David McKean, the US ambassador to Luxembourg (holding the left side of the rainbow flag), Gabriele Schneider of the campaign and support group Rosa Lëtzebuerg (second from right), during a LGTB pride flag raising ceremony, which marked the 20th anniversary of Rosa Lëtzebuerg, at the US embassy on 1 June
Photo: Steve Eastwood
Despite changes in legislation and growing support over the past 20 years, Luxembourg’s LGBT community still faces discrimination.
Two flags were lowered to half mast at the US embassy in Luxembourg on the morning of 13 June. The US stars and stripes and the LGBT rainbow flag had been proudly flying together for less than a fortnight after being hoisted on 1 June to mark the start of LGBT Pride Month.
US ambassador David McKean had been joined by representatives of local LGBT rights group Rosa Lëtzebuerg, including its president, Gabriele Schneider, that morning. Twelve days later Schneider and around 25 other members and friends from Rosa Lëtzebuerg were laying wreaths, lighting candles and leaving messages of condolences in a show of solidarity with the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando on 12 June.
“Special thanks to Mrs. McKean who once again welcomed us in a very warmhearted way. This means a lot to our community!” the group wrote on its Facebook page.
In 2015 the US embassy became the first in Luxembourg to fly the rainbow flag during LGBT Pride Month--June was chosen to celebrate Gay Pride, as it was then known, following the infamous Stonewall riots in June 1969, when members of the community protested against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City.
This year’s ceremony also marked the 20th anniversary of Rosa Lëtzebuerg, which was founded in 1996 as an advocacy group for gay rights and against discrimination of the LGBT community, and to support their friends and family. The group has a number of English speaking members, particularly women from the European communities, says Schneider. More recently, several initiatives have been launched to assist LGBT asylum seekers in Luxembourg, many of whom use English to communicate. These include workshops to help staff and volunteers working in reception centres.
In 2002 the group launched the Cigale information centre for gays and lesbians. Staffed by social educationalist Roby Antony and Enrica Pianaro, Cigale has official backing from the ministry of family and integration. It provides assistance to anyone with questions about sexual orientation and identity, helps prepare people who want to “come out”, offers consultations and information on LGBT rights and also raises awareness of LGBT issues.
And although gay marriage was legalised last year and messages of condolence were received from all quarters following the Orlando shooting, Rosa Lëtzebuerg says members of its community are still confronted with homophobia in the Grand Duchy. It can range from comments on news websites to bullying in the workplace and even physical violence. Some members say they want to take their protest to the streets to decry this discrimination.