Public Order Act Amendments Confer Few Article 9 Protections

Proposed amendments to the Public Order Act aim to protect from prosecution, although perhaps not job loss, those who believe same-sex marriage to be contrary to public interest. These amendments highlight an important conceptual problem. In Eweida and Others v. UK four Christian applicants challenged employment tribunal decisions against them largely on Article 9 (freedom of belief) grounds. Although Nadia Eweida’s case in favour of wearing a small cross to work at British Airways was successful in the ECHR, three other applicants failed. In particular, Lillian Ladele lost her job as a registrar for failing to perform civil partnerships once the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 was enacted.

Maria Miller, Culture Secretary is preparing to amend the Public Order Act so it is ‘clear that people will be protected who want to express their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman’. The move is an attempt to address the catalogue of Convention incompatibilities that flow from any homosexual marriage legislation.

In the weeks that follow I aim to examine some of these logical consequences. The law and morality of homosexual orientation, acts and marriage will also be discussed. The Government’s amendment is expected to be confirmed by Lords whip Baroness Stowell during the committee stage of the Bill, which starts today.