The European Court of Human Rights has today announced that it has rejected the applicants' request in Eweida and Others v the United Kingdom for referral to the Grand Chamber. This means that the Chamber judgement is now final.
In respect of the complaints brought by McFarlane (the 'Relate' counsellor who would not provide services to same-sex couples) and Ladele (the registrar who would not officiate at the registration of same-sex civil partnerships) the Court's judgment will be good news for gay men and lesbians and for the vast majority of Christians and other people of faith.
The Court has confirmed the UK's approach to reaching a fair balance between rights associated with sexual orientation and religious belief. It has determined that the UK's approach to equality - which is to not recognise a religious objection to homosexuality to be sufficient grounds to refuse to carry out aspects of public-facing work in both public and private sector organisations - is proportionate and does not not violate any Convention rights.
The Court's refusal to hear the case in Grand Chamber also repudiates the further use of the argument advanced by Judges Vučinić (Montenegro) and De Gaetno (Malta), as expressed in their Partly Dissenting Opinion, that a 'conscientious objection' to homosexuality (regardless of whether or not it is underpinned by religious belief) should be respected as a 'fundamental human right' and regarded as more important than 'gay rights'. The rejection of any development of this interpretation of Article 9 of the Convention - which effectively seeks to elevate bigotry and prejudice against sexual minorities above the fundamental rights of lesbians and gay men - is especially welcome.
The Court has also rejected the request by the state for referral to the Grand Chamber in X. v Turkey.
This is also good news. It confirms the Court's previous landmark decision, which extends the protection of Article 3 to sexual minorities.