LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

ILGA-Europe calls on the Council of Europe to distance itself from Patriarch Alexy's attack on LGBT rights

ILGA-Europe is very concerned that the Council of Europe has allowed itself to be used as a platform for an attack on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.

Responding to a question following an address to the Parliamentary Assembly on 2nd October, the Patriarch justified his opposition to the Moscow gay pride march on the basis that it was “propaganda for sin”. Homosexuality was “an illness and a distortion of the human personality” comparable to kleptomania.

His comments were met with applause by many of the Assembly members present, although some walked out in protest.

Earlier, in his main speech to the Assembly, he had implicitly attacked the Council of Europe's support for LGBT rights: "Today, there occurs a break between human rights and morality, and this break threatens European civilisation. We can see it in a new generation of rights that contradict morality, and in how human rights are used to justify immoral behaviour".

The Patriarch had been invited to the Assembly by its President, Mr Rene van der Linden, as part of a policy promoting tolerance and understanding through intercultural and interreligious dialogue. He appeared unconcerned by the Patriarch's comments, thanking him "most warmly" for "contributing to dialogue, understanding and tolerance".

This lack of concern was not shared by other delegates, who signed a declaration urging the Patriarch "to avoid the use of language inciting intolerance" and "to respect … the fundamental rights of sexual minorities".

ILGA-Europe's Executive Director, Patricia Prendiville commented: “It is highly regrettable that the Council of Europe has allowed itself to be associated with such a serious attack on the rights of a minority. We urge Mr van der Linden to distance the Assembly from the statements of the Patriarch".

ILGA-Europe's adviser on Council of Europe, Nigel Warner, added: "These events are a serious blow for the Council’s credibility. It will be important to ensure that the programmes of intercultural and interreligious dialogue are not again used to undermine human rights, and that they work to resolve cultural differences over the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons”.


For more information please contact
Juris Lavrikovs at + 32 2 609 54 16 / + 32 496 708 375

Notes for editors:

The Council of Europe is Europe's principal human rights organisation, based in Strasbourg, with 47 member states embracing all of Europe except Belarus. Its most important institution is the European Court of Human Rights. Its Parliamentary Assembly consists of delegates from the parliaments of the member states. It plays an important role in the promotion of human rights, and in helping the member states bring their human rights standards into line with those of the Council of Europe.

The text of the question put to the Patriarch, and the summarised transcript of his reply are as follows:

“Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON (United Kingdom).– The Patriarch knows that this Assembly has built up, over many years and with considerable effort, concepts of generosity and tolerance as between people. This includes the treatment and rights of homosexuals and lesbians. The Patriarch has been accused of intolerance in this respect, particularly in preventing any assembly in Moscow, as well as in other ways. I would appreciate it if he would state his position on this matter.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Your Holiness, you have the floor.

Patriarch ALEXY II said that the church had a vocation to respond in love to the suffering of all, including sinners. The church loved sinners despite their sin. As followers of the Orthodox faith, they could not depart from the moral teachings of the Bible and the Apostolic tradition. Homosexuality was not the only sin, there was also adultery, irresponsible sexual conduct and the sexual exploitation of women. As he knew from his pastoral experience, these sins caused suffering to the human conscience. Of course, others thought differently and no one should discriminate based on convictions or lifestyle, but equally no one could force the church to keep quiet when it called a sin a sin in accordance with the word of God.

There was a great deal of homosexual propaganda which had an influence on young people. The church had the right to ask society which policies it wanted to support. In Moscow, there had been a call for a homosexual parade. The church had taken the view that this was propaganda for sin. It was an illness and a distortion of the human personality. Kleptomania could be seen in a similar light, but no one argued that stealing should be advertised. An exception for homosexuality could not be justified, particularly given its influence on the young.”


The location of other relevant texts is as follows:

The Patriarch’s speech:

Declaration by delegates to the Assembly: