Amendments to outlaw discrimination against gay people and people with HIV are being proposed by OutRage!
The proposed amendments are to the Human Rights Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.
“If amended to include an explicit ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, this Bill would do more for gay equality than any other single legislative reform”, said John Hunt of OutRage!.
“It would enable many different forms of homophobic discrimination to be overturned in the British courts. The gay-only offence of gross indecency, for example, would be declared illegal”, added Hunt.
OutRage! is extremely concerned that few lesbian and gay organisations seem to realise the huge potential benefits that would result from a successful amendment of the Human Rights Bill.
“We plan to get a backbench MP to table an amendment, hopefully with Government support”, said Hunt. “But most other gay groups, including Stonewall, seem to be doing very little. We would appreciate their support.”
The Human Rights Bill incorporates the European Covention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. It will enable violations of the Convention to be overturned in the British courts, without the need for lengthy and expensive appeals to the ECHR in Strasbourg.
“The European Convention does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or medical status. This means that the incorporation of the Convention into UK law may not be sufficient to protect lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV against unequal treatment.
“It all depends on how judges choose to interpret the Convention’s crucial anti-discrimination clause, Article 14. In the past, they have decided that Article 14 does not outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation”, noted John Hunt.
A copy of the Human Rights Bill amendment follows.
Proposed amendment by OutRage!
(a) Article 14 of the Convention shall be interpreted to prohibit any form of discrimination on any grounds whatsoever, including but not limited to the grounds set out in Article 14.
- The European Convention of Human Rights was drafted half a century ago, when there was very little acknowledgement of the rights of the disabled, lesbians and gay men and other excluded social groups. It needs modernising. The Human Rights Bill should be amended to guarantee explicitly equal treatment and non-discrimination to everyone.
- The European Commission and the Court of Human Rights have often interpreted the non-discrimination provisions of Article 14 as being limited to the stated grounds when, in fact, Article 14 is meant to be read as comprehensive and all-inclusive. To remedy this misinterpretation of Article 14, the Human Rights Bill needs to make explicit Article 14’s prohibition of all forms of discrimination, including very obvious omissions such as age, disability, sexual orientation and medical condition.
- Age, disability and sexual orienation are straightforward. The insertion of the term medical condition is in order to prohibit discrimination against people with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, and against people on the basis of their genetic make-up, (a likely area of serious discrimination in employment and insurance, unless it is outlawed).
- This amendment does not amend the European Convention of Human Rights. It amends the Human Rights Bill. Moreover, it is merely interpretive, attempting to ensure that Article 14 is interpreted in the comprehensive, all-inclusive manner that was originally intended by the drafters of the Convention.
Further Information: PETER TATCHELL, Tel. (+44)-171 403 1790
YouthSpeak is also campaigning to include a specific reference to lesbian and gay equality in the Bill, and fighting off amendments from the House of Lords which say that the churches should be excluded from legislation, in case they are forced to support gay marriage and ordain gay priests.