The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today issued county court proceedings against the British National Party because of its constitution and membership criteria.
The case will be heard on September 2nd.
The Commission has a statutory duty to enforce the provisions of the Race Relations Act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination.
This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.
The BNP, who are homophobic as well as racist, advertises a membership criteria that appears to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular “ethnic groups” and those whose skin colour is white.
This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act which the party is legally obliged to comply with.
The Commission thinks that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.
John Wadham, Group Director, Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
“The BNP has said that it is not willing to amend its membership criteria which we believe are discriminatory and unlawful.”
He said the BNP “still has an opportunity to resolve this quickly by giving the undertaking on its membership criteria that the Commission requires.”
BNP spokesman John Walker said:
“We consider this action is completely politically motivated due to the party’s recent success in the European elections.
“We will be issuing an in-depth statement in due course.”
Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman has backed the legal challenge.
“No party should be allowed to have an apartheid constitution in 21st Century Britain,” she said.
“I welcome the action. The Equality Bill will make the law even stronger and clearer.”
The BNP won two seats in the European elections in June, its biggest political success to date.
Party leader Nick Griffin won one seat in the north-west region, while the other went to Andrew Brons for Yorkshire and the Humber. The BNP will now receive £4 million of public funding.
The party publicises its policy of tolerance to homosexuality in private, but states that it “should not be promoted or encouraged.”
In May PinkNews.co.uk exclusively reported that the BNP had drawn up a list of politicians from all three main parties describing a number of gay MPs as “buggers” and “criminals”, grouping them with convicted paedophiles.