Euro Court: Religious Beliefs Don’t Justify Discrimination
January 15th, 2013
In four cases brought by people who say their Christian beliefs prohibit them from providing services to same-sex couples, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today that their beliefs do not justify discrimination. The ruling upheld British laws which ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. According to a press release from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights:
In the first case, Lillian Ladele was a civil registrar in London. She was dismissed because she refused officiating at civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after it became legal in 2005. She claimed she was discriminated because of her faith.
The Court ruled there had been no discrimination, and that British courts—who upheld her dismissal—had struck the right balance between her right to freedom of religion, and same-sex couples’ right not to be discriminated.
In the second case, Gary McFarlane was a counsellor providing psycho-sexual therapy to couples. He was dismissed for refusing to work with same-sex couples, arguing this was incompatible with his beliefs. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been no violation of his right to freedom of belief.
The ruling may be appealed within the next three months.
Update: Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is mentioned in the official ruling (PDF: 515KB/53 pages) as a third party intervener.
International Marriage Update
March 4th, 2010
Several nations are competing to become the eighth to offer full civil marriage recognition to same sex couples. It is likely that at least three, possibly four, will change their laws by summer.
Portugal – The parliament has now finalized the language of the bill and around the first of the month sent it to President Cavaco Silva. Silva is a member of the PSD party and has spoken in the past in opposition to same-sex marriage recognition. It is uncertain what he will do.
Silva has four choices. He can sign the bill, send it to the Supreme Court within 8 days, or refuse to sign it and return it to Parliament within 20 days (a form of veto). Prime Minister José Sócrates has stated that he has the requisite two-thirds vote to overturn a Presidential veto.
Nepal – This Asian nation is scheduled to implement a new constitution by May 28, 2010. This new constitution is reported to have marriage equality provisions. Nepal has been capitalizing on this change in hopes of increasing tourism.
Luxembourg – This tiny duchy has had civil partnership laws since 2004. However, at the end of January, Minister of Justice François Biltgen announced that the nation would legalize civil gay marriage before Parliament’s summer break. Gay couples will not be allowed to adopt.
Iceland – This vast island with its hardy but tiny population has had registered partnerships since 1996. The current government, helmed by lesbian Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is committed to changing the law to enact marriage equality. Although no time line is currently reported, as of 18 November 2009, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights confirmed that the government was working on such an act.
This is not likely to be a highly controversial issue in Iceland. Only one lawmaker voted against the 1996 partnerships and the 2006 upgrade was passed unanimously.
Argentina – There have now been two legal same-sex marriages in that country opening up a precedent, if not exactly law. However, the current governmental leadership has indicated support for marriage equality and there are bills currently under consideration. Although movement forward was scheduled for last November, but parliamentary procedures were used to delay the decision until 2010. The two judicially authorized marriages may be seen as impetus for the legislature to enact marriage as a matter of legislation rather than concede to judicial mandate.
Cyprus – The Attorney-general’s office, Law Commissioner, Ombudswoman, and senior representatives of the relevant government ministries will meet this month to discuss whether the island off the coast of Turkey and Syria will adopt marriage equality.
To make the race even more uncertain, the European Court of Human Rights heard testimony last week from an Austrian couple suing for marriage rights. On Tuesday, the court determined that Poland could not treat a gay man and his partner differently than a married couple. It is expected to announce within the next few months whether European states can deny marriage to same-sex couples or whether civil unions, such as those adopted by Austria at the first of the year, were sufficient to protect equal rights.
So we see movement in Europe, Asia, and the Americas and at the most northern and most southern parts of the globe. And, of course, we may always be surprised by an unexpected nation taking this step, as well as determinations in the European . But, whichever moves first, it will certainly be a spring to remember.
Slovenia – This eastern neighbor of Italy, and former portion of communist Yugoslavia, has already begun the process of changing their laws to allow for marriage equality. Their legislature voted yesterday to advance the bill.
EU Condemns Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
December 17th, 2009
At a meeting in Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament passed a resolution strongly condemning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The E.U. resolution calls on Uganda “not to approve the bill and to review their laws to decriminalize homosexuality.” The resolution also calls on the European Commission and Council to reconsider EU aid to Uganda if the anti-gay bill passes. The EU currently provides Uganda $275 million annually in developmental aid, which is more than the $250 million provided by the U.S. The EU’s contribution amounts to just under 17% of Uganda’s total foreign aid receipts.
The full text of the resolution is available online.
The EU has been following these developments since the beginning. Last March, European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights condemned the March 5th meeting between several Ugandan parliamentarians and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge and Family Life Network’s Stephen Langa during their anti-gay conference held in Kampala.
And Number Eight May Be… Albania?
July 30th, 2009
Back in May when Sweden became the seventh nation to recognize same-sex marriages, had we conducted a pool as to what nation would be next, very few of you would have bet on Albania. In fact, I imagine that very few of you could have found Albania on a map.
Albania is a Balkan nation tucked between Greece and Montenegro. It has a relatively conservative culture and homosexuality is not well tolerated by the people. In fact, none of its direct neighbors offer any recognition of same-sex relationships.
But Albania wants to join the European Union. And they know that passing marriage equality would present a modern progressive image to the rest of the continent. So Prime Minister Sali Berisha took a surprising step by announcing that the country would move in that direction. (BBC)
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has announced his party will propose a law legalising same-sex marriage.
It is an unexpected move in a country that is still one of the most conservative in the Europe and where homosexuality was illegal until 1995.
Mr Berisha acknowledged the proposed law might provoke debate but maintained that discrimination in modern Albania had to end.
This bill, which will be voted on in the fall, has the expected opposition of Catholic and Muslim leaders. But while Albania is primarily Muslim, this is not a strongly religious nation. While most residents still associate themselves with Christianity or Islam, over 70% of residents do not attend services and consider themselves to be non-religious. Practicing religion was banned during the 1944-1990 Communist regime.
I know too little of Albanian politics to make any predictions at this time. Although Berisha and his right-wing Democrat Party hold 74 of 140 seats and the bill is reportedly popular among the legislators, I am not sure whether they vote in a block or whether there may be defectors. Additionally, I’ve not heard whether the opposition Socialist Party is putting up a strong objection to the bill.
But should Albania become the eighth nation to enact marriage equality, this may well serve to shame some more progressive nations that pride themselves on their culture and civility.
EU Group Condemns Ugandan Conference
March 9th, 2009
A European Parliament intergroup has issued a press release condemning the Ugandan anti-gay conference, and called out the three Americans by name:
European Parliament’s Intergroup condemns Ugandan parliamentarians for meeting anti-human rights militants.
European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights strongly condemns the meeting of 5 March between several Ugandan parliamentarians and Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Stephen Langa of the USA and Uganda-based groups working to diminish human rights of LGBT persons.
“It is very sad that representatives of Ugandan parliament who should work for the rights of every Ugandan citizen, gravely discredit themselves by meeting people who work to spread hate and diminish rights of other human beings”, said Michael Cashman, President of the Intergroup. “It would never be acceptable for any member of the European Parliament to meet for example representatives of Ku Klux Klan thus I do not understand the rational of those Ugandan parliamentarians who agreed to the meeting with anti-gay militants.”
Raúl Romeva, Vice-President of the Intergroup for the GREENS/EFA added, “If these Ugandan parliamentarians are serious about respecting the constitution of their country and in particular Chapter 4 on Protection and promotion of fundamental and other human rights and freedoms, they should instead be working towards abolishing those discriminatory laws of Uganda which still deny full human rights to gay and lesbian citizens.”
Don Schmierer is a board member of Exodus International. This is the first time that I’m aware of that an activity by an Exodus board member has earned the condemnation of an official governmental committee. Today marks the tenth day since we made Exodus president Alan Chambers aware of the actions of a board member. We still hear nothing but silence from Exodus.
[Hat tip: Andy at UK Gay News]