Friday, May 22, 2009

Pending British Equality Bill Creates Only Narrow Exemption For Religious Objections

As previously reported, in April Britain's new Equality Bill was introduced into the House of Commons. The Explanatory Notes published by the Equalities Office devoted several pages to the exemption from the provisions on sexual orientation discrimination for organized religious groups. [Scroll to pp. 85-89 of the PDF document]. Wednesday's London Telegraph reported that Deputy Equalities Minister Maria Eagle speaking to the delegates at the Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia, & Human Rights conference in London has indicated that the exemption will be read narrowly. She said in part:
The circumstances in which religious institutions can practice anything less than full equality are few and far between. While the state would not intervene in narrowly ritual or doctrinal matters within faith groups, these communities cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination law. Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greater LGBT acceptance, but in the meantime the state has a duty to protect people from unfair treatment.