By Hilary White

STRASBOURG, May 20, 2010 ( – Pro-family advocates at the Council of Europe have scored a victory with substantial changes of language to protect religious freedom of expression in a resolution on “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

On April 29, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted 51 to 25 to adopt Resolution 1728 (2010), which the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) had helped to delay until wording had been inserted to protect religious objections to homosexuality.

A report by the PACE committee on justice said that changes in European laws are needed to protect homosexuals from “bans on demonstrations, state intrusion into private life and unfair treatment at school or in the workplace.”

“Transgender people are refused gender reassignment treatment or told they cannot register their new gender,” said Andreas Gross of Switzerland’s Socialist Group in the report in January. The Draft Resolution, drafted by Gross, said that, “Sexual orientation, which covers heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, is a profound part of the identity of each and every human being.”

“Gender identity refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender. A transgender person is someone whose gender identity does not correspond to the gender he or she was assigned at birth.”

But the ECLJ criticized the Gross report, saying this kind of wording promotes “gender ideology” and implies a conflict between a “heterosexual majority” and a “homosexual minority.”

It “diminished and even threatened fundamental rights, such as the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion and conscience,” as well as the interest of children, said the group, which also charged that it interfered with the “sovereign interests” of states in their “right to protect public morality, family and the best interests of the child.”

Dr. Grégor Puppinck, Director of the ECLJ, argued, “The appropriate response to violence and unjust discrimination against LGBT people should not include eliminating moral pluralism.

“It is vital to protect and promote both free speech and freedom of religion in moral matters. More generally, the definition of the family should be maintained and the fundamental right to disagree with ‘LGBT ideology’ should to be protected.”

The ECLJ drafted amendments that were adopted into the final wording of the Resolution included guarantees that recognition of same-sex partnerings will not be forced on individual states. In addition, they ensure that so-called “hate speech” bans will include religious exemptions and will carry a recognition of freedom of expression.

Wording referring to the “right to marry and to found a family for transsexuals” was replaced by “relationship recognition, in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.”

Another ECLJ amendment removed the “right to adoption” of the children of a same-sex partner, replacing it with “provide the possibility for joint parental responsibility of each partner’s children,” while affirming the primacy of the interests of the child.

One complete paragraph was adopted into the Resolution stating, “Member states may grant exemptions to religious institutions and organisations when such institutions and organisations are either engaging in religious activities or when legal requirements conflict with tenets of religious belief and doctrine, or would require such institutions and organizations to forfeit any portion of their religious autonomy, and if such exemptions are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.”

The ECLJ notes that this religious exemption applies in all matters pertaining to religious speech, not only those surrounding homosexuality. An EU directive from 2000 already recognized an exemption status for “churches and other public or private organisations the ethos of which is based on religion or belief,” but only in regard to discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as regards employment and occupation.

The ECLJ cited as an example of the problems surrounding freedom of speech and “anti-discrimination” laws, the case of Dale Mcalpine, the UK evangelical street preacher who was arrested recently in Britain when he said that, according to the Bible, homosexual activity is a sin.