As the Government launch their not-a-consultation on 'gay marriage', it transpires that even thefons et origo of the equality industry are washing their hands of the proposal. Judges in theEuropean Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg have said: "The European Convention on Human Rights does not require member states’ governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage."
BUT they warn (as everyone really knows and His Grace has been warning for years) that if same-sex unions became lawful, any church (and synagogue, mosque and gurdwara) that refuses to marry gay couples could be charged under existing anti-discrimination legislation, irrespective of any statutory exemptions. The judges said: "Where national legislation recognises registered partnerships between same sex, member states should aim to ensure that their legal status and their rights and obligations are equivalent to those of heterosexual couples in a similar situation."
Otherwise, of course, there is discrimination in the state, which is illegal. Ergo, the Coalition’s assurance that no religion will be compelled to conduct the weddings is worthless: Parliament will be forced to amend its legislation to conform to the judgement of the courts to which it is subject. We all know and fully understand that European law (that which emanates from both Strasbourg and Brussels) overrides any rule of national law found to be in conflict with any directly enforceable rule of European or EU law.
The European Court of Human Rights is not an institution of the European Union. It is a creation of the Council of Europe (again, not an EU body: it has 47 member states) and rules on disputes arising from the European Convention on Human Rights which was incorporated into UK law in the Human Rights Act 1998. In this sense, Strasbourg has nothing to do with Brussels. But the only remedy to the erosion of parliamentary sovereignty is to revisit both the European Communities Act 1972 and the Human Rights Act 1998. By the former was the sovereignty of Parliament fatally compromised, and by the latter was it made unlawful for any public body to act in a way which is incompatible with the ECHR. UK judges are now obliged to take account of the superior judgements of the Strasbourg court, even where they conflict with the Common Law, and to interpret UK legislation in a way which is compatible with the Convention.
So, perhaps the Prime Minister or Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone might care to clarify this point for us? Parliament insists that 'gay marriage' will not be imposed upon the religious; the European Court of Human Rights says that it will. Who is right? Who is telling the truth? Which opinion of law prevails?
Of course, we already know the answer to this question. The Coalition for Marriage (C4M - advertising above) are uniting Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and people of no faith to make it known that marriage - consisting of one man and one woman - is a respected institution, a sacred one, indeed, a sacrament, and its definition must be preserved. The consequences for religious liberty in the introduction of same-sex marriage are profoundly worrying and deeply dangerous.