Gay rights organisation refused charitable status will go to the charity tribunal

The Human Dignity Trust, which challenges the criminalisation of private consensual sexual activity, has been denied charitable status by the Charity Commission after a review

Human Dignity Trust
Human Dignity Trust

A homosexual rights organisation will appeal to the charity tribunal after an internal review by the Charity Commission upheld its decision not to register it as a charity.

The commission originally refused to register the Human Dignity Trust in June 2012, but the trust requested a decision review. The commission announced today that the review had upheld its original decision.

The trust, which applied for charity registration in July 2011, works to help groups and individuals challenge the legality of laws that criminalise private consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex, wherever those laws exist.

Jonathan Cooper, chief executive of the HDT, said it would appeal to the charity tribunal against the decision. "We are disappointed," he said. "The decision is contrary to the advice we have received from leading charity lawyers and we are appealing."

A summary of the commission’s decision said the regulator had originally decided that the HDT’s objects – to promote and protect human rights throughout the world – were not exclusively charitable and refused it registration.

A review of this decision, made after a request from the trust, concluded that HDT’s purposes were not exclusively charitable in law, the decision summary said.

"In addition, as its purpose is directed towards changing the law, it cannot meet the public benefit requirement for a charity," it said.

The principal activity of HDT, the summary said, was to bring legal proceedings in foreign jurisdictions or international courts in an attempt to clarify the law in cases where HDT thinks that legislation criminalising homosexuality goes against constitutional or international law.

The commission’s decision summary said that although the Charities Act 2011 recognised the promotion of human rights as a charitable purpose subject to the public benefit requirement being met, changing the law was not a charitable purpose in existing case law.

Commenting on the decision, William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, said that the regulator had to make its decision based on the law and not on "value judgements".

"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," he said.

"However, the commission’s role is to assess whether an organisation is charitable in law. We cannot and must not make our decisions based on value judgements about the merits of an organisation’s aims or activities."

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