LGBT agenda advanced by Court rulings – even over religious preference

On 15 January 2013 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the right to act in accordance with one’s religion may be limited in order to protect others from discrimination based on sexual orientation. This judgment was made in the case Eweida and Others vs. United Kingdom, where two employees refused to provide services to same-sex couples based on their religious believes. In two other cases employers imposed restrictions on wearing visible crosses at work.

The groundbreaking decision of the Court has been welcomed by the International Commision of Jurists (ICJ), the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “Article 9 of the European Convention protects the right to manifest one’s religion in public, but this right is not unlimited,” stated Alli Jernow, Senior Legal Advisor of the International Commission of Jurists, and adds “With today’s judgment, the Court upholds the importance of protecting others from discrimination”. For ILGA, the case has an even wider scope. The organisation has already since long strived for the equal treatment of same sex couples in all respects. Their current European Executive Director, Evelyne Paradis, therefore claims “This decision should help to guide national governments on the balance between freedom of religion and the right to non-discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation”. To prevent this, ILGA has also identified education as key area of attention. Hence, ILGA-Europe is striving to increase the understanding for LGBTI among European youth in many different ways in order to make a headway towards safer and more inclusive schools. A current milestone for this agenda is the first ever EU conference on homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools hosted by the Irish EU presidency in partnership with ILGA-Europe. The conference brings together EU, UNESCO and national policy makers, unions, teachers, and NGO’s to jointly debate and look for methods of tackling these forms of bullying.

A lot of Diversity work could be propelled if the European Union were to adopt a horizontal anti-discrimination directive, which is difficult political terrain. But on LGBT, legal progress is going fast with the French marriage bill (as reported in the previous newsletter) and a recent ruling of the German constitutional court that affirmed the right for partnered same-sex couples to be allowed to adopt the child(ren) of one of the partners. Also, the Luxembourg Juridical Committee has just decided to open marriage for gays and lesbians.