Thursday, March 04, 2010

Important ECHR ruling

I saw this in Pink News. See also ILGA-Europe.

It's a very important ruling, especially as it's unanimous and builds on previous rulings in similar cases (notably Austria).

The Court concluded that 'de facto marital cohabitation' must include same sex couples under the right to private life and freedom from discrimination.

I find para 92 (near the end) to be particularly important in terms of the Court's own understanding of its own jurisprudence:

92. Sexual orientation is a concept covered by Article 14. Furthermore, when the distinction in question operates in this intimate and vulnerable sphere of an individual's private life, particularly weighty reasons need to be advanced before the Court to justify the measure complained of. Where a difference of treatment is based on sex or sexual orientation the margin of appreciation afforded to the State is narrow and in such situations the principle of proportionality does not merely require that the measure chosen is in general suited for realising the aim sought but it must also be shown that it was necessary in the circumstances. Indeed, if the reasons advanced for a difference in treatment were based solely on the applicant's sexual orientation, this would amount to discrimination under the Convention (see E.B., cited above, §§ 91 and 93; S.L., cited above, § 37, ECHR 2003-I; Smith and Grady, cited above, §§ 89 and 94; and Karner, cited above, §§ 37 and 41).

At the same time ILGA-Europe reports of latest developments of the Schalk and Kopf case on same sex marriage where Prof Robert Wintmute has been given intervener status in front of the European Court of Human Rights (arguments regarding admissibility at this stage).

There is a very interesting link to the oral arguments here.

Civil partnerships in Church?

I must admit I still scratch my head about this one and struggle to see how it can work given the practicalities. Hopefully the government can work something out.

I am glad that the House of Lords did vote in this way. Kudos to Lord Alli who has been a fantastic performer in the House of Lords on this and on many other issues.

I am also glad for the fact that there is some respect for the spiritual autonomy of minority faiths such as Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaisms.

I think, ironically, that religion is quite a good angle to come at this problem and that it leads us to the view that for some faiths they will be able to marry people in church (or synagogue); others might not be happy to marry in church or synagogue but might doctrinally be happy to provide civil partnerships and others may opt for either civil partnerships or civil marriage.

I am for respect for spiritual freedom for churches, faiths and individuals and I think that this is the way to approach this issue.

The attitude of the Church of England is sadly pitiful. It's the kind of attitude of "Why on earth do people need religious services?" whilst being a church that wants (presumably) wants to attract people to have a service.

This attitude can only (a) put people off coming to church for a ceremony and (b) when they do have a ceremony they are likely to see through the church's spiritual bankruptcy and see this as a ceremony but no more and it's a pathway to a profound divorce between church and people which is very sad.

The scare stories about litigation against priests who refuse to conduct a ceremony are utterly mendacious and badly reflect on the bishops' seriousness and integrity - clearly people that daft (or frankly dishonest) have no place in our Parliament and should be kept out of any reformed upper chamber.

Thinking Anglicans has been great on this issue as well as Ekklesia.

Goodbye Michael Foot

Sad to hear of the death of Michael Foot at the wonderful age of 96.

My favourite memory (only from recordings - I was too young when it happened) is Michael Foot's wind up speech in the confidence motion that brought down Callaghan's government in 1979.

His oratory therefore wasn't just good for barnstorming rallies and wooing the faithful at Conference (great though he was at that). He was a great parliamentary performer as well as actually doing Parliamentary business - keeping a minority government afloat during the most testing of times in the 1970's by working with minority parties.

His greatness didn't translate as Leader of the Labour Party. I don't think he was ever going to be Prime Minister at the best of times but after the loss of the SDP and the Falklands it was always a very long shot and, although he was always a sincere (and indeed unspun - I can't think of anyone further from the world of political spin, though the result wasn't great in a TV age) he believed his own rhetoric and therefore didn't succeed in translating the radicalism of the Party into anything likely to get a good showing.

On the other hand I don't think anyone else would have done much better given the material.

He did at least lead the Party in the way it wanted to be led at the time and keep the show together (more or less) and allow a fightback.

That's the reason Foot is remembered with so much fondness by the Party.

Only in his passing is the wider culture becoming aware of Foot's bigger history as a journalist, campaigner against fascism, erudite lover of literature and representative of an English liberal take on socialism.

Hopelessly romantic in the end, and the antithesis of modern politics I remember he had the humility to have never spoken out against his successors (Kinnock, Smith, Blair and Brown) even though he had many opportunities to do so. Not many have displayed such loyalty and ability to efface themselves.