Homophobia,  Human Rights


This is a guest post by Flaming Fairy

Back in 2008, Lilian Ladele, a Christian fundamentalist and one time registrar took Islington Council to court claiming that they had discriminated against her on the grounds of her faith because they took disciplinary action against her when she refused to carry out civil partnership ceremonies. An employment tribunal held that she had been discriminated against and a shudder went through the LGBT community until the council successfully appealed that decision. It was clear – a person’s religious beliefs about another person’s sexual orientation or its sinfulness thereof were no grounds for withholding a service that you were legally and contractually obliged to provide.

Well, now the waters have been muddied again as the – ahem – Equalities and Human Rights Commission has joined calls for more “compromise” on religious beliefs when it comes to gay rights: –

…in a statement on its website, the body said: “Judges have interpreted the law too narrowly in religion or belief discrimination claims.”

“If given leave to intervene [in these cases], the commission will argue that the way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief.

“It will say that the courts have set the bar too high for someone to prove that they have been discriminated against because of their religion or belief; and that it is possible to accommodate expression of religion alongside the rights of people who are not religious and the needs of businesses.”

The Evangelical Alliance say that the EHRC will now intervene in four cases – including Ladele’s – currently at the European Court of Human Rights where discrimination on religious grounds is alleged.

Stonewall has issued a brief but strong statement: –

Stonewall is deeply disturbed at the EHRC’s statement announcing applications to intervene in European Court cases of claimed discrimination against Christians in the workplace. The case features two individuals, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, who have refused to provide public services to gay people.

The Commission should be crystal clear that if it seeks to defend the claimed right of any public servant to turn away any user of a public service, it will face strong opposition. Gay taxpayers currently contribute £40 billion a year to the cost of Britain’s public services and no lesbian and gay person should ever be deprived of access to them.

You can read the rest on Stonewall’s site.

It’s hard to know what “compromise” can be reached with people claiming a religious right to deprive someone of a service on the grounds of their sexual orientation and it seems that this could so easily be implemented in such a way that religious rights would trump gay rights. Without wishing to play victimhood bingo, is there any doubt that were this an issue involving race or one faith group’s rights against that of another faith group, there would be no “compromise” being considered?

It’s also deeply distressing that the Commission now intends to intervene at the European Court, as this could set a clear precedent for the rest of Europe, potentially leading to other countries appeasing conservative religious factions with homophobic legislation. With a more conservative and Islamist Turkey set to join the EU, this could all spell a nightmare for LGBT people across the continent. That collective shudder is back.