The government of Macedonia unveiled revised anti-discrimination legislation Jan. 29 that deleted sexual orientation as a covered ground.
Deputy Minister for Social Policy Spiro Ristovski downplayed the change, saying LGB people still would be protected via a category of "other grounds" that applies to everyone.
Conservative forces had pressured the government to drop the "sexual orientation" language.
The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights denounced the deletion.
"If Macedonia is serious about joining the European Union, it must ensure that its laws match those of the European Union - and that explicitly includes nondiscrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation," said Intergroup Co-President Michael Cashman. "There is no opt-out on fundamental rights."
Human Rights Watch's Boris Dittrich said: "Silence equals inequality. Vague references to 'other grounds' simply aren't good enough."
Countries that want to join the EU are required to specifically protect LGB people from discrimination - and citizens of member nations that procrastinate in doing so are denied the perk of visa-free travel within the EU.