COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Stonewall calls for test cases to aid law repeal

KIRSTEN DOWNER

Three major campaigns kick off later this year aiming to change key parts of British law which discriminate against gay and lesbian people.

Gay charity Stonewall is working on the repeal of Section 28, the abolition of the crime of Gross Indecency and partnership rights for gay couples.

It has asked members to help them lever support with politicians and the media by coming forward to tell their stories of discrimination.

Over the summer the charity has gathered a case load of 20 to 30 people all with different experiences of discrimination, some at work and some over succession of property or inheritance following the death of a partner.

These will be used to provide a more accurate picture of discrimination across the country, said Sacha Deshmukh, Stonewall's director of parliamentary affairs.

"This can help to ensure that opinion formers understand the type of discrimination people experience, such as with pensions. Most public sector schemes will allow the surviving spouse to inherit the pension, but not the unmarried spouse."

In addition, Stonewall is getting involved in a test case on behalf of Juan Mendoza, whose case goes before the court of appeal this month. Following the death of his partner last year, Mr Mendoza faces eviction from his flat in West London because landlords deny his relationship and say he has no legal rights to succeed the tenancy.

Stonewall hopes to use the Human Rights Act to persuade the court to recognise same-sex relationships, and its legal advisors are confident of winning, says the charity.

If the case does succeed, said executive director Angela Mason, "not only will Juan have won the right to stay in his own home but this will also challenge many other areas of the law that refuse to recognise same-sex relationships".

Stonewall has used test cases before to successfully change the law.

Last year a test case equalised the age of consent and in 1998 test cases forced the Government to lift the ban on gay people in the armed forces.

Stonewall is feeding into a current cross-departmental government review of partnership legislation and has been heartened by a recent publication from the law commission recommending that same-sex relationships be recognised within the housing and property sector, said a spokesman.

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