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European Commission tells UK to change Equality Law

November 22nd, 2009 · 4 Comments · Equality, Religion

According to today’s Observer, the European Commission has told the UK Government that it must change a new Equality Law as the exemption proposed for Religious bodies contravenes ‘an EU directive prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation.’

The law allowed religious groups to discriminate against gay employees “so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers”.

Where does this leave Section 37 (i) of the Employment Equality Act in Ireland?

Section 37 (i) of the Employment Equality Act, 1998, 2004 states:

A religious, educational or medical institution which is under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes or whose objectives include the provision of services in an environment which promotes certain religious values shall not be taken to discriminate against a person for the purposes of this Part or Part II if—

a)    it gives more favorable treatment, on the religion ground, to an employee or a prospective employee over that person where it is reasonable to do so in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution, or

b)    it takes action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution.

Has the Commission examined the act? Whilst the section has yet to be interpreted by the Equality Tribunal or the courts, it is one of most contentious pieces of legislation amongst lesbians and gay men in Ireland. Especially amongst lgbt teachers.

And what of the religious groupings and their call for an amendment to Civil Partnership legislation to permit conscientious objection?


Ian in the comments has found the story saying that the European Commisison believes that the Employment Equality Act ethos opt-out by religious institutions is broad enough for the Commission to drop their objection.

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