The European Parliament has called for tough action against European Union member states, such as Poland and the Baltic states, that do not uphold rights of homosexuals. Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice, freedom and security, told the European Parliament yesterday that the EU has powers under Article 13 of the Treaty to combat all forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sexuality.
MEPs from all the main political groups demanded sanctions against countries such as Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said last year that homosexuality is unnatural. Latvia has included an amendment in its constitution restricting marriage to a man and a woman, while Estonia has proposed legislation banning same-sex marriages. Poland and Lithuania have also banned “gay pride” parades. Marchers were arrested for attending “illegal demonstrations.”
Polish MEPs reacted defiantly to the criticism. Polish MEP Jan Masiel said that the adoption of children by gays is “repulsive” and “shocking” while compatriot Barbara Kurdycka argued that the European Parliament had no business telling people what to think about homosexuality. Most MEPs, however, demanded an EU clampdown on “homophobia.” They demanded that commissioner Frattini explain what sanctions will be taken against countries that persistently breach the principle of respect for gay rights. Franco Frattini was appointed Commissioner for justice in November 2004 after his compatriot Rocco Buttiglione was forced out of the post by MEPs because, being a Catholic, he considered homosexuality to be a sin.
Some MEPs have called for Poland to have its EU voting rights suspended for its lack of tolerance of homosexuality. Others want to go even further. “Where EU countries breach the human rights of gay and lesbian people, the council of ministers must consider action to suspend member states’ membership of the EU,” said Michael Cashman, a British Labour MEP. Cashman is the president of the Parliament’s “intergroup” on gay and lesbian matters. He is also vice-president of the British organisation Gay & Lesbian Humanists (GALHA). On its website the latter organisation declares that it “fight[s] against Catholic-inspired homophobia [...] which still exists in some European states – notably ultra-Catholic Lithuania and Poland.”
GALHA not only fights “ultra-Catholicism.” It is currently involved in a row over the Autumn issue of its magazine, in which Islam is described as a “barmy doctrine,” which is growing “like a cancer” through “unrestrained and irresponsible breeding.” The magazine described Muslim immigrants as “ill educated and culturally estranged Third Worlders” and published an article endorsing the assassinated right-wing homosexual Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who was very critical of Islam. Fortuyn, however, though a homosexual, was proud to be a... Roman-Catholic.
The London-based Race Hate Crime Forum announced that it will “vigorously pursue” a prosecution of the editor or writers who wrote the “racist and degrading” comments. George Broadhead, GALHA’s secretary, says that the organisation has retracted the comments about immigrants and immigration, but that its stands by the remarks about Muslims and Islam. Mr Broadhead wrote in the magazine: “What is wrong with being fearful of Islam? [...] What does a moderate Muslim do, other than excuse the real nutters by adhering to this barmy doctrine?” He explained to The Guardian: “There may be people who think of themselves as moderate but we’ve yet to see them coming out and condemning their fundamentalist counterparts. If they want to follow a belief that we think is execrable it’s up to them – it’s a question of religion per se and the damage it can do in extremist form in theocracies where gays are not just put in jail but whipped and tortured.” At least the latter does not occur in Poland.
The case is indicative of the culture war that is currently raging in Europe between three groups: secularists, Christians and Muslims. On some issues Christians and secularists team up against Muslims, on others issues secularists fight Christians and Muslims alike.