The case concerned age discrimination in the provision of certain welfare benefits to widows and widowers. However, the case was is notable as it contains significant discussions regarding the validity of equality right claims. In particular the Court made strong pronouncements that the principle of non-discrimination towards marginalised groups and individuals is integral to human dignity.
The case concerned legal restrictions on the Nigerian press following a coup d’état and the annulment of elections. The decision is important as the African Commission on Human & Peoples' Rights made it clear that international obligations took precedence over domestic law and warned against undermining fundamental rights. The Commission expressed the view that any restrictions on rights must be proportionate, reasonable and evidence-based, and should not be such that they render the right illusory. It also warned against using the law to target specific individuals or groups.
The Constitutional Court confirmed an order made by the Witwatersrand High Court that the common law offence of sodomy, the inclusion of sodomy in schedules to certain Acts of Parliament, and a section of the Sexual Offences Act which prohibited sexual conduct between men in certain circumstances, were all unconstitutional. The Court found that all these offences violated the right to equality and the constitutional right to privacy.
The applicant, Vriend, was a gay man whose employment contract was terminated after his employer adopted a position statement stating that homosexuality was contrary to its religious mandate. After an unsuccessful complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Board, Vriend appealed the decision on the basis that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was an unjustified violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court held that sexual orientation was indeed a prohibited ground of discrimination and that IRPA should be interpreted as such.
The US Supreme Court struck down a state constitutional amendment that had the effect of removing gay men and lesbian women from the protection of antidiscrimination laws. Although the state argued that the amendment was a ‘reasonable effort to preserve traditional American moral values’, the Court concluded that ‘If the constitutional conception of “equal protection of the laws” means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare [...] desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate government interest.’
The European Court of Justice case concerned the interpretation of a Community Directive prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. The Court held that the Directive prohibited dismissal from employment on the basis of a person’s gender identity, stating that ‘to tolerate such discrimination would be tantamount, as regards such a person, to a failure to respect the dignity and freedom to which he or she is entitled, and which the Court has a duty to safeguard’.