vote. As a European citizen living in The Netherlands, you can choose to vote here or in your own country. If you want vote in The Netherlands, you need to register by April 9. How do you that? It’s simple: download the Y32 form at this link, fill it in and bring it / send it to your municipality together with a copy of a valid identification document by the 9 April deadline. The municipality will then send you the voting pass and info on how to vote a few weeks before the election.

Disclaimer

This kind of political post will be controversial and I am ready for that. The views expressed herein are my own and do not reflect the views of Leiden University Pride or Leiden University, which are multicultural organizations across the political spectrum. That being said, I will look at both right and left for the parties, but I will not look at extremist populist or far-right parties – the reason for this is, simply, because I do not want to. This is afterall, my blog post. Also I cannot condone a political party’s exclusionist and anti-immigrant views, when a) our community is about inclusion and b) I have been an immigrant since the age of 8. So forgive me, but I don’t care about what they have to say.

That being said, I myself am currently non-EU and therefore do not get a vote in the EU parliament. So feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt, but I will be ending each analysis with a ‘would/would not vote’ verdict, to show how I might have voted, if I had the opportunity.

European Political Parties

As EU member states vote for MEP’s, they do so by voting for their own national parties. These parties then coalesce into larger political groups or alliances. This article will focus on these groups and their stance on LGBTQ+ rights and then list some of the constituent parties.

In addition to these parties, there are also pan-european parties. These parties run concurrently in several member states and purpose themselves as transnational parties. Some of these will also be looked at.

On the Right

The European People’s Party (Center-Right)

Formed in 1976, the largest party group since 1999.

The EPP is the largest block currently in the European Parliament. With 216 seats (out of 751) they form a formidable alliance. With this in mind, it should be noted that their website does not mention LGBTQ+ as specific focus or group of interest. Instead they make mention of ‘human rights’ and ‘individual freedom’, but at the same time acknowledge that their foundation is in ‘Christian-Judeo’ values. This is not surprising considering that the majority of this group’s members somehow have ‘Christian’ in their name – such as the Christian Democratic Union (GER), the Christian Democratic Appeal (NED) and the Christian Democrats (SWE). For a full list of members of the EPP, click here.

What we need to look at however, is the general trend of the EPP towards LGBTQ+ rights and issues in real time. The European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights showed that in the previous cycle of the EU Parliament (2009-2014), the EPP only supported LGBTQ+ votes 36% of the time. This is pretty low, but still surprisingly high for a ‘Christian-Judeo’ based political group. This could be because of certain political parties, such as the CDA in the Netherlands, being relatively more tolerant than their sister organizations in more conservative countries.

Overal, I would not vote for any EPP member, but I encourage you to look at your country’s national parties and see their stance on LGBTQ+ rights and their voting record. 35% of the time, the EPP did support us and it probably came from the smaller pro-LGBTQ+ parties. So there is some hope.

The European Conservatives and Reformists (Center-Right to Right).

Founded in 2009, this is the 3rd largest party in the EP

With 75 seats in the European Parliament, the ECR group is the 3rd largest in the Parliament. They promise a ‘Scaled-Back Europe’ should they increase their share of MEPs in the European Parliament. It is unclear to me what this could possibly mean, however, I would fear that LGBTQ+ protections would fall by the wayside, should the EU be ‘scaled back’. Looking at the previously mentioned Intergroup, the ECR’s track record on LGBT+ votes is even worse than the EPP’s. At just 35%, the ECR barely supports LGBTQ+ rights and votes by a 1/3. We must therefore ask ourself the question: ‘Where do LGBT+ rights stand in this ECR-imagined ‘scaled back Europe’ and do we want to vote for that’?

However, much like with the EPP, there is a small minority with the ECR which does support LGBT+ rights and votes positive on these matters. As the European Parliament consists of national parties, it is up to us to determine which parties these are. You can check to see if there are any of your own national parties in the ECR group by clicking here. A quick look places the ECR overwhelmingly in Germany and Italy, the Balkans and Central/Eastern Europe.

Personally, I would not vote for any ECR member.

The European Christian Political Movement (Centre-Right to Right)

Founded in 2002 in Hungary

With just 6 seats in the European Parliament, the ECPM is a non-player and considering that their website is (in addition to horribly-coloured) pro-life and anti-marriage equality, they are a non-starter when it comes to LGBT+ rights. So without analysing them further, I would, personally, most definitely, not vote for any ECPM member party. This includes the CDU and the SGP (yup, the same one whose leader signed the Nashville declaration not too long ago) in the Netherlands, but you can find the full list of affiliated national parties by clicking here.

In the Center

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Center)

Unofficially founded in 1952, it is currently the 4th largest group in the European Parliament

ALDE has 68 seats in the European Parliament. A centrist party group, they can swing either side of the political spectrum and are the choice of vote for (some) Liberals. A quick search on their website (which is pink, blue and purple – hello, bisexuals) revealed that the keyword ‘LGBT’ appears multiple times – something which, when I did it for all three Right party groups, came up with absolute zero.

It would appear that ALDE declared themselves pro-LGBT rights in 2014, something which the EP Intergroup on LGBT confirms. With a whopping 96%, ALDE has consistently voted in favour of LGBT rights at the European Level.

This party group includes the Netherland’s very own ruling party, VVD,  and counts many liberal or centrist parties as part of its family. You can check to see if your country has a party affiliated with ALDE here.

Personally, I would consider voting for an ALDE party. There track record on LGBT rights at the European level is great, but it is still 4% off, meaning there are some members which do not feel the same. A closer look at the national parties would be advisable.

The European Democratic Party

In alliance with ALDE, the EPD has 9 MEP’s in the European Parliament. A look at their website’s discrimination policies show that they are firmly against the gender pay gap – and that’s about it. They confirm themselves to the pay gap’s eradication, but make no mention of any other types of discrimination – even just those faced by cishetero women. This falls a little flat, to be entirely honest.

I would not vote for an EDP member party. You can see if there are any in your country, here.

On the Left

The Party of European Socialitists (Center-Left)

The 2nd oldest and 2nd largest party in the European Parliament – founded in 1953

The second largest party in the European Parliament, the S&D have 187 seats. As a group of socialist and democratic parties from across Europe, one would expect social justice to be high on their agenda. This is certainly reflected in the Intergroup report which shows that S&D have voted for LGBT rights an incredible 99% of the time.

With a list of member parties which includes the UK’s Labour Party, the Netherlands’ PvdA and a host of other left and socialist parties, the S&D looks like a party group in the European Parliament which supports our rights. You can check to see which party in your country is part of the S&D group by clicking here.  

I would probably vote for an S&D party, mostly because they are the largest block that is openly pro-LGBT.

The European Green Party (Center-left to Left)

Formed in 1999 from left-wing parties

With 52 seats, the Intergroup reports that the Greens/EFA (European Free Alliance) has a track record of voting 100% for LGBT rights at the European Parliament. This is an unprecedented, perfect record.

With members from 18 countries (out of 28 in the EU currently), this group includes the Netherlands’ Groenlinks, whose party currently is the mayor of Amsterdam, and the gay mayor of Culemborg.

I would probably vote for a member party of the Greens/EFA.

Parties on the Far-Side

Before complaints pour in that I didn’t cover the parties on the far-right, please note that I am also not covering parties on the far-left. The only thing I will say about either of these extremes is the far-left Party of the European Left (GUE-NGL) voted for LGBT rights 97% of the time. Furthermore, GUE-NGL opposses ‘fortress Europe’ and advocate for a respectful and responsible immigration policy; meanwhile, the far-right Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) scored a measly 13%. Make of this what you will, but I would totally vote for GUE-NGL and NEVER EVER EVER vote for an EFD party member.

The less I can say about Steve Bannon’s The Movement, the better.

Pan-European Parties

So far we have looked at national parties which come together to form alliances and parliamentary groups at the European level. There are however, a more ambitious type of party, a transnational party. This type of party tries to run simultaneously in plenty of EU member states on the same platform and aims to win enough seats to form its own independent parliament group; generally speaking, such parties are not national parties as they do not hold or do not intend to hold seats in their national parliaments. Lets look at (the only) one now.  

Volt (Big Tent)

Formed in 2017, Volt will be contesting its first EP elections in 2019

Volt was established in 2017 and has yet to participate in any major European Parliamentary elections. Its aim is to secure the required 25 MEPs from seven member states to form its own Parliamentary group. The political programme of the group is contained in the Amsterdam Declaration, which briefly mentions ending discrimination.

Its platform, which is pan-European, includes a specific and detailed vision on how to end LGBTQ+ discrimination This can be seen here on pages 87 to 91. In all, while this political group is still in its infancy, I would most definitely vote for them if I could. You can see here whether Volt has a presence in your country and if you can vote for them in the upcoming European Parliamentary Elections.

Final Words

I hope that this piece has helped you in some way to make up your mind regarding your vote in the 2019 European Parliament Elections; even more importantly, I hope that it helped you realise that you do need to vote! The fight is not over and the European Parliament is an instrumental tool in ensuring and safeguarding our LGBT+ rights throughout the European Union. I hope that you will make your vote count; that no matter if you are voting right, centre or left, you look at the LGBT+ records of national or pan-European parties and make an informed decision to not vote against yourself – there are pro-LGBT parties on both sides of the spectrum; seek them out, and between 23 and 26 of May, cast that ballot.