So the UK Government through its Foreign Office is flexing, at last, its constitutional muscle! It has long been the view of this blogger that the 2006 Constitution is not a decolonizing constitution. Additionally, the referendum, to approve it, was not an act of self-determination. Both contrary to what the Chief Minister has always argued and would have us all believe. It is scary to think that our Chief Minister is so deluded in this belief. Support for the view of this blogger now comes in the form of comments and action by the Foreign Office on the issue of gay rights (see the previous blog).
Although the UK Government has stated (according to the Chronic) that all UKOTs, which includes Gibraltar, (in fact more so in its case because it is the only one in Europe, so it is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights) that discriminatory laws affecting gays and other discriminatory laws dealing with sexual behaviour cannot continue in Gibraltar. The UK Government will ensure, it seems, compliance by Gibraltar with international obligations. Rightly, it points out that constitutionally, external affairs is within its ambit of responsibility and control, which would include compliance with international obligations.
Although the Foreign Office remind UKOTs that it can legislate directly by Orders in Council, it seems to be allowing the Government of Gibraltar time to fulfill these obligations by enacting appropriate legislation in the Parliament of Gibraltar. Was this not the same as the threat of direct rule levied against the GSLP when they were in Government that was so criticised by the GSD and caused such a rumpus at the time? Will the GSD Government not be criticised now in equal measure for causing the circumstances that have led to such a retrograde step to be considered by the UK Government despite its proclamation that Gibraltar is no longer a colony? It seems that initially the Foreign Office have intervened in the proceedings before the Supreme Court (see the previous blog) to put its case and arguments. In this manner it is seen to act both politely and diplomatically.
What a farce all started by the Chief Minister and the Attorney General. They ask the Supreme Court to rule on a question, the answer to which is generally known. The answer given by European Case law (see the previous blog) is that discrimination is contrary to international obligations (the European Convention on Human Rights) and the 2006 Constitution, Chapter 1 of which is based on the Convention. What a farce that additionally the obvious is ignored, even when the UK government say that if the situation is not corrected by Gibraltar's Parliament, it will impose the law directly from London. Why do the Chief Minister and the Attorney General insist on wasting time and energy and misspending tax revenues (our money) on a pointless exercise?
The previous blog suggests that the GSD administration do not want to alienate the orthodox christian and jewish vote that it attracts by passing a law that commonplace in most developed democracies, which conversely is seen to be too progressive by many in Gibraltar. There may be a second (albeit subservient) reason,namely, that certain GSD Ministers cannot bring themselves to vote in favour of a law to end this type of discrimination because they hold similar orthodox religious views. Consequently an excuse that they have been forced into doing so by an order of the Supreme Court would be an ideal solution to both conundrums.
In truth, this is a superficial and badly conceived excuse. The compulsion to vote to end discrimination does not arise from any declaration made by the Supreme Court; that is simply a statement of existing law. It arises by the clear and unequivocal reality of the law. If that is not enough to mollify the conscience of those GSD Ministers then no order of any court can do so.
These Ministers need to decide between their Parliamentary duty and obligation and their personal moral principles and religious beliefs. Their parliamentary duty is to pass laws that do not discriminate. If that is irreconcilable with their principles and beliefs, is not resignation a path that they need to consider? The right path is not to misspend our money on a vacuous crusade seeking to be told by the Supreme Court what is so widely known already.