Moldova, as part of its bid to join the European Union, has agreed to repeal its ban on so-called homosexual propaganda, a move that has been called extremely significant for the rest of Europe.
Moldova adopted a ban on so-called homosexual propaganda in the public sphere on May 23, 2012, amending the state’s family code to prohibit the promotion of ”any other relations than those related to marriage and family in accordance with the Constitution and the Family Code.”
The ban was explicitly broader than Russia’s propaganda law in that it proactively nixed any attempt to legalize same-sex marriage or adoption in the country, where same-sex couples do not have access to partnership recognition of any kind anyway.
At the time, the EU was heavily critical of the ban and of Moldova appearing to cave to the agenda of other Eastern Bloc countries as well as Russia’s rapidly evolving hostility toward what it has dubbed “non-traditional sexuality.”
Now, as part of its remit for joining the European Union, Moldova has agreed to repeal the ban and the country’s lawmakers in a narrow vote on Friday, October 11, overturned the law. This is being read as a direct show of compliance to EU nondiscrimination provisions that will help the country in receiving an EU Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania this November.
The vote was achieved despite heavy resistance from the country’s Orthodox Church and the opposition Communist Party.
So strong was the opposition, in fact, that Orthodox priests and Communist lawmakers reportedly blocked the entrance to the lawmaking chamber in an attempt to prevent the vote. Church officials, with heavy ties to the Orthodox Church in Russia, have threatened to deny Communion to those who voted for the change.
The repeal was also opposed by Moscow authorities who have shown a keen interest in exporting their morality laws throughout the territory. Commentators have theorized Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is attempting to cast himself in the role of an anti-West hero and a force against an integrated Europe.
Regardless, the Moldova vote did go ahead and the law has been stricken from the books. European rights groups have praised this move as a highly significant event.
Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, is quoted as saying:
“This is a very important and significant development. Moldovan parliamentarians made a right decision to abolish a law which is discriminatory and contradicts their country’s international human rights commitments and aspirations for European integration. We sincerely hope that the Moldovan development will become an example to a number of other European countries like Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania where similar laws have been already adopted, proposed or being discussed.”
Why is the Moldova Vote to Repeal its Propaganda Ban Significant?
Chiefly, the vote highlights the fact that a key standard for joining the European Union is that laws overtly discriminating against LGBT individuals will not to be tolerated. The EU made this clear to Moldova in the past and while it erred in passing the propaganda ban, it does appear that the incentives of joining the EU have won this round.
We’ve already discussed why the European Union’s influence in preventing North African countries from adopting more strident anti-gay laws has been so vital and why that work must continue, and the Moldova case shows another instance where European Union influence has been key in demonstrably improving a country’s laws surrounding the LGBT community.
Hold on though, what about Russia and Lithuania? They already have propaganda bans, and in Lithuania’s case, gender reassignment bans, and they’re already part of the European Union. That’s true, and there’s no way of getting around the fact that not being able to threaten expulsion from the European Union is a serious political flaw if we want to maximize the Union’s incentives.
Even in such cases though, the European Union has been able to exert pressure, most notably in preventing further backslide and, for a concrete example, helping the Ukraine resist the influence of Russia’s anti-gay crackdown. That is ongoing work with a great deal still to do, but it demonstrates why the EU’s LGBT rights stance is so important and evidences its successes.
Moldova’s repeal of its own propaganda ban can play its part in such efforts because the success should serve to embolden the EU to be even more robust in its advocacy of LGBT rights, and to demonstrate that attempts at dragging the region back toward a so-called “traditional” religious conservative view of morality are not wholly supported or, in fact, unstoppable.
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