Dutch MEP appointed rapporteur for gay discrimination legislation

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A Green party MEP has been appointed as rapporteur for a new anti-discrimination law.

Rapporteurs in the European Parliament are members of committees that produce a draft legislative resolutions and amendments to the Commission’s proposal.

Kathalijne Buitenweg has been appointed by the the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee.

The Dutch parliamentarian first presented a proposal on anti-discrimination laws including sexual orientation and disability to the European Commission in 2006.

The Commission decided in June introduce a new directive on discrimination on the grounds of disability, age, religion and sexual orientation.

EU directives are legislation that requires member states to, for example, deal with discrimination, but leaves it up to the states to decide on the best course of action to take.

All forms of discrimination at work are already covered by directives.

The directive will cover direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment and victimisation.

However, member states will remain free to “maintain measures ensuring the secular nature of the State or concerning the status and activities of religious organisations.”

Ms Buitenweg is opposed to religious opt-outs.

“This exception could for example lead to refuse homosexual students courses at a Christian school. Such an exception is unacceptable for me”, she said.

“On the labour market and in the workplace, all kinds of discrimination are forbidden according to European law.

“However existing legislation does not apply to the areas of goods and services, education, social security and benefits.

“Individuals who are discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation, handicap, religion and age are still not protected.

“When providing accommodation, supplying loans or mortgages, credit cards, all forms of insurance or simple matters such as car rental, individuals can still face discrimination without legal protection.”

In 2000 Ms Buitenweg was rapporteur for the legislation to guarantee equal treatment regardless of individuals’ race or ethnic background.

The discrimination directive was presented to the European Parliament last week by Commissioner Vladimír Špidla, responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, as part of “the largest package ever submitted by the Commission” to Parliament.

In all, 18 measures form a wide-ranging “social agenda” which is being supported by France, holders of the EU Presidency until December.

The new discrimination directive would ensure equal treatment in the areas of social protection, including social security and health care, and access to and supply of goods and services which are commercially available to the public, including housing.

Liberal Democrat Liz Lynne MEP, whose own-initiative report on the need for the new directive was adopted by the European Parliament earlier this year, said:

“The proposed legislation is not perfect, we know, and we will want to see some changes.

“There is still a long way to go, we still have to convince all Member States. The European Union was founded on the basis of equality and human rights and I find it amazing that anyone could possibly object to putting in place legislation to protect everyone’s rights to be treated equally.

“I know many Member States already have similar legislation so I can’t understand why those very same Member States would try to block this proposal.”

MEPs are expected to vote on the social package in 2009.