Non-recognition of same-sex couples breaches Article 8: Oliari & Ors v Italy

The Fourth Section ECtHR has held unanimously that the fact that under Italian law same-sex couples are unable to marry or enter into any other type of legally-recognised civil union violates Article 8 ECHR (private and family life).

In Italy same-sex couples are not allowed to contract marriage, as affirmed in the Constitutional Court judgment no. 138 of 15 April 2010, nor does domestic law provide for any alternative type of civil union, either for same-sex or for opposite-sex couples. In Oliari & Ors v Italy [2015] ECHR 716 the applicants complained that they were being discriminated against in breach both of Article 14 (discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 and of Article 12 (right to marry), taken on its own and in conjunction with Article 14.

Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 26th July

Parliament is in recess and cathedral choirs have begun their summer tours. Nevertheless there are plenty “quick links” as a respite from…

Laudato si’…

… which is apparently having a negative impact on the popularity ratings of Pope Francis.

Religion New Service reports that “growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once Teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favourability rating among all Americans dropping to 59 percent from a 76 percent peak early last year. Among conservatives, the drop-off has been especially sharp: Just 45 per cent view Francis favourably today, as opposed to 72 per cent a year ago. The commentator Art Swift has suggested “his decline may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and attributing climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives’ beliefs.”

Back in the UK, the BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environment analyst observes that Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has been criticised ahead of a climate speech. Whilst Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to lead the world to a climate change deal at a summit in Paris in November, Chancellor George Osborne has announced a slew of policy changes which will increase UK emissions: scrapping of subsidies for onshore wind and commercial solar — the two cheapest forms of clean energy; cutting the energy efficiency budget; ending the tax break for clean cars; abolishing rules on zero carbon housing; lowering taxes on polluting firms; and introducing a tax on clean energy.

These measures will impact on the Church of England in relation to measures for the reduction of its own carbon footprint, and also its investment decisions. More widely, critics have said that previously the UK Climate Change Act has been regarded as a world-leading climate policy but that accolade is now seriously in doubt — if a country as rich as the UK finds clean energy unaffordable, what hope is there for most of the rest of the world?

In the courts

There were three important judgments this week: Continue reading

Reforming Religious Courts: A Comparison of Two Bills

The recently-published Religion and Legal Pluralism, edited by Russell Sandberg, explores how religious laws are already accommodated under English law, particular issues that arise and their theoretical analyses that explore the extent to which religious legal systems should be recognised. In this post Russell explores the call for legal reform and two possible approaches.


The last few years have seen much concern expressed about the functioning of religious courts – or, to be more precise, we have seen a fear of sharia. The hyperbolic reaction to the erudite lecture on “Religious and Civil Law in England” in February 2008 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, highlighted not only how controversial the subject was but also the extent of our ignorance.

Concerns about religious courts have arisen in many Western States and with increased frequency. The most recent example was in March 2015, when the Home Secretary Theresa May spoke of “examples of sharia law being used to discriminate against women” but then went on to concede that “we know we have a problem, but we do not yet know the full extent of the problem”, calling for an independent investigator to be appointed – which is yet to occur.

Baroness Cox’s Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill

Baroness Cox has been one of the most persistent campaigners for reform. She first introduced her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill into the House of Lords in June 2011. And four years on, a slightly amended Bill has been tabled again for a first reading. Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 12th July

A week dominated by the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings and the Summer Budget, but with a smattering of law and religion news

7/7 remembered

Reports on services held to remember the London bombings a decade ago were summarized in the CofE’s Daily Digest; the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a forward-looking statement linking the events of 7/7 with the much more recent shootings in Tunisia; and a minute’s silence was observed as survivors and relatives of the victims gathered at St Paul’s Cathedral. Notable amongst the blog comments were the 7/7 Reflections of John Valentine, Rector of St George’s Church, Queen Square, one of the few to give a first-hand account of events around the bombings.

Equally poignant were the #WalkTogether trends on Twitter, created by think-tank British Future along with 15 interfaith groups including the Islamic Society of Britain, Amnesty International UK, City Sikhs and St John Ambulance. Commuters were encouraged to finish their journey one stop early and walk the remainder of the way to work. In addition to remembering those killed and injured on 7/7, it was a demonstration of solidarity between commuters, recalling the post-bombing events in which those of us leaving the carnage and darkness of the bombed trains continued on foot in the bright sunlight of a virtually traffic-free London.

On a more analytical level, the British Religion in Numbers post Ten years on summarized seven new pieces of research touching on inter-religious relations in Britain ten years on from the London bombings on 7 July 2005 and in the aftermath of the recent Islamist massacre of British tourists in Tunisia.

The Trinity Western saga continues

On 2 July the Divisional Court of Ontario handed down judgment in Trinity Western University v The Law Society of Upper Canada 2015 ONSC 4250. The Court dismissed the application for judicial review of the Law Society’s decision not to accredit TWU’s law school. Continue reading

Obergefell v Hodges: legal analyses

Legal analyses of the recent US judgment in Obergefell v Hodges on same-sex marriage

Our recent weekly round-up reported that last week, the US Supreme Court handed down judgment in Obergefell v Hodges 576 US ___ (2015), and by five votes to four, the Court held that the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment oblige all states to provide for same-sex marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages granted in other states. The majority conclusion was: Continue reading

Archbishop of Canterbury response to US Episcopal Church Resolution on Marriage

The Anglican Communion News Service, (ACNS), reports that Lambeth Palace has issued the following statement following the US Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops’ resolution to change the definition of marriage.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury today expressed deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion following the US Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops’ resolution to change the definition of marriage in the canons so that any reference to marriage as between a man and a woman is removed. Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 28th June

As we continued to digest Laudato si’, there were landmark rulings on same-sex marriage in the US and on national CO2 reduction targets in the Netherlands

Same-sex marriage and SCOTUS

On Friday the US Supreme Court handed down judgment in Obergefell v Hodges 576 US ___ (2015).

By five votes to four (Kennedy, Bader Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan JJ: Roberts CJ, Scalia, Thomas and Alito JJ dissenting) the Court held that the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment oblige all states to provide for same-sex marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages granted in other states. Religion Clause has helpful short summaries of both the majority opinion delivered by Kennedy J and the dissents. The majority concludes:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.” Continue reading