Égalité at 30: Celebrating Three Decades of Advocacy, Inclusion, and Progress in the EU Institutions
In 1993, a group of pioneers within the European Commission set in motion a movement that would redefine the landscape of equality and inclusion within the European Union. Égalité, born out of a commitment to champion the rights of the LGBTIQ community, has flourished over 30 years, leaving an indelible mark on the journey towards a more inclusive EU. As we celebrate this milestone, it’s a poignant moment to reflect on the organization’s journey, its remarkable achievements, and the challenges that persist.
Founding and Evolution:
In the early ’90s, as discussions about legalizing various forms of homosexual cohabitations gained momentum globally, a group of gay and lesbian civil servants within the European Commission decided to take action. Niels Koch, one of the founding members, recalls the challenges they faced when introducing Égalité: “At that time, not many gays or lesbians were ‘out,’ and we did hide our sexual orientation. The creation of an LGBT staff movement was not always appreciated, and funny enough, some of the most conservative opposition came from unions and staff organizations.”
Despite the initial hurdles, Égalité, originally named ‘Equality for Gays And Lesbians In The European institutions,’ emerged as a potent force committed to advancing LGBTIQ rights within the EU.
Achievements and Impact:
Over the years, Égalité’s impact has been profound. From influencing the recognition of same-sex marriages and partnerships to advocating for welfare benefits for same-sex couples, the organization has played a pivotal role in framing legislation to address LGBTI+ concerns. Recent successes include the reimbursement of insemination and IVF costs and securing special leave for colleagues resorting to surrogacy.
Peter Workman, a dedicated Égalité member for over 20 years, based in Luxembourg, reflects on the organization’s transformative impact: “Thirty years ago, LGBT+ issues were regarded as a ‘minority pursuit’ on the periphery of society’s more pressing concerns. They are now firmly anchored within mainstream EU social policy. This constitutes a ‘sea change’ in attitudes and perceptions which Égalité has done a great deal to bring about.”
He also shares a personal journey, highlighting how Égalité became a catalyst for self-acceptance and coming out for many individuals.
Being a volunteer association, Égalité saw many different faces on its Board, and succeeded only due to its members’ perseverance that always had the same objective in mind: create an safer workplace environment of inclusion and equality. And today, marking three decades, Égalité looks to the future with the launching of a mentoring programme for Institutions trainees, ensuring that the struggles of the earlier generations are not felt by the youngest staff.
Égalité’s Pillars of Action:
Égalité’s commitment to rights advancement and equality is manifested in its pillars of action. Representing LGBTIQ staff and their families, combating workplace discrimination, promoting diversity, and actively engaging with the Administration to ensure equity are at the core of the organization’s mission. Social cohesion is fostered through various activities, including mentoring programs for EU trainees.
Eleni Christidou, the current Égalité president, emphasizes the ongoing mission: “We are still here to raise awareness on LGBTI+ issues, stand up for our rights and promote an inclusive and diverse workplace.”
Despite the significant strides, challenges persist. Recognition of same-sex parents in host countries remains a focal point of advocacy, and Égalité continues to work towards a more inclusive environment. The struggle is not just about the rights already won but also about safeguarding and expanding these rights in an ever-evolving world.
Égalité in the European Parliament:
Since the adoption of the Papadimoulis Report on Diversity in the European Parliament’s Secretariat 2022 – 2024, Égalité has significantly contributed to efforts to make the Parliament a safe, welcoming, and empowering workplace for everyone.
Measures such as the introduction of a new type of special leave for welcoming a new-born baby into the home, covering all the potential routes to parenthood, and of a third-gender option for all the staff are major achievements. Égalité is a regular interlocutor of the Equality, Inclusion and Diversity Unit and is invited to participate in the events organised for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) and the Coming out Day. We will continue to work closely to make sure that the Parliament is at the forefront of the fight against discrimination.
Collaboration with the LGBTI+ Network in the Council:
Since the adoption of the framework for the Equal Opportunities Policy in 2007, the GSC has made significant strides in establishing a discrimination-free workplace, enabling staff to thrive both professionally and personally. This commitment is further exemplified through the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy of the General Secretariat of the Council.
In tandem with Égalité’s efforts, the LGBTI+ Network in the Council actively promotes acceptance, respect, and inclusion within EU institutions. Beyond legal requirements, this collaboration focuses on cultivating an environment where everyone feels accepted and respected, addressing unconscious biases through ongoing awareness initiatives.
Within the GSC, measures such as equal treatment for same-sex partners and recognition of non-binary gender identities underscore their commitment. The GSC actively participates in events like the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), rejecting homo-transphobic behaviors.
As Égalité commemorates 30 years of unwavering dedication, it stands as a testament to the power of collective advocacy. The organization’s journey from a small group of determined individuals to a recognized interlocutor on LGBTI+ staff matters reflects a legacy of resilience, progress, and the ongoing pursuit of a more inclusive EU workplace.
In the words of Eleni Christidou, President of Égalité , “We need all of you to work together with us to improve our lives.” As we celebrate Égalité’s 30th anniversary, let it be a reminder that the fight for equality is not just a milestone but an ongoing journey, and Égalité’s three decades of impactful work are a beacon of hope for a future where diversity, inclusion, and equal rights are embraced by all.
Celebratory messages from the European Parliament:
President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola
European Parliament Director-General for Personnel, Kristian Knudsen