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British Bill of Rights: LGBTQIA+ people's access to justice could get harder

British Bill of Rights: LGBTQIA+ people's access to justice could get harder

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
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TL;DR - Replacing the Human Rights Act with the Conservative-written 'Bill of Rights' looks set to make it harder for marginalised communities, like LGBTQIA+ folk, to access justice.

Brexit, we were told, would give us 'freedoms.' Freedoms the Government could have used to accelerate LGBTQIA+ rights. Instead, the Government has chosen to stall and reverse progress.

So when Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab this week unveiled his long-held plans to bring in a British Bill of Rights - human rights campaigners took a deep breath.

It's set to replace the Human Rights Act, in what some have described as a "rights removal". Raab argues it's all about breaking from Europe and making "common sense" changes to the law.

But criticism says the move will undermine human rights in the UK, in an apparent "power grab" that will make it harder for the courts to challenge the government.

What is the Human Rights Act?

It lets you defend your rights in UK courts and compels public organisations – including the government, police and local councils – to treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect. - Liberty

It also sets out that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is the final arbiter on human rights issues in the UK. It means after you get a ruling from the UK Supreme Court, you can appeal it in Europe. - The Know Daily

That's one of the key things the Government wants to change.

What will the Bill Of Rights do instead?

It would make the UK Supreme Court the last place you can take action. On the surface that sounds fine: British laws tested by British courts.

But it's the European Court of Human Rights where many LGBTQIA+ equalities have been protected and enshrined after UK courts failed to.

The Bill would also:

  • Restrict foreign-born people convicted of crimes being able argue their right to family life trumps public safety in a bid to prevent their removal from the UK.
  • Protect government plans to increase the use of separation centres for extremists in prisons from legal challenges based on the right to socialise.
  • Boost press freedom (or so the government claims) by introducing a stronger test for courts to consider before ordering journalists to disclose their sources  - HuffPost

Keep track of the fast-changing landscape in the UK - and how the Government is changing LGBTQIA+ people's rights with our free weekly newsletter

Analysis: What does this mean for LGBTQIA+ rights?

In this new bill’s policy paper, the government complains that the Human Rights Act is being used for “more and more purposes.”

As Open Britain wrote to its subscribers this week, "it's framed as if that’s a bad thing."

The Human Rights Act has allowed people to challenge their doctor’s “do not resuscitate” orders; it’s protected women from abusers and helped them seek justice; it’s underpinned the Good Friday Agreement maintaining peace in Northern Ireland - Open Britain

Brexit was all about ‘freedoms’. Freedoms that could have been used to accelerate LGBTQIA+ rights in the UK.

But without the protections European Union membership gave queer communities, we've seen the UK government roll back and slow down both trans and broader queer rights reforms.

It's seen us slide in international rankings and place alongside Russia, Hungary and Poland as countries where being queer is getting harder.

There is already opposition to this change by many different types of human rights organisations, pundits and campaigners.

It’s largely because they don't feel this administration has the trusted record needed to rewrite laws that underpin some of the most fundamental rights we've come to see as unchangeable.

As Roe vs Wade's reversal in the US this week shows us, rights granted - can very much be taken away.

If you’re looking to deep dive into the proposals and see what is and isn’t changing - this piece by the Public Law For Everyone project is a good (but an extensive) read.

Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

The right-wing press are giving the Government a free pass to make sweeping reforms that serve only those in power.

Without LGBTQIA+ voices in newsrooms, we'll never be able to change the narrative and make this country a place where our rights aren't in question again and again.

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