Gay rights group confident of victory in tribunal over registration refusal

The Human Dignity Trust, which challenges criminalisation of private consensual sexual acts, appealed to the tribunal against a decision not to register it as a charity

Human Dignity Trust at the tribunal
Human Dignity Trust at the tribunal

The gay rights group the Human Dignity Trust has said it is confident the charity tribunal will overturn the Charity Commission’s decision not to register it as a charity after a hearing in Manchester, which starts today.

A spokeswoman for the HDT said that a judgment could come within a fortnight of the hearing, which is scheduled to last two days but might conclude today.

The organisation works to challenge "the legality of laws that criminalise private consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex, wherever those laws exist in the world", according to its website.

HDT originally applied for charitable status in July 2011, which was rejected by the regulator in June 2012.

The commission said in October 2013 that it had upheld its original decision after a review requested by the organisation. The trust then appealed against this decision to the tribunal.

In the 2013 decision, the commission said that it "recognises the aspirational and valuable philanthropic work" of the organisation, but that changing the law "cannot necessarily be seen as beneficial and therefore meeting the public benefit requirement".

As such, "both the existing and proposed purposes of the company allow in scope for non-charitable purposes to be furthered and are not exclusively charitable". The organisation had proposed making some changes to its purposes in order to facilitate gaining charitable status.

A statement from the HDT said: "It is in our view quite wrong that by protecting people from criminalisation simply because of part of their identity and whom they love, our activities are deemed not to serve a charitable purpose, particularly as we do so by seeking to uphold fundamental rights protected in law at both international and domestic level."

The charity said it might spend up to £40,000 on legal costs for its tribunal cases, although it had also "managed to secure substantial pro bono support".

Speaking in October 2013, William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, said: "I sympathise with the aims of the Human Dignity Trust and know that many people around the world will support its work to tackle discrimination. However, the commission’s role is to assess whether an organisation is charitable in law."

The commission was approached by Third Sector but declined to comment.

Sam Burne James recommends

Human Dignity Trust

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