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EU survey finds many gay people are living in fear

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Across Europe, gay couples are scared of publicly engaging in even the most basic expression of their affection: holding hands.

Released Friday, the largest ever EU survey of hate crime and discrimination targeting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the 27-nation bloc and Croatia showed many of them live in fear and conceal their sexual identity.

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Two-thirds of the 93,000 people who filled in the anonymous online questionnaire said they were afraid of holding hands in public with a same-sex partner — the figure rose to 75 percent for gay and bisexual men.

Austrian European lawmaker Ulrike Lunacek, said she has seen improvements in attitudes since she came out as a lesbian 30 years ago, but wasn’t surprised at the fear of holding hands.

‘‘I know myself. In some areas of some cities I maybe also wouldn’t do it,’’ she said.

The survey, released on the International Day against Homophobia, is important, she said, because ‘‘for the first time, we see how much fear there is still around.’’

The results showed that more than 80 percent of the group are verbally abused or bullied at school, nearly one in five feel discriminated against when seeking work, and a quarter of the people have been attacked or threatened in recent years.

‘‘It shows very clearly that things are not going right,’’ said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. ‘‘That there are still very many discriminations, that the [laws] which are in place in member states are de facto not really applied in practical terms and that LGBT people are afraid to go to court or go to police because they are afraid of being victimized a second time.’’

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