Jamie Doward reports in today’s Observer:
The government is being forced by the European commission to rip up controversial exemptions that allow church bodies to refuse to employ homosexual staff.
It has emerged that the commission wrote to the government last week raising concerns that the UK had incorrectly implemented an EU directive prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation.
The ruling follows a complaint from the National Secular Society, which argued that the opt-outs went further than was permitted under the directive and had created “illegal discrimination against homosexuals”.
The commission agreed. A “reasoned opinion” by its lawyers informs the government that its “exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive”.
The highly unusual move means that the government now has no choice but to redraft anti-discrimination laws, which is likely to prompt a furore among church groups.
According to an EU press release, found via eumonitor.net:
Employment equality rules: reasoned opinion to the UK; case closed for Slovakia
The European Commission has today sent a reasoned opinion to the United Kingdom for incorrectly implementing EU rules prohibiting discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in employment and occupation (Directive 2000/78/EC, see also MEMO/08/69 ). It has also decided to close infringement proceedings concerning the same Directive against Slovakia as their national legislation has been brought into line with EU requirements.
“Tackling all forms of discrimination – especially at work – has been a priority for this Commission and for me personally. Our legal action has led to better protection against discrimination in workplaces across the EU,” said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla. “We call on the UK Government to make the necessary changes to its anti-discrimination legislation as soon as possible so as to fully comply with the EU rules. In this context, we welcome the proposed Equality Bill and hope that it will come into force quickly,” he added.
In the reasoned opinion sent to the United Kingdom, the Commission pointed out that:
- there is no clear ban on ‘instruction to discriminate’ in national law and no clear appeals procedure in the case of disabled people;
- exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive.
There’s a response to this news item at Cranmer EU forces Government to put gay equality over Christian conscience.