Empowering Municipalities to Protect the LGBTQIA+ Community

How can your municipality safeguard basic human rights? Review of the virtual Insight Session of 4 June 2023

Christopher Street Day in Cologne| Photo: Dreadlock, Adobe Stock

In times when members of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially in some Eastern European countries, are facing increasing challenges, it is more important than ever to be able to provide them with safe havens, support, and protection. However, this cannot be ensured by non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and CSOs alone. Instead, it requires the active involvement of cities and municipalities to create sustainable structures and firmly embed them in the orientation of local policies.

Together with representatives from Kotor and Podgorica (Montenegro), Ljubljana (Slovenia) as well as the Deputy Mayor of Cologne, Connective Cities provided a platform to exchange with interested parties and compare good practices on how to better support sexual minorities.. All four cities are part of the Rainbow City Network, which is supported by 48 members from 22 countries and constantly welcomes new members.

Opening remarks were given by Mr. Andreas Wolter, Deputy Mayor of the City of Cologne, which hosts one of the largest Pride events in Europe. For him, LGBTQIA+ rights are an inseparable part of human rights and should be treated as such in discussions. An ongoing question is how to reach cities in countries that want to become EU members or those located in countries with a more queer-phobic national policy. Another topic currently being discussed in Cologne is the establishment of LGBTQIA+ accommodations, especially for young people seeking shelter that they may not find at home due to their sexuality. Additionally, the establishment of safe spaces in refugee accommodations is also being discussed.

Ms. Milica Tomović from the City of Kotor (Department for Culture, Sport, and Social Services) reported on the establishment of a local action plan to create safe zones for LGBTQIA+ individuals. As one of the safest holiday destinations for LGBTQIA+ people, the municipality has implemented a training plan for employees in the tourism industry to raise their awareness. However, a major challenge remains in building trust in official institutions and mobilizing sufficient personnel capacity to adequately address the importance of the issue.

Ms. Marica Vlahović (Head of the Office for LGBTIQ Persons, Secretariat for Social Welfare, City of Podgorica) provided insights into the establishment and work of the office for LGBTQIA+ people in the city of Podgorica, explaining the past and planned future projects. With the largest LGBTQIA+ community in Montenegro, Podgorica has the opportunity to collaborate with various activists and NGOs. At the same time, this visibility still poses a higher risk for community members, which needs to be reduced at the municipal level.


Ms. Simona Topolinjak (Department of Health and Social Care, City of Ljubljana) also shared inspiring good practices. As the first country in the former socialist bloc to enshrine same-sex marriage in the law and host the first European LGBTQIA+ film festival, Slovenia has made significant progress. A Gender Equality Action Plan has been developed, which regulates the equal treatment of transgender individuals, the establishment of gender-neutral toilets, and the use of inclusive language. Public spaces in the city can also be used free of charge for LGBTQIA+ events or meetings. Nevertheless, instances of hate speech continue to occur, including during this year's Pride events.

The shared contributions from the Insight Session highlight both the measures already taken to protect the LGBTQIA+ community and the ongoing challenges faced by cities and municipalities. They underline why it is crucial not to neglect these issues but rather prioritize them on the local agenda.

Municipalities can enact local laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. These ordinances ensure that LGBTQIA+ individuals are protected from discrimination and have equal access to essential services, such as employment, housing, public accommodations, and public services. Additionally, municipalities can establish reporting mechanisms, train law enforcement personnel on LGBTQIA+ issues, and collaborate with community organizations to raise awareness and promote safety. Safe spaces can be created for LGBTQIA+ youth, and city administrations can provide resources and programs tailored to their specific needs and challenges. This can include funding LGBTQIA+ youth centres, organizing educational initiatives, and supporting LGBTQIA+ student groups in schools. Finally, cities and municipalities can organize LGBTQIA+ pride events and celebrations, fostering a sense of belonging and community for LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies, as demonstrated by the recent Christopher Street Day Parade in Cologne, where approximately 1.4 million people gathered in the city centre to make a collective statement.

It is important to note that the specific tasks and responsibilities of municipalities may vary depending on the country, administrative district, or region, as well as the local legal framework. Nevertheless, municipalities can have a significant impact on the protection and promotion of human rights within the LGBTQIA+ community at the local level.

Further Information

Kotor – Rainbow City

Rainbow Ljubljana

LGBTIQ community in Podgorica

Connective Cities