EU debate: Can European citizens still stand up for a traditional view on sexuality?


European Union

Cornelis Boon, RD

A demonstrator holds up a placard reading 'Love - is a terrible thing to hate' as people march during a protest in downtown Bratislava, two days after a 'radicalised teenager' shot dead two men at the Teplaren bar, a gay bar. Photo AFP, Vladimir Simicek

The European Commission identifies "an alarming increase" in hate speech against Jews and Muslims and wants to combat it. However, the European Union's executive board calls (also) on member states to also qualify "hate speech" based on gender and sexual orientation as a European criminal offence.

Since the Hamas attack on 7 October, Brussels has signalled "an alarming increase" in hate speech and hate crimes against Jews and Muslims, Euro commissioner Margaritas Schinas (Migration) said on Wednesday. "We must say no to all forms of violence and hatred. Whether it is anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim or any other form of racism and discrimination."

The EU understands hate speech to include insulting, threatening, spreading fake news and acts of violence. The EU constitution states that "respect for human rights – including the rights of minorities" are among European values. "The situation now is incompatible with that," it sounds in Brussels.

To combat hate speech, the Commission is allocating extra money for enforcement, for example, around churches and synagogues. The Commission is working on a code of conduct for online platforms and wants to increase online surveillance. EU countries and the European Parliament have yet to agree to the measures.


To curb hate speech, the Commission calls on member states to place expressions of hatred and hate crimes on the list of European crimes. On a side note, the Commission text makes it clear that it is not just about hatred of Jews and Muslims. It also calls on member states to classify "denigrating persons on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation" as hate speech.

In December 2021, the Commission already proposed expanding the list of EU-crimes to include all forms of hate crimes "based on ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation". This would be included in Article 2 of the EU constitution. Changing the charter would require unanimous support from member states. However, some EU countries in the Council continue to block the proposal.


And so, the European Parliament renewed its call for hate speech based on "gender and sexual orientation" to qualify as a European criminal offence. On Wednesday, that initiative will be voted on in Strasbourg.

Dutch Reformed MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen has tabled amendment proposals (to the initiative of the European Parliament): "With this provision, expressing a view contrary to liberal morality could soon be considered hate speech and therefore punishable." The MEP points to the trial of the Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen, who was acquitted on appeal of libel against homosexuals in November. Ruissen foresees that criminalising hate speech on the basis of gender and sexual orientation will criminalise Christians in the EU when expressing their views on marriage as a union between a man and a woman.



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