Article 14: No discrimination

We shouldn’t be treated unfairly or differently – or denied our rights – because of our gender, age, race, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or anything else.

Article 14 of the Human Rights Act means there must be no discrimination when applying the other protections in the Act, on any grounds.

This includes grounds such as:

  • sex
  • race
  • colour
  • language
  • religion
  • political or other opinion
  • national or social origin
  • association with a national minority
  • property
  • birth
  • or any other status which would include sexual orientation, gender identity/reassignment status, marital status, pregnancy or maternity status or disability.

Article 14 does not provide for a free-standing right to non-discrimination, but requires that people are able to secure all other rights in the Convention without discrimination. 

Discrimination happens when a public authority, policy, practice or person:

  • treats a person less favourably than others in similar situations on the basis of a particular characteristic
  • fails to treat people differently when they are in significantly different situations, or
  • applies apparently neutral policies in a way that has a disproportionate impact on individuals or groups.

Not all discrimination is unlawful – but for discrimination or unequal treatment to be found to be lawful, there must be weighty and objectively justifiable reasons.

JM’s story

Liberty’s client – known as JM – had been required to pay more in child support because her lesbian relationship was not recognised under rules that resulted in people in heterosexual relationships paying less. 

JM’s payments were calculated in September 2001. Under the rules in force at the time, the housing costs of a heterosexual couple were treated as a shared expense.

Because they were a same-sex couple, JM and her partner’s joint housing costs were apportioned between them. This meant that JM paid more in child support than she would have done had she been in a heterosexual relationship

Overturning a House of Lords ruling,) the European Court of Human Rights found that treating JM differently on the grounds of her sexuality breached Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), taken together with Article 1 of the Human Rights Act’s First Protocol (protection of property).

This case was a major victory for LGBT+ equality, reinforcing the unlawfulness of discriminating against people on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Find out more about this case.