Gay Rights in the EU: A Long Way Forward for the Union of 27

Croatian Yearbook of European Law & Policy, Vol. 3, 2007, pp. 469-490.

22 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2007 Last revised: 4 Jul 2021

See all articles by Dimitry Kochenov

Dimitry Kochenov

CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest; CEU Department of Legal Studies, Vienna


With the entry into force of Directive 2000/78/EC, a false impression might be gained that gay rights enjoy adequate protection in Europe. The Directive should be viewed as a first step in the right direction, rather than the final goal reached. This essay provides a summary of the development of gay rights in the European Union, and highlights some legal lacunae in the protection of these rights that should be dealt with, providing a sketch of the necessary developments in the field for the nearest future. Identifying the main lines of gay rights development in the context of European integration, the evolution of gay rights in the EU is viewed from the larger perspective of other jurisdictions. Within the EU attention is paid to the Directive 2000/78/EC and the general context of transformation, affecting the Union at the moment. The EU has changed forever following the two recent rounds of enlargement, incorporating 12 new Member States. Having reshuffled all the important balance points in European institutions and added a number of Member States which can be characterised as more homophobic than not, enlargement represents an important dividing line for gay rights protection in Europe. The paper provides several illustrations of negative developments in gay rights in Eastern Europe, particularly in the new Member States of Latvia and Poland. In addition to the challenge of enlargement, this article argues, Directive 2000/78/EC itself is far from being an ideal instrument to help European gays. Likewise, other EC legislation, such as Directive 2004/38/EC on the free movement of citizens, Directive 2003/109/EC on the free movement of third-country nationals who are long-term residents, and Directive 2003/86/EC on family reunification all fall short of ensuring full protection for gay rights, if they even pay due attention to this issue at all.

Keywords: EU law, enlargement, gay rights, non-discrimination, equality, sexual orientation, discrimination, EU enlargement, gay and lesbian

Suggested Citation

Kochenov, Dimitry and Kochenov, Dimitry, Gay Rights in the EU: A Long Way Forward for the Union of 27. Croatian Yearbook of European Law & Policy, Vol. 3, 2007, pp. 469-490., Available at SSRN:

Dimitry Kochenov (Contact Author)

CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest ( email )

Nador utca 9
Budapest, H-1051

CEU Department of Legal Studies, Vienna ( email )

Quellenstra├če 51
Vienna, 1100

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