Latvia Angers EU over “Homophobia”

Last Thursday the Saeima, the Parliament of Latvia, upset the European Union by refusing to accept a labour bill that would make it a criminal offense for a private person or company to refuse to employ a gay person. The Saeima only approved the non-discrimination clauses, which Brussels had told the country to accept, after removing discrimination on the basis of “sexual preference” from the discriminations listed in the bill. The Latvian parliamentarians insisted on the right of private employers to turn down people whose moral behaviour they reject.

The amended labour bill angered both the Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga and the prime minister Aigars Kalvitis. When Latvia joined the EU in May 2004, the Latvian government agreed to the demand by Brussels – which is a condition for EU membership – that discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, religious or political beliefs, ethnic origin or social status, as well as sexual preference be prohibited.

After Thursday’s vote President Vike-Freiberga promptly vetoed the amended bill. Her veto forces the Latvian parliament to vote for a second time in order to pass the bill in its current form. This time the vote will require a majority of two thirds of the vote. The Latvian president said she saw a “logical reason” to list discrimination of gays alongside the other prohibited discriminations. Prime Minister Kalvitis lambasted the parliamentarians for homophobia. “Such intolerance as was seen in the parliament on Thursday had not been observed in Latvia so far,” he said. “But the president will definitely send the bill back to the parliament and we will cool the lawmakers’ heads.”

Kalvitis is the leader of the governing People’s Party (TP), which in the European Parliament belongs to the Christian-Democrat group. His coalition partner, the Latvian Green Party (LPZ) joined the opposition in voting down the sexual preference clause. Contrary to Green parties in Western Europe, which are mostly left-wing, the Latvian Greens have much in common with conservative parties in the West. The LPZ has teamed up with the Party of Traditional Farmers (LZS) in the Alliance of Greens and Farmers (ZZS).

By refusing to accept the sexual preference clause the Latvian Parliament crossed the European Parliament shortly after the latter passed a resolution to combat homophobia. On 15 June the European Parliament demanded that sentences be laid down for homophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Vladimir Spidla, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, and a former Socialist Czech Prime Minister, told the European Parliament that the European Commission condemns all forms of homophobia, which he said flew in the face of the principles on which Europe was built. He pointed out that the Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits any discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Legislative measures, he said, must be accompanied by other measures to stamp out discrimination and denigrating behaviour. “We are firmly convinced that the EU must be a model of the fight against racism, xenophobia and homophobia,” Spidla said.

Last year Latvia included an amendment in its constitution restricting marriage to a man and a woman. Last January neighbouring Estonia rejected a proposal to include same-sex marriage in the new marriage law. Three weeks ago Hans Glaubitz, the Dutch ambassador to Estonia, left the country claiming that his “husband,” a black Cuban, had been harassed over his sexuality and race. Poland and Lithuania, too, have been criticised by the European Parliament and Commission for alleged “homophobia.”

"embrace" # 5

@ antibureaucratic

You asked me a question, and I will give you an answer.  Keep in mind that I do not consider myself an 'expert' on this kind of subject, and that I could surely benefit from more reading and 'research' on these matters.  

I already stated that I believe, in principle, that children are in need of a mother AND a father ( I am reluctant to use the word "moral right" in this context).  It follows that I would NOT approve of legislation that would allow "artificial insemination" in cases of "lesbian couples".  Indeed, I would urge strict limits (make it exceptional) to such insemination in cases of heterosexual couples.  

Again, I think that the primary goal in this area should be to set op norms that are most likely to protect the interests of the broadest number of children in society.  I believe that children are not born for the 'benefit' or 'pleasure' of parents, but rather that all natural parents have a moral obligation to 'help' their children 'survive' and grow up into independent adulthood.  

Thus, your question concerns a hypothetical case which would not occur in my 'ideal' world. It certainly has no bearing for my views on what legal marriage should be.   Again, the law should be primarily concerned with setting proper norms, not with exceptions and 'accidents'. 

Finally, to answer your question, I would have a court decide who should get custody in your hypothetical case, based on the 'circumstances' and guided by the principle of the 'interest of the child'.  But, I repeat, the law should not be concerned primarily with 'accidents' and mistakes.  And allowing artificial insemination in cases of lesbians in my view is a 'mistake' from a societal perspective.

"embrace" #6

Thank you for your clear answer. The only thing hypothetical about the case is that, as far as I know, the couple are still together. The courts and the public purse have thus far been spared the necessity to make a decision. I accept your argument that "the law should be primarily concerned with setting proper norms, not with exceptions and 'accidents'", in fact I believe the law should have as little to do with setting moral standards as possible. I for one don't trust any body (institution), not the church and not the state, to decide upon MY fate. I am not opposed to the existence of law, however, I regret that it is necessary. Humanity shall be at last civilized when it no longer requires such institutions, for they are cesspools of corruption.
Down with Eurocracy!

"embrace", #3

@ antibureaucratic

I am glad we agree to some extent, but it should be clear that 'JordanR's point cannot be "sufficiently" addressed in a few paragraphs.  Let me try anyway.

In my opinion, the very first constitutional principle of 'democratic' politics should be that the law should apply 'equally' to all citizens.  Citizens should, in principle, be equal before the law.  Therefore, any deviations from that principle (i.e. any 'discriminations' in the law) cannot be lightly undertaken, and should be grounded in fundamental 'human nature'.  Marriage law creates such 'discriminations'.  In my view, such discriminations can only be justified on the need to protect children.

I start from two basic propositions.  First, that children need a father and a mother and, second, that children IN GENERAL are best raised by their biological parents.  I fully recognise that these are IDEALS that do not always correspond to specific realities.   But public policy must be governed by ideals or 'best practice' in general, not by exceptions or deviations from the norm.   Just imagine the situation of a society in which children are not generally raised by both their biological parents.  And consider also the enormous benefit that society derives from the selfless efforts of untold parents for their children.

I have sympathy for your predicament in your youth, and I certainly do not deny that there should be room in the law for 'exceptions' (under strict conditions).  But, the situation that you described cannot possibly provide a sensible norm for the law to set up or follow.   It follows, that my view of legal marriage is centered (limited) on the interests of children, and any 'discriminations' in the law should be governed by that principle.         

"embrace" #4

Thanks Marcfrans for your sympathy but it is not necessary. In my case it is certainly better that I was not raised by my mother, who is, incidentally, Brussels born white trash. My (also Brusselois)
grandmother had something to do with the fact that I seem to have turned out OK.
We might be more in agreement than you think - what I neglected to say in my last comment was that the only possible reason I can see for legal heterosexual marriage (as opposed to common law/defacto marriage) would be for the purposes of raising children, but I am not sure of the legal difference between the two in Belgium.
I am going to throw in another "exceptional" scenario here, based on a real case I know of. If two lesbians have a child, through artificial insemination (in this case it was illegal but it happened anyway), and they later seperate - would it not be better for them to have been legally married so the courts can make a decision on which parent gets custody, based on the same criteria as if they were heterosexual, or would you simply assume that the biological mother should get custody? I hope this is not too far off the point, but I am curious as to how you would respond.


But what about gayness and the islamisation of Europe?
We need millions of immigrants (and they are by pure accident almost exclusively muslims) , the Left keeps telling us, in order to cope with our ageing population.
If too little children are born, what is the purpose of measures like promoting homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia-also for the young?


@ JordanR

You are certainly correct that "gayness" has nothing to do with "terrorism".  If anything, it would be almost the opposite (in the sense that islamofascists are no friends of gays).  And, you are also correct that all people should have equal access to (political) "freedoms".  

However, one should not downgrade or devalue the concept of "freedom" by confusing it with other things, like government benefits, or legal institutional arrangements like 'marriage', or 'social engineering' to change popular opinions.   There is nothing in the law, at least in most democratic western countries, that prevents gay people from "forming succesful monogamous relationships" or "making meaningful contributions to society". 

From a freedom-perspective, the deeper question is that the law should not concern itself with highly subjective and arbitary concepts such as 'racism, xenophobia, and homophobia'.  Particularly when such concepts are being used in an arbitrary manner to curtail genuine and more fundamental 'freedoms' of all people, such as freedom-of-opinion (or expression) and (in the economic sphere) contractual freedoms.   

It is when governmental authorities abuse 'the law' in such a manner to further ideological agendas that your image of "the canary" and of "eroding freedoms" becomes relevant.


While I agree with marcfrans that "the law should not concern itself with highly subjective and arbitary concepts such as 'racism, xenophobia, and homophobia'" I do not think he has sufficiently addressed JordanR's point. In actual fact I do not think the law should concern itself with heterosexual marriage either, a common law marriage (defacto) and a religious one if that is what the couple wants to do should suffice. My point is that marriage is a legal matter for heterosexuals, and if for some reason gays also want the same legal benefits (of marriage) then I believe they are entitled. They can still choose not to be married. And then there is the question of gay adoption of course. I personally would rather have been raised by a gay couple than by my own mother, so I don't see why the law should have forbidden it. In actual fact, I was not able to be adopted by a Heterosexual couple because my mother forbade it, even though she was not my guardian after I was 2 years old - I cite this merely as an example of how wrong such laws can be.

On a similar note to where marcfrans was going: "The ultimate aim of politics is not politics, but the activities which can be practised within the political framework of the State. Therefore an effective statement of these activities - such as science, art, religion - is in itself a declaration of ultimate aims around which the political means will crystallize ... A society with no values outside politics is a machine carrying its human cargo, with no purpose in its institutions reflecting their cares, eternal aspirations, loneliness, need for love" -Stephen Spender, from Life and the Poet.

Every time I want to embrace

Every time I want to embrace more right-of-center politics out comes the old gay-rights-equals-political-correctness which convinces me that the right, just like the left, are incapable of distinguishing between real threats and absurd illusions.

Gays do not want to terrorize Europe. Gays do not want to hurt innocent civilians in the name of "gayness". They just want the right to freedoms the rest of us enjoy. (aka "gay agenda") The idea that gays should be denied employment opportunities based on the their bedroom habits is contrary to the free and open society the right-wing parties claims to promote.

I hate political correctness as much as the next guy. But gays are not worthy of our fears. They constantly prove they can form successful monogamous relationships and make meaningful economic and social contributions to society.

Unfourtunately, gays also prove they are the classic "canaries in the coal-mine" when it comes to eroding liberties.

The bad part is that both

The bad part is that both the PM and President have rolled over to political correctness, after the Saeima earned their pay for once.

Incidentally, the bill in its existing edition says discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation : wouldn't that would also make it illegal to refuse to employ a paedophile (perhaps by a school) or a zoophile (an animal shelter) or necrophiliac (the morgue?)?

I wonder at what point the people of Europe gave a mandate to Brussels to fight rascism, xenophobia and homophobia, that is : fight both against us and in our name. And what principles built Europe which demand furthering some gay agenda??? Please, enlighten us Brussels.