Human Rights are Fundamental

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2007 National LGBT Conference
10 September 2007

Conference notes that:

1. A well-defined Human Rights charter defines the basic principles of a fair, democratic and decent society. In that sense the Human Rights Act has had some success in providing a foundation for greater equality in the United Kingdom (UK).

2.These principles often come under attack from many sources, who find it easy to “blame” the Human Rights Act when decisions they do not like are taken. These attacks are rarely challenged with the same vigour, and there is a danger that this allows opponents of Human Rights to undermine the purpose and impact they have;

3.A variety of faith and political groups seek to demand exemptions from compliance with the Human Rights Act and associated legislation on the grounds of their belief or moral code. Some even threaten elected politicians with action or with a denial of membership of their group(s) because such politicians recognise and support human rights, be this for example relating to adoption by same-sex couples, recognition of unmarried couples or to abortion;

4.More recently people challenging Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality provisions have tried to stress the right under article 9 of the European Human Rights Convention to manifest a religion or a belief and referring therefore to a so-called ‘clash of rights’, whilst failing to recognise that this particular freedom sometimes has to be subject to limitations for “the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Conference believes that:

A.Human Rights must work in a framework where there is a balance of rights for individuals, for different groups and for society as a whole and that the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights achieve this in the way they are framed and implemented. It is important that these rights provide protection for a person’s belief or faith. It would be wrong for those of us who disagree with such faiths to deny that right, and in challenging beliefs of such faiths we do not seek to deny that basic fundamental human right;

B.It is important to recognise the supremacy of such Human Rights over the often differing, and sometimes contradictory, codes adopted by political and faith groups, and that when any such groups seek to put their codes ahead of Human Rights this is vigorously challenged;

C.In the UK we elect politicians to represent their electorate, based on the political manifesto from which they seek election. It is therefore wrong for any group to call for action to intimidate or harass politicians for carrying out their pledge to the electorate on Human Rights when this happens to be at odds with their moral code;

D.It is a civic duty to protect, defend and extend human rights and a human rights culture at all levels of society.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council (NEC):

I.To continue to promote understanding and use of Human Rights as an essential principle in defending the rights of our members and an important tool for trade unionists and groups facing discrimination to challenge inequality and injustice;

II.To explore further ways of promoting the use of Human Rights principles and standards as a tool for promoting equality and improving public services and to address issues of discrimination, for example instances of discrimination towards LGBT people;

III.Through our links to the general and affiliated political fund structures to continue to lobby both inside and outside of the Labour Party for the continued recognition of the importance of the Human Rights Act and to vigorously oppose attempts to weaken this;

IV. Work with Self Organised Groups to promote awareness of groups working to defend human rights in the context of service delivery, for example the British Institute for Human Rights and to affiliate to such groups where appropriate.

Conference further notes discussions regarding concerning a UK Bill of Rights and believes this presents an opportunity to go beyond the protections in the European Convention, but also a risk of diluting the rights we already enjoy.

Conference believes that any future ‘Bill of Rights’ must:

a.Meet the standards already set by the European Convention as well as those set by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;

b.Include a freestanding non-discrimination clause such as contained in Protocol 12 to the European Convention;

c.Be explicit in its inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as well as disability and age.