2.3 A current issue: conflicting rights
A recurrent issue for the law is how to balance conflicting rights. One of the main areas where this currently arises in relation to the legal treatment of homosexuals is in relation to the balance between their rights and the rights of those whose religious, or other strongly held, beliefs potentially conflict with the rights of homosexuals. A recent legal case which attracted considerable media interest was the dispute between a Christian couple and a gay couple who wanted to stay at the Christian couple’s bed and breakfast establishment (B&B).
Activity 8: Gay rights versus religious rights
Watch ‘’ (BBC News, 2012).
In the video you heard from the gay couple, John Morgan and Michael Black; you also heard the views of Mike Judge from the Christian Institute.
Do you think that the court achieved the appropriate balance between the rights of the couple and the rights of the B&B owners?
Give reasons for your answer.
In giving reasons consider whether:
- religious beliefs should also be viewed as more important than the right not to be discriminated against, or
- the right not to be discriminated against should always be viewed as more important than religious beliefs, or
- cases should be decided on their facts and that sometimes where rights conflict (in cases such as this one) respecting religious beliefs should be the main concern of the law, while sometimes it should be protecting people from discrimination.
If you chose option 3, you should explain what principles should be adopted to decide which option should be followed.