EU drops ‘sexual orientation’ from discrimination directive

Plans to introduce sweeping anti-discrimination laws across Europe which could have threatened UK religious liberties have been dropped because some countries do not want them.

Germany is among those countries which have indicated that they will oppose a EU directive that would force all member states to put in place laws against discrimination on grounds of age, disability, religion and belief and sexual orientation.

The European Commission has now dropped all of the grounds apart from disability from the plans, because the directive cannot be passed unless there is consensus among all member states.

The directive, as originally proposed, could have meant changes to the UK’s controversial Sexual Orientation Regulations that would have made them even more of a threat to religious liberty.

If passed by the European Parliament, the planned directive would have introduced a framework of anti-discrimination law that all European member states would have put into practice through new laws in their own countries.

There were concerns that the directive might have contained a ‘harassment’ provision, which the UK Government would have had to insert into the existing Sexual Orientation Regulations in order to comply.

The High Court deleted a similar ‘harassment’ provision from Northern Ireland’s version of the Regulations last year after a judicial review launched by The Christian Institute.

The judge said the provision was, amongst other things, a threat to free speech. The Regulations for the rest of the UK do not contain a harassment provision.

Although the European Commission has now dropped all grounds except disability from its proposal, it has made it clear that it wishes to introduce a directive covering sexual orientation at some point. For now, it says, it will only issue recommendations on the issue.

A British MEP, Michael Cashman, told the BBC’s “Europe: The Record” programme that he had been assured by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, that the UK supported the original directive.

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