By Martin Banks - 16th May 2012
This year has brought encouraging signals for the LGBT community
Senior MEP Edward McMillan-Scott says "much remains to be done" to improve the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Speaking in parliament, the ALDE member said the EU "can and should" play an "important" role in making free movement equally available to all EU citizens.
His comments come the day before International Day Against Homophobia on Thursday. The theme of this year's event is youth and education.
He said, "This year has brought encouraging signals for the LGBT community on several fronts, including bold positions taken up by the US presidential incumbent and the new French president in favour of gay marriage.
"But equally noticeable has been the strong backlash against such statements."
He commended parliament's LGBT intergroup – it's second largest with 136 members – on its work fighting homophobia.
The deputy said, "The EU and parliament can and should play an important role in making sure things do 'get better' for young LGBT people facing bullying and discrimination."
His remarks were backed by UK Socialist deputy Michael Cashman who told the audience he was "gay, out and proud".
"We have to fight hard to protect gay young people from the violence which is damaging their lives."
Meanwhile, a new report says gay people continue to face serious challenges in fully enjoying their fundamental rights.
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency calls for "robust data to better understand and address" the extent of discrimination and hate crime across the EU.
"Discrimination is often still a fact of life for many LGBT people, even though it is unlawful in EU member states," said its director Morten Kjaerum.
"Deep-rooted prejudices and misunderstandings in society still prevail, which can result in homophobic and transphobic speech, discrimination, hate crime and bullying at school. The FRA's latest LGBT survey aims to shed light on the scale and nature of discrimination and hate crime across the EU.
"This will give policy makers the missing data they need to frame effective responses."
The FRA launched an EU-wide online survey on 2 April 2012. It covers all EU member states and Croatia.
The survey is unprecedented in geographical scope and substance as it covers education, hate crime, employment and many other subjects. The survey will remain open for several weeks.
It is hoped the findings in 2013 will yield a reliable overview of experiences by LGBT people across the EU.