• Protecting the ‘rights of others’ in the UK: religious expression, reasonable accommodation and the real meaning of non-discrimination

      Yiannaros, Andreas C. (Tribunale di Bologna, 2017-03-01)
      Over the years, states have been developing and implementing legislation with the aim of protecting individuals against discrimination, inter alia, on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Recent developments have led to an expansion of the concept of ‘family’ to include same-sex couples and single parents and the progressive adjustment of the law with a view to extend parenthood rights to less ‘’traditional’ family forms. In terms of access to parenthood, objections of conscience may arise in relation to facilitating adoption by same-sex couples or single parent adoption, whereby religious objectors may feel that their professional duties are in direct conflict with the tenets of their religion. Conscientious objections have traditionally been expressed by persons whose beliefs are at odds with laws compelling them to carry out certain functions, such as facilitating adoptions in same-sex families or registering and officiating civil unions. The progressive legal recognition of alternative family unions and parenthood rights to non-traditional family forms on the one hand, and the manifestation of religious beliefs outside an individual’s forum internum1 on the other, can be described as an ‘explosive mix’ of conflicting rights and freedoms. In addition to national courts in the Council of Europe’s member states, the European Court of Human Rights has been exploring the scope and limits of the right of conscientious objection as a particular aspect of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. In the European context, the European Court of Human Rights has demonstrated through its jurisprudence that although a ‘human right’ to conscientious objection exists, this is not absolute, but subject to permissible limitations as found in Article 9(2) ECHR2 including the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.