The ironically named Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK has decided that some humans are more human than other humans. GLBT folk can consider themselves less human than the more-human humans.
There is the case of Lillian Ladele, the Christian registrar who refused to perform civil partnerships and so was disciplined. And that of Gary McFarlane, the Christian relationship counsellor who was sacked for refusing to counsel gay couples. The EHRC has decided to back these people in the name of “reasonable” compromise.
But what these cases illustrate is that in certain areas compromise is not possible because the rights of different minorities are mutually exclusive. When one group refuses to fulfil its job description because it disapproves of another group, there is no middle ground, no give and take. Those responsible for judging the behaviour have to back one or the other. This is the roulette of human rights. You can’t put your chips on the black and the red.
I have to question the wisdom of seeking sex therapy from someone who has issues with other people’s sex lives, but that’s beside the point. The government (any government, not just the US or the UK) should not endorse discrimination without good reason, and “my two thousand year old Holy Book tells me to hate gays” is not good reason.
But the EHRC has decided that the rights of gays and lesbians can be suspended if they conflict with the “strongly held” beliefs of people providing services, even if those services are being provided on behalf of the government. Indeed, EHRC Chair Trevor Phillips misstated his Commission’s purpose:
“Our business is defending the believer,” the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chair Trevor Phillips said last month. “The law we’re here to implement recognises that a religious or belief identity is, for the majority of people in Britain, an essential element of being a fulfilled human being and plays an important part in our society.”
While the EHRC has “clarified” its position, asserting that it would not “condone or permit the refusal of public services to lesbian or gay people,” it has also stood by its decision to cater to religious people’s bigotry. This decision has far-reaching implications that range from the ridiculous to the dangerous.
The EHRC’s new policy may seem like simple anti-gay bigotry, but I suspect the Christians behind it have more ambitious aims. It would not surprise me in the least if the precedent set by the EHRC in these cases were to lead to the “right” of the religious in the UK to deny birth control, abortion, and other family planning services, as has been done in the US, with only lip service paid to the rights of those requiring the services.