08 July 2010

Confusing times

Once again, the coalition government has shamed Labour on a civil liberties issue. This time, the Supreme Court has found that the Borders Agency can't send gay asylum seekers back to a hostile country, with just a copy of George Michael's Guide to Acting Straight. It seems like an inevitable finding, if we accept that it is a basic human right to be openly gay. I think we pretty much accept that, don't we?

Even Theresa May, whose record on gay rights caused concern about her appointment as Home Secretary, has welcomed the finding  in a completely positive way.

I haven't dared to see what the Daily Mail makes of this. The Express has predictably splashed a scare of millions of gay darkies coming over here, drinking our brightly coloured cocktails, and the appalling folks at Migration Watch have said this is proof that the UK should set its own policies on asylum. By which they can only mean that capital punishment for sexual orientation is not as bad as capital punishment for political reasons.

Human rights codes have to be international, because national governments can't be trusted. They can pass laws that make all kinds of discrimination lawful, and only an international body, like the Council of Europe, can intervene.

Does the ruling mean there will be more successful asylum applications? Probably, but not to the extent the Express seems to believe. But that's a consequence of doing the right thing - acknowledging that persecution on grounds of sexuality is not really any different from persecution for any other reason.

And in the meantime, we need to pursue respect for human rights in those countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence or where homophobic crimes are tacitly allowed by the authorities. I think today Britain is in a better position to do that.

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