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EU court battle rules for gay people
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled religious beliefs may not justify opposing the rights of gay couples. The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights has welcomed the news and said religious beliefs should never be used to the detriment of others.
Four Christians tried to appeal rulings made by British courts at the Strasbourg court but only two were related to refusing services to gay people. In the first case, a civil registrar in London was fired for refusing to officiate a civil ceremony for a gay couple because of her religion. The second case involved a counsellor who provided psycho-sexual therapy to couples but refused to work with a gay couple and argued it was incompatible with his beliefs. The court voted unanimously against the second case but voted 5-2 against the first.
In a statement, it said the British courts had struck a fair balance when they upheld the employers’ decision and said the employers were pursuing a policy of non-discrimination. Intergroup co-president Michael Cashman MEP (pictured below) said British law rightly protect LGBT people from discrimination, and there is no exemption for religious believers.
Intergroup vice-president Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP said religious freedom had no grounds for an exemption from discrimination laws.
“With this ruling, the court has established that freedom of religion is an individual right. It is emphatically not a collective right to discriminate against LGBT people, women, or people of another faith or life stance,” she said.
“Religious freedom is no ground for exemption from the law. The court showed conclusively that the principle of equality and equal treatment cannot be circumvented with a simple reference to religion.”