Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Government should now withdraw from court case

Equality Rights Group GGR has today welcomed news that the EU will be introducing a new Directive prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services across many categories, including sexual orientation.

Chairman Felix Alvarez commented that “EU Commissioner Barroso had previously announced that only disability would be covered by this Directive. Under pressure from the European Parliament, which potentially threatened to refuse to approve any new Commission line-up, the original promise for a wide-ranging anti-discrimination Directive has now been announced. This will mean that shops, hotels, bars and others will no longer technically be able to turn anyone away on the basis of a range of important human categories. Gibraltar at this moment in time only protects people against this type of discrimination on the grounds of race.”

Alvarez further added that “Government must now seriously reconsider their policies. In particular, they should now step down from contesting the present Judicial Review case in which a Gibraltarian lesbian couple have been denied joint tenancy simply because they are gay. The new EU law will probably be in place in 4 or 5 years’ time. The provision of housing by Government is likely to be considered a ‘service’ under the Directive and a continuation of the Caruana Government’s present homophobic housing policy will be against the law. GGR will now be studying the effect that the pending illegality of discrimination in goods and services will have across a range of government policies in order to assess actions that may need to be taken.

“My question is this,” said Mr Alvarez, “how can Government justify continuing to throw taxpayers’ money down the drain in fighting a case they are almost guaranteed to lose one way or another? Surely the right and decent thing to do, not only for the gay community, but for the community in general, is to admit their error, change their policy and give this couple the joint tenancy they want. This would not only save the public a great deal of money, but it would also demonstrate that Government is capable of owning up to a mistake and to move on. GGR would certainly commend Government for such a stance, and without reproach. Messrs Caruana and Feetham should lead by example, and if the intended Legal Aid Reforms aim to cut back on unnecessary expense, then it makes no sense for Government to pursue an expensive case through the courts in the full knowledge it is destined to lose. What’s sauce for the citizen goose must be sauce for the government gander! It's time to act sensibly in the interests of the community and the taxpayer.”