News and Events

Sexual Orientation Attack

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The much reported attack on the sexual orientation discrimination legislation, brought by Amicius and other unions, was rejected by the High Court yesterday.

Amiucus (and six other major unions) argued that various exemptions in the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Equality Regulations 2002 were incompatible with the obligations imposed on the UK by the EU Equal Treatment Framework Directive 2000 and also conflicted with provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In an extremely long and thorough judgment (apparently the judge had to deal with over 200 pages of skeleton argument and 14 bundles of authorities), Richards J. rejected the unions' arguments and held that the exceptions to the general prohibition on discrimination were lawful. The issues raised are quite fascinating, even extending to an invitation (which the judge refused!) to decide whether extracts from the Bible prohibit homosexuality (paras. 36-38).

The exceptions challenged were (in summary):

* reg 7(2): where being of a particular sexual orientation was a genuine and determining occupational requirement

* reg 7(3): where the employment is for the purpose of an organised religion, and either religious doctrine prohibits a particular sexual orientation, or appointment of the individual would offend the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers

* reg 20(3): admitting students into religious training, where the religion meets the conditions of reg 7(3)

* reg 25: nothing in the Regulations shall render unlawful anything which prevents or restricts access to a benefit by reference to marital status

I recommend that anyone dealing with the sexual orientation legislation read this decision: it involves detailed consideration of the policy behind the legislation and extensive construction of the various exceptions.