Disinformation from Alt-Info: The European Union and the Council of Europe Demand that Georgia Legalise Marriage and Child Adoption for LGBTQ+ People
Verdict: FAKE NEWS
On 2 July 2021, disinformation about the European Union and the Council of Europe was promoted on air on the Alt-Info far-right and pro-Russian media platform. The hosts of the show, Zurab Makharadze, Irakli Martinenko, Giorgi Kardava and Shota Martinenko, seek to cultivate anti-Western sentiments among the public by using hate speech and promoting deliberate disinformation.
One of the episodes of the 2 July 2021 broadcast was dedicated to the video published on the Council of Europe’s Office in Georgia’s official Facebook page. This video, where a representative of the LGBTQ+ community speaks about problems of unequal environment was made as part of the #justiceforall campaign, was supported by the Partnership for Good Governance Programme. The hosts of the TV show referred to the video as a joint position and an aim of the Council of Europe and the European Union. They stated that the European Union openly demands that Georgia hold the March for Dignity and grant marriage and child adoption rights for LGBTQ+ people.
Firstly, of note is that the Council of Europe and the European Union are two completely different organisations. The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, is the leading human rights organisation on the European continent which comprises 47 member states of which 27 also hold membership in the European Union. On 27 April 1999, Georgia joined the Council of Europe as the 41st member state. The main aim of this cooperation is strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the country.
The European Union, however, is independent from the Council of Europe as a political and economic union which exists under its current name from 1992. The foundation of the European Union is the European Coal and Steel Community, created in 1951, which united six nations – Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The European Union currently comprises 27 countries which aim to ensure peace, social and economic welfare and freedom for its citizens.
In regard to Alt-Info’s claim that the European Union demands that Georgia hold the March for Dignity and allow LGBTQ+ people to marry and adopt children is fake.
It has to be explicitly underlined that the European Union does not impose any of its policies over Georgia and it does not interfere in the country’s domestic affairs against the country’s will. Georgia made a decision to choose its path toward European and Euro-Atlantic structures independently and on its own free will. Georgia’s commitment vis-à-vis its full integration into the European Union and NATO is expressed in the Constitution of Georgia. Given the country’s manifested aspiration to join the European Union, the country has to ensure the building of a rules-based state and democratic institutions.
In regard to the march organised by Tbilisi Pride, called the March for Dignity - #forsolidarity!, holding it is not an obligation imposed and dictated by the European Union but it is an exercise of right guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia. In particular, the aim of the March for Dignity is to voice problems facing the LGBTQ+ community and become vocal in raising awareness. These demands include a human-oriented policy whilst fulfilling positive commitments to ensure an equal environment and overcome homophobia, stigma and discrimination and ensuring a proper investigation of hate-motivated crimes in observance of the principle of justice and the protection of the safety and the freedom of expression of each citizen, irrespective of his or her sexual orientation and gender identity.
These aims are fully in line with the rights and the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia such as the freedom of thought and expression, the right to receive and impart information and the right to assembly. In accordance with the Constitution of Georgia, the restriction of these rights may be allowed only in accordance with law and insofar as is necessary in a democratic society for ensuring national security, public safety or territorial integrity; for the protection of the rights of others, for the prevention of the disclosure of information recognised as confidential or for ensuring the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. Furthermore, the authorities may terminate an assembly only if it assumes an unlawful character. The Constitution of Georgia prohibits any kind of discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other views, origin, social affiliation, ethnicity, property, place of residence or on any other grounds.
Given the aforementioned circumstances, the March for Dignity organised by Tbilisi Pride is a peaceful instrument for voicing problems facing the LGBTQ+ community. This is in line with the rights and freedoms provided by the Constitution of Georgia and is not superimposed by any European institution. The support, which Western partners expressed to the March of Dignity, indicates that they fully share the understanding of the challenges before the LGBTQ+ community and that they support those actions to address these challenges within the scope of the law.
Alt-Info’s second claim that the Council of Europe and the European Union demand that Georgia legalise marriage between LGBTQ+ people and grant them the right of child adoption is also fake.
In 2000, the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights issued recommendations to address the legal discrimination of sexual minorities vis-à-vis equalling the rights of heterosexual people. These recommendations included adopting legislation which would allow same-sex partners to enjoy those rights which are granted to opposite-sex couples under legal co-habitation (registered partnerships).
In regard to the EU, Section 2 of Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union requires member states to comply with fundamental rights including the prohibition of sexual orientation discrimination and treating same-sex couples equally vis-à-vis EU law (including the law relating to free movement, migration and asylum). European Union legislation does not force member states (also states aspiring to join) to permit or recognise same-sex partnership (cohabitation) or marriage. The adoption of the law is a matter of member state domestic policy. The list of EU member states which recognise same-sex marriage or civil partnerships is available here.
There is a same situation vis-à-vis granting the right of child adoption to same-sex couples. The European Union does not require that member states adopt the law to grant the child adoption right to same-sex couples. European Union legislation allows the governments of the member states to independently regulate child adoption rights which are largely a reflection of diverse national traditions and the pursuit of independent policy.
Therefore, Alt-Info’s claim that the European Union demands that Georgia hold March for Dignity and obliges the country to grant marriage and child adoption rights to LGBTQ+ people is fake. The aim of promoting such disinformation is to discredit the West and foster anti-Western sentiments among the public. Alt-Info itself very openly declares this aim which is certainly aligned with the foreign policy interests of Russia, an occupier of Georgian territories.
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