Equality Clause - Conor Gearty's challenge


1.       All persons shall be equal before the law.

2.       The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this constitution shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, sexual orientation, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.




edited on Mar 23, 2015 by Noita Sadler

ConstitutionUK Apr 10, 2015

This idea is similar to John from Jersry's idea here: https://constitutionuk.com/post/81185

The idea above is an equality clause, and is not limited by citizenship. 

Please vote on one or other of these ideas so we can decide which idea makes it through to the constitutional convention.  



John Z Apr 10, 2015

My concern of expanding this to ALL persons is that it may include those in the UK illegally.  Perhaps a compromise is only those with "legal residency".

Tom Austin Apr 11, 2015

I think the proposal should stand as-is.

An illegal immigrant should have the same standing before the Law as anybody else, their particular status would result is a separate charge - that in itself may vary their right to bail.

Rob G Apr 11, 2015

I agree - if we're equal before the law, we all have the "right" to have our actions judged according to the law. If our actions mean we have broken (or even, not complied with) the law, recognising that is not discrimination.

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Rob G Apr 10, 2015

I think this would benefit from having at least two specific provisions:

1. To enable differential treatment between citizens and non-citizens. There's a proposal on extending the franchise to residents of over 5 years, but that still leaves citizens with a right to vote in other circumstances.

2. To enable differential treatment on the grounds of age. There are several other proposals seeking to protect the rights of children, and I think they would complement this quite nicely. But we do have minimum ages for certain activities (including drawing a pension) and I think that's right in principle (even if we can argue about what those ages should be).

3. Was there not mention in the previous stage of the need to expressly include disability in the list of protected characteristics? (Or was that in another similar proposal?)

Other than those, I'm not sure about "political or other opinion" in all cases. This provision isn't qualified, so wouldn't seem to permit associations to exclude those with views inimical to their own (fascists seeking to join trade unions, for instance; perhaps Militant seeking to join Labour...).

BananaPlant Apr 11, 2015

"To enable differential treatment between citizens and non-citizens".  

I agree with that.

Tom Austin Apr 11, 2015

"interesting" ;-)

While I would rather there be no right to vote in national elections for non-citizens, ALL people merit utter equality before the law. I would not wish for 'privilege' to re-enter the Constitution by the back door.

BananaPlant Apr 11, 2015

Hi Tom,

It is difficult because this country is over crowded as it is, to treat everyone equal in this context will invite more illegal immigration then how are you going to solve it?

Tom Austin Apr 11, 2015

I am ever hopeful of avoiding current Politics here, but it's difficult, I appreciate that.

However, we are NOT overcrowded here in the UK [1] To single-out 'illegals' is to encourage slavery. [2]

Rob G Apr 11, 2015

Citizenship brings other rights - consular assistance, etc.,- so I think it would be worthwhile even if the right to vote is extended to encompass all residents.

Tom Austin Apr 11, 2015

All well and good, if one is in foreign parts. What about here at home;housing, benefits, right to stand in an election?

I'm still wary of the 5+ years residence, but that's just me.

Rob G Apr 11, 2015

I don't think a constitution should be prescribing precisely how people should be housed or supported, so in "my" constitution, it wouldn't be an issue ;)

I think it makes sense to have the same qualifications for voting and standing in elections, but I guess there's actually no reason why they should. I'd imagine the qualification for standing should always be tougher than for voting...

Rob G Apr 11, 2015

On (1), I should clarify that the source of my concern is that without an explicit mention of citizenship, "national or social origin" could be deemed to exclude the ability to distinguish on the basis of citizenship. I'm not looking to add a blanket exemption, but a recognition that certain rights and obligations are so intrinsically part of citizenship that they may be limited to that part of society. I've mentioned voting and consular access here, there's a debate on another idea about the extent to which British law should apply overseas - one example is that British citizens can be tried here for murders they commit abroad.

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Tom Austin Apr 11, 2015


3. As it is written, "without discrimination on any ground". Is surely broad enough? The point, "or other status." Seems to be all-inclusive, yet allow for the law, over time, to reflect current thinking.

There may be many grounds for expulsion from an 'association' - actions, of one sort or another. "Agents provocateur", would, no doubt, sow the seeds of their own downfall.

Rob G Apr 11, 2015

On 3, Yes, probably. The point is that this is a sizable group, known to have experienced significant amounts of discrimination, and one that deserves to be explicitly recognised in a statement of values such as this.

Tom Austin Apr 11, 2015

"It's a sizable group", that is an understatement, all the more so if it were given specific mention. Would we not then have to offer some definition of 'disability'?

Might we end-up with 'left-handedness' being argued to be a disability under the modified provision?

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JimF Apr 18, 2015

It is a legal principle in this country that if a provision of law lists examples, as this proposal does, then it is restricted to those points listed. I would like to see the list of examples omitted, so that any irrational discrimination is excluded. To give an example, as worded, age discrimination would not be prohibited, and I'm sure there are others.