Dr Alice Donald and Dr Erica Howard

Diversity: but what about clashing rights? Freedom of religion or belief and equality for LGBT people

Abstract:

Diversity is about treating everyone fairly regardless of a number of characteristics including religion and sexual orientation. But the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation can come into (apparent) conflict with the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination on the ground of religion or belief. In recent years, there have been legal cases about people refusing to do part of their job because they do not want to work with homosexual people because they believe that homosexuality is against God’s law, for example marriage registrars who do not want to perform civil partnership or marriage ceremonies between same-sex people.

How can such a situation of apparent conflict be avoided? In this presentation we will propose a framework for the practical resolution of these situations of apparent conflict, based on international human rights law and case law. We will also propose some ground rules for negotiating a practical solution. These human rights based principles should be used not only within courts and tribunals but also in the wider public sphere, for example by universities, where an apparent conflict might arise. Conflicts should, wherever possible, be solved before they reach the courts because litigation tends to magnify underlying tensions and differences and puts parties in opposite corners each stressing their own identities or characteristics.

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