MEPs demand re-think on equality Directive

The European Parliament has called for sexual orientation and religion to be reinserted into a planned anti-discrimination Directive on the provision of goods and services.

In a report adopted by a majority of MEPs today the Parliament has demanded that the Commission acts against the wishes of those nation states who would rather resolve the issues at a national level.

Since last month the current intention of the Commission is to deal only with age and disability and drop sexual orientation and religion.

The Commission took this decision following pressure from the Governments of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Those nations are understood to prefer to deal with sensitive discrimination issues like homosexuality and Islam using their own domestic legislation.

But British Liberal Democrat MEP, Liz Lynne, has been at the forefront of a campaign to force sexual orientation and religion back into the draft Directive.

She said: “A new directive must cover discrimination in access to goods and services on all grounds that have not yet been covered under Article 13 legislation.

“It should cover disability, age, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Race and gender are already covered, as is employment.

“I regret that although the Commissioner made a commitment to a comprehensive directive in its work programme for 2008, there appears to be some backtracking on this and the Commission might only bring forward legislation on disability and nothing else. This is not acceptable.”

Laws similar to those called for by the European Parliament are already operating in the UK and have caused difficulties for faith-based groups seeking to protect their religious ethos.

Several Roman Catholic adoption agencies will face the axe in 2009 unless they break with church teaching and are prepared to place children with same-sex couples.

The inclusion of religion in a Directive on goods and services could also cause trouble for the religious liberty of Christians.

A number of Christian social projects in the UK have been denied public funds because they are deemed to be too Christian. Some public bodies have used religious equality policies as justification for this treatment.

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