The LGBTI Freedom Zones conference which took place on 28 February at the Committee of Regions was motivated by the rising discrimination against the LGBTI community, particularly in Eastern Europe.  

Given the present, overarching state of war, the discussion was largely narrated by the hateful policy supported by state actors. The result of combining the two topics was very straightforward – we cannot discuss the conflict without speaking about human rights, and we cannot speak about human rights without those too of LGBTI people.  

The event opened with a message from ELF Executive Director Daniel Kaddik and Secretary General of the Renew Europe Group – European Committee of the Regions, Sean O’Curneen : that we as liberals in Europe must continue defending the fundamental principle of democracy, that is diversity and stimulate the complete tolerance for LGBTI people.   

Panel one featured speakers working in direct connection to LGBTI advocacy: MEP Tomas Raskevicius, Laisvės partija; MEP Catharina Rinzema and Yuri Guaiana. 

Guaiana stated,  

“It is a war of values and fundamental struggle between democracies and totalitarians, it is the debate on equal rights. Those are what separates us from the regimes”.  

The homophobic actions of countries, such as Poland and Hungary, are the fuel for LGBTI activism today. They have motivated states like Belgium and Netherlands to step up their game in defending LGBTI rights.  

During the second panel Mayor Francois Decoster underlined that, “diplomacy is not a winning in one day kind of strategy, but a step by step going forward one”.  

Lastly, the panel featuring; Miguel Chambel, and MEP Abir Al-Sahlani, identified that the issue of hate speech comes from both citizens and elected officials, it varies in form and intensity, but that the outcome is always the same – it’s designed to harm. Possible solutions were discussed, including acknowledgment, condemnation, criminalization, and training. 

“If you are an enemy of LGBTI rights you are an enemy of human rights”. – ELF Board Member Milosz Hodun from Fundacja Projekt: Polska  

The discussions brought mutual agreement across all panels that issues of the LGBTI create a particular level of frustration, through a shared desire to live with universal, equal rights. And still, in 2022, this is not the case. The event has emphasised the importance of these conversations, for both the LGBTI and the world.  

If you would like to read ELF’s works on this topic, see the following publications for more. Free Voices: LGBT + Rights in Eastern Europe, HR21: Religions and LGBTI rights: God is not a trump card, Religions and LGBTI Rights: A Liberal Perspective, LiberTea Episode 1: The Freedom of Love.

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