NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Gay rights activists are joining with refugees, ethnic minorities and other groups to beat back forces that are exploiting a climate of fear created by terror concerns, an official with an international gay rights advocacy group said Thursday.
Joyce Hamilton, Europe co-chairwoman of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said allies and partners will be needed to protect human rights in Europe, including gains the LGBT community has made on the continent in recent years.
She said regressive forces are using the public's fear of terror attacks and the influx of refugees from war-torn countries to fuel their rise to power at the expense of human rights.
"What we all have in common is being 'others', being used as a threat to society. It's used to create more fear in society," Hamilton told the Associated Press on the sidelines of the first ILGA Europe conference held in Cyprus.
"It's tapping into the insecurity that people feel," she said.
But important gains have been made recently, according to Hamilton, citing the passage of legislation in France that allows people to change gender for legal purposes.
Key to maintaining the momentum is a mass mobilization in defense of human rights like the one recently seen in Poland that staved off the government's plans to ban abortion, she said.
Costas Gavrielides, president of Cyprus' Accept-LGBT group, said having the international conference in Cyprus was an affirmation of the significant advances LGBT rights have made on the island.
He said some 70 gay and lesbian couples have had their civil unions recognized since the Cyprus Parliament legalized such unions last year.
Gavrielides said he's hopeful lawmakers will pass legislation in the next few months enabling transgender people to change the gender on their legal records.