Creating a fairer Britain
19 August 2010
“Any charity that intends to exclude a specific group of people from the services or benefits it provides has to be able to show that this unequal treatment is justified for very strong reasons.
"The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in this case to argue that an organisation cannot be registered as a charity and receive benefits such as tax relief, unless it acts in the public benefit. A charity should also comply with the Human Rights Act which outlaws discrimination.
"We are pleased that both the High Court and Charity Commission accepted our arguments when coming to their decision. The law is carefully weighted to balance the rights of organisations such as religious charities and the rights of minority groups such as those with a particular sexual orientation. We believe the outcome in this case helps reinforce that balance."
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The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a power to intervene in legal proceedings to promote and protect equality and human rights. It does this impartially and doesn't take sides. Its job is to try to help the court make the best possible decision, advising the court on the law, international human rights and equality treaties and relevant evidence research and factual context. It takes a strategic approach when deciding whether or not to intervene, selecting cases where it can use its expertise to clarify or encourage an important element of the law. Such cases generally involve serious matters of public policy, legal interpretation or general public concern. The outcome of these cases often has a wide impact as they set precedents to be followed by the lower courts.
Section 18 of The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 refers to the obligations of charities. Specifically:
(1) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a person to provide benefits only to persons of a particular sexual orientation, if —
(a) he acts in pursuance of a charitable instrument, and
(b) the restriction of benefits to persons of that sexual orientation is imposed by reason of or on the grounds of the provisions of the charitable instrument.
(2) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for the Charity Commission for England and Wales or the holder of the office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to exercise a function in relation to a charity in a manner which appears to the Commission or to the holder to be expedient in the interests of the charity, having regard to the provisions of the charitable instrument.
(3) In this regulation —
(a) means an instrument establishing or governing a charity, and
(b) includes a charitable instrument made before these Regulations come into force; and
(a) in relation to England and Wales, has the meaning given by the Charities Act 2006,
(b) in relation to Scotland, means a body entered in the Scottish Charity Register.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.