The European Parliament has condemned Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania for their lack of action against homophobia.
Non-EU Russia, Ukraine and Moldova were also criticised for anti-gay legislation measures.
All the political groups except nationalist and conservative eurosceptics supported the non-binding resolution – 430 in favour, out of a total of more than 750 MEPs. Many abstained or did not vote.
Laws backed by sharp fines have been passed or are being considered in the non-EU countries named, banning what their supporters call the “propaganda of homosexuality”.
Juris Lavrikovs of the International Lesbian and Gay Association responded: “As we see in many countries, only with openness and only with education we can win the situation because the laws, however important they are, it’s only one particular element in changing public opinion. But it’s about being open about speaking, and that’s why exactly these laws in Moldova, Ukraine and Russia are very dangerous because they would prevent the debate.”
Regions and governments legislating against gays can mean they are forbidden to gather or express themselves, can be arrested, beaten or otherwise humiliated. Abuses have become systematic in eastern Europe and the Baltic states in question. For instance, when hooligans attack, the police might intervene weakly or not at all.
An activist making the statement ‘homosexuality is not a perversion’ was fined the equivalent of around 125 euros by a court in Saint Petersburg. Pending national approval, the fine could rise to a hundred times more.
A Russian gay activist described the daily risks in the world of work, such as being forced to conceal identity, being fired, jeering and harassment.
He said broader society inflicts physical as well as verbal violence on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
There is also a higher risk of suicide and social exclusion among them than heterosexuals.
Anti-gay legislators say they are seeking to protect young people’s vulnerability and traditional values, and to fight the decline in birthrates.
The gay lobby points out that lesbians are free to conceive with donors and that no one of any age can be persuaded to become homosexual.