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The mundane everyday usefulness of human rights laws

Liberty director Martha Spurrier talks to Jean-Yves Gilg about how the Human Rights Act has changed English law for the better

25 September 2017

It took five years for John Walker to secure equal pension rights for his husband but finally, this summer, the Supreme Court ruled in his favour, paving the way for thousands of same-sex couples in the same situation.

Walker’s former employer, chemicals group Innospec, had relied on a little-known exemption in the Equality Act that allowed employers to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. The former senior executive started court proceedings on his own until the Department for Work and Pensions intervened in the case in support of the company, prompting Liberty to get involved.

“Suddenly the state was nailing its colours to the mast, joining up with the corporation and saying ‘we believe this discriminatory provision should be allowed to continue’,” says Liberty director Martha Spurrier. “At that point it became a pu...

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