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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Latvia defies EU over gay rights
By Laura Sheeter
BBC News, Riga

Riga, capital of Latvia
Latvia's stance on human rights is under scrutiny
Lawmakers in Latvia have defied the European Union and refused to introduce a law banning discrimination at work on sexual orientation grounds.

Agreeing to introduce the law on employment discrimination was a condition for Latvia's accession to the European Union in 2004.

But MPs refused to implement it in full after a parliamentary debate where homosexuality was described as a sin.

Latvia recently made constitutional changes to prevent same-sex marriages.

'Degenerate' slur

Latvian politicians voted not to include specific reference to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation after a long and heated debate, which included some stridently anti-homosexual language.

Representatives of Latvia's first party, the Christian Democratic Party, which had proposed sexual orientation be dropped from the anti-discrimination bill, described homosexuality as a sin and homosexual people as "degenerate".

Latvia is now the only EU member state without legislation specifically outlawing discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Same-sex marriage is illegal under Latvian civil law

The International Lesbian and Gay Association said that the MPs' actions showed a fundamental disrespect for the values and principles of the European Union.

It said it hoped the European Commission would take the legal action it was entitled to take to ensure the law was implemented in full.

Homosexuality is a controversial political issue in Latvia.

Earlier this year, parliament changed the country's constitution to ensure that same-sex marriage could not be made legal, and the first Gay Pride march in Latvia, which took place last summer, was marred by angry protests.

Latvia gay pride given go-ahead
22 Jul 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Latvia
20 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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