UK unions lose case on faith and workers' equality rules
April 28, 2004
LONDON — The High Court upheld Britain's equality laws for workers
Monday, disappointing trade unions that argue the rules fail to
protect lesbian and gay workers from discrimination by
Justice David Richards rebutted argument from the unions that
2003 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations are
incompatible with European law.
"To treat the regulations as reducing the level of protection
(from sex discrimination) seems to me to require a distorted view
of their effect," Richards said.
The laws were introduced in Britain to give effect to a 2000
European Council Directive that provided guidelines for equal
treatment for workers, including the prevention of discrimination
relating to sexual orientation.
Lawyers acting for seven unions – representing around 2 million
workers and led by the Trades Union Council – argued that the
British laws had failed to give full effect to the guidelines, and
that they allowed employers to exclude same-sex couples from
pension and benefits rights enjoyed by heterosexual married
The laws were therefore "incompatible" with Britain's European
Community law obligations and the European Convention on Human
Rights, they claimed.
Christian groups, including the Evangelical Alliance and the
Christian Schools Trust, intervened to resist the union challenge,
which was brought against Trade and Industry Minister Patricia
Evangelical groups, who believe homosexuality is contrary to
scripture, argued that Christian organizations had the right to
decide their own policies regarding the employment of gays as
clerics and as teachers in faith schools.
Richards, noting the importance of the case, gave the unions
permission to appeal his decision in the Court of Appeal.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress,
said the unions would consult with their legal teams over the next
"The judgment is very disappointing," Barber said. "The unions
took the case because they believe that a very important issue was
at stake and that no one should be treated differently at work
because of their sexuality." – Sapa-AP
Anti-gay UK 'Section 28' law scrapped [19/09/2003]