Thursday, 24 June 2010

A lost opportunity

From the European Court of Human rights has recently ruled on a case.

The case of Schalk and Kopf v Austria that challenged the ban on same sex marriage.

It hinged on 3 rights in the convention

Article 12 (Right to Marry) and Article 14 (Anti-Discrimination) combined with Article 8 (Right to Family life).

I desperately wanted this - if they had ruled in our favour it would have been huge. It would have been an uneqivocal ruling that, yes, we had a right to marriage, yes, our families are equal to straight families and no, discrimination against gay people is not ok. A ruling from the European Court of Human Rights

And while this ruling isn’t quite saying all those things are not true (well not quite… the decision on Article 12 pretty much says it isn‘t)… it’s also not saying they are. And that’s a depressing statement to come from the court. They had an opportunity to confirm that we the right to marriage included us, that the right not to be discriminated against truly included us (and that discrimination against us was not acceptable) and that our families truly had value.

And they didn’t take it. In fact, with all three they have undermined us pretty badly.

It would have been a powerful statement. Instead… we have another statement. And I hope this non-statement isn’t equally powerful.

And as to how powerful the statement would be? The rulings of the ECHR are binding (well for a given nature of binding – and by that I mean “when they feel like it“ but that may be cynical cynical me. Well, cynical and accurate me.) on it signatories. And it’s signatories? Well here’s a map It would have meant something. It would have been big. It would have been important.

Of course, it’s probably because it meant something that the judges were unwilling to make the ruling. But, on the bright side, it was 4 votes to 3. One judge, one judge leaning towards actual justice and who knows where we would be tomorrow.