Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Supplementary evidence submitted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (MB 99)

Evidence session on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Dear Jim Shannon MP

I am writing following the oral evidence session on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on 14 February 2013. In this session, you asked some specific questions about the Equality and Human Rights Commission of our General Counsel, John Wadham. I am writing now as requested to respond to these questions.

First, you asked how many times the Commission has supported a claim brought by a traditional Christian, and how many cases the Commission has pursued against traditional Christians.

We are not clear how we would define 'traditional Christians' to respond fully to your question. Such distinctions are quite difficult to draw, and we do not classify our legal work on this basis. Hence it is not possible to give you a precise answer.

However, since 2007, using our powers under section 28 of the Equality Act 2006, the Commission has supported eleven cases that involve religion or belief as a protected characteristic.

These cases are:

· Farooq v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis

· Jimale and others v Royal Mail

· Vanttinen-Newton v DEO Group Ltd

· Guled and Omar v Royal Mail

· Iqbal v The Ministry of Justice

· Moncada v Stansted Airport

· Coleman v Embassy Court Residential Management Company Ltd

· Panesar v Kohli Properties

· Kiani v The Home Office

· Chatwal v Wandsworth Borough Council

· Cherfi v G4S

In addition, the Commission may apply to become a party to legal proceedings involving equality or human rights issues, typically to advise the court on matters within its expertise. To date, the Commission has intervened in 119 legal proceedings. Some of these have involved more than one equality strand, including religion or belief, and human rights.

Cases specifically on the grounds of religion or belief have included:

· In 2011, the Commission submitted an intervention to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on four cases relating to alleged religious discrimination in the workplace. In two cases - Eweida and Chaplin - the Commission submitted that the Courts may not have given sufficient weight to Article 9(2) (freedom of religion). In two other cases - Ladele and Mcfarlane - we submitted that the domestic courts came to the correct conclusions. In January 2013 the ECtHR ruling agreed with our conclusions.

· In 2010, the Commission intervened in the case of a couple being charged an additional fee for marrying in a Roman Catholic church, due to their immigration status. The Commission submitted to the ECtHR that the scheme, as a blanket ban on marrying anywhere other than a Church of England, unfairly discriminated on the grounds of religion. The ECtHR agreed the scheme was discriminatory.

· The case of Christian minister who had his voluntary position as a radio presenter on Asian station taken away. We argued that volunteers should be protected from discrimination, including discrimination on grounds of religion and belief.

Second, you asked for details of organisations the Commission has funded through its grants programme. Following a government decision, the Commission no longer operates a grants programme. Details of grant recipients and amounts from 2007 to 2013 are set out on the attached documentation. In summary:

· In 2007 to 2008 we funded 118 organisations;

· In 2008 to 2009 we funded 308 organisations;

· In 2010 to 2013 we funded 61 organisations.

I hope this is helpful. If it would be useful to you I would of course be glad to meet up at any stage to talk further about the Commission's work.

March 2013

Prepared 8th March 2013