Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lawyers Christian Fellowship on the regs

LCF has now published guidance advice on the sexual orientation regulations. On the whole it is much more balanced and dare I say truthful than we have come to expect.

There are still some exaggerations and deliberate scare (expressed as "there's a possiblity that") which you kind of expect, coming from LCF.

Also an actual lawyer has put his name to it, which is good.

Funny that they weren't able to release this before the vote - then it was all scare stories and exaggeration. Now the regs have been voted through they are eble to portray more honesty (they seem to be able to turn that on and off at will).

The link to the advice is here.

Of course, there are aspects to the regs that they don't like. That's to be expected. The LCF has been opposed to any measure of legal equality for LGBT people and of course that's their democratic right.

I do, though, have a few quibbles.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, and I could be wrong but I tend to disagree with the item dealing with the perennial 'Christian printer' being obliged to print books that they don't agree with. Actually the printing of books is more like publishing than printing.

In my untrained view, I think that a printer (or a publisher) can not be forced to print something he doesn't agree with (i.e. to promulgate ideational content he disagrees with), and so, in my view the question doesn't arise.

I personally think that in any case wouldn't be upheld by the Courts under the Human Rights Act.

There is of course the famous Canadian case but that wasn't about printing a book or a 'flyer promoting gay sex' it was about the printing of a letterhead and business cards for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (for a reference to this by now famous case see here, for a summary of the original ruling itself see here). And I do anticipate that a similar case would have a similar outcome in the UK under the sexual orientation regulations.

Apart from that and a few minor quibbles it's quite well researched and even includes the reference to the landmark ruling from the High Court on the Employment Equality regulations where they quite correctly state:

Is it a defence to argue “I am not treating this person differently (discriminating) because of their sexualorientation but because of their sexual practices”?

No. The Government have never accepted this distinction in law and neither (to date) have the courts.

The reference in the ruling itself can be seen here:

"29. Part of the background to the wording of regulation 7(3), and one of the matters that will need to be considered in examining the challenge to that provision, is a distinction drawn between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. As regards the protection conferred by the Convention, however, I do not consider there to be any material difference between them. Sexual orientation and its manifestation in sexual behaviour are both inextricably connected with a person's private life and identity."

But this is a digression, though one that the Bishop of Hereford might have benefited from having had prior to the Employment Tribunal case.

I would also quibble with any suggestion that preaching and membership might potentially be covered under the regulations under a variety of scenarios. This is a failure to read in the provisions of the Human Rights Act and also the no doubt forthcoming Belfast High Court case on the Northern Ireland regulations which will no doubt say the same thing.

Any way, all of this apart, what they're putting out now is much more balanced than the scare stories they were putting forth before the regulations were passed by Parliament.

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