The British government has argued in a submission to the European Court of Human Rights that rights for lesbian and gay citizens are optional and should be only be granted by EU member states “in keeping with the social, cultural and religious norms and traditions.” In its submission, it argued that despite introducing civil partnerships in the UK, there was “no positive obligation to create a structure for legal recognition or registration of same-sex relationships.”
It appeared to argue that the fact that the UK and several other EU countries had introduced civil partnerships or allowed same-sex couples to marry should not be seen as a benchmark or a human rights precedent in Europe.
This bizarre and, frankly, scandalous, intervention came, according to The Guardian, after an Austrian couple went to the the ECHR to argue that their country, and EU member state, was violating their right to a private family life by making no legal provisions for same-sex couples. They cited the UK, among other EU countries, who had introduced such legislation as a precedent for this thinking.
The UK government shot them down.
In July this year, when Lord Lester challenged the Government thus:
Why they are intervening before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Horst Schalk and Johann Kopf v Austria (Application No. 30141/04) to contend that same-sex relationships fall outside the ambit of family life for the purposes of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
He was told that the Government had confined its remarks to the issue of ‘marriage’. This, it turned out, was not true, as Lord Lester pointed out in his reply:
I have put the observations in the Library, so that those who want to can see exactly what the Government have said. It is not correct that they have confined their observations only to the right to marry. They have also said that the court should not develop its case law so that same-sex partners living in an enduring family relationship are protected by Articles 8 and 14 of the convention against sexual orientation discrimination in the enjoyment of the fundamental right to respect for family life.
If the UK Government truly believes that same-sex couples ought to enjoy a family life, a right supposedly extended to all citizens by EU human rights legislation, then it seems outrageous that they would not support this interpretation of the law being accepted throughout Europe, and would in fact, argue against such acceptance.
What bizarre infestation of poisonous cultural relativism has overtaken our government? Other than the rights of gay people, what other human rights does it think are conditional on “social, cultural and religious norms and traditions”?
I think we should be told.