With the rise of extremist parties in the UK and the challenges that face conventional political parties, one of the most contentious battles is over membership of the European Union. The United Kingdom became a member of the EU on the first of January 1973, and have since enjoyed the privileges of a single internal market, a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states and of course human rights.

But why is the EU so important to the LGBT community?

LGBT rights are protected under a range of EU treaties and laws that decriminalises homosexuality across all member states. But more than this under EU law there are provisions that combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, which have been legally binding across Europe since the 1990s. The EU had single-handedly managed to create a framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation for our community.

In practice, the law protects every person who identifies with the LGBT from being discriminated against in the work place. This includes refusal of a job, being dismissed and even harassment during work.

But this is not all the EU has done for our community. In 2009, Lithuania was a battleground of gay rights and abuse. The European Commission made it a point to tone down the homophobic language and abused used freely in the country and even went as far to support the gay pride parade under threat of banning.

Since then the Council of the European Union have created a binding guideline that instructs EU diplomats around the world to defend the rights of the LGBT community. This is a global effort on behalf of the EU to protect the rights we have fought so hard to gain.

The legalisation of same-sex marriage in the UK has also been strongly influenced by the EU. Although the EU does allow some level of discretion in the implementation of the EU wide laws, some countries have abused this discretion to prevent same sex marriage. However the views of the EU are clear. It can be seen through the case law of the EU Court of Justice that same sex partners must be treated the same as those who are married.

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The EU has ensured that Europe is most progressive continent in the world for recognising LGBT rights. Legalising same sex activity, marriage and slowly the right for couples to adopt. As well as providing a frame work of anti discrimination laws in the work place and allowing gays to openly serve in the military.

There is no doubt that the EU has made the world a safer and more accepting place for us. If the UK were to remove its self from the EU then it would also remove all EU wide law that protects our rights. Although we would have domestic law that to some extent offers similar protection, membership to the EU provides safeguards that force even the government to protect our rights.

No matter your views or opinion on the EU, we can all agree that they have significantly contributed to the protection of our community and without their support, it is highly unlikely that we would have come as far as we have in the struggle for equality.

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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.