Christian registrar loses appeal over 'gay marriage'
Christian registrar Lillian Ladele has lost her appeal against a ruling that she had not been discriminated against by being disciplined after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnerships in north London.
She became a registrar in 2002, when state-authorised unions were an exclusively heterosexual affair. When the law changed, she felt she could not carry out such ceremonies 'as a matter of religious conscience'.
She claimed she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her stance and said she had been harassed and discriminated against by Islington Council.
An employment tribunal found that the council had unlawfully discriminated against her, but this was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which said there was no basis for concluding that any discrimination had occurred.
Last month, Ms Ladele's counsel, James Dingemans QC, told the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Dyson and Lady Justice Smith at the Court of Appeal that she had never wanted to undermine the human rights or respect due to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities. But he pointed out that human rights laws must also be there to protect people with committed views about marriage.
It appears not.
Or at least for Christians.
Perhaps if Ms Ladele had been a Muslim, her appeal might have been successful. For it is an odd country indeed in which a Christian registrar can lose her job for upholding the orthodox teaching on marriage while Muslims may win massive payouts for being obliged to handle bottles of alcohol, cook sausage and bacon or dispense the 'morning after' pill , or sell an 'unclean' Bible in the normal course of their jobs.
Dismissing her case, Lord Neuberger said: "It appears to me that, however much sympathy one may have with someone such as Ms Ladele, who is faced with choosing between giving up a post she plainly appreciates or officiating at events which she considers to be contrary to her religious beliefs, the legislature has decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy, such as the United Kingdom, include outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of sexual orientation, subject only to very limited exceptions."
But Mr Dingemans told the appeal judges that Ms Ladele believed marriage should be "between one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others". He added: "Modern human rights jurisprudence was not intended to obliterate religious beliefs held for millennia."
But the EAT found that the council was not taking disciplinary action against Ms Ladele for holding her religious beliefs, but because her refusal to carry out civil partnership ceremonies involved discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
They said: "The council were entitled to take the view that they were not willing to connive in that practice by relieving Ms Ladele of the duties, notwithstanding that her refusal was the result of her strong and genuinely-held Christian beliefs."
Cllr Ruth Polling, Islington Council's Executive Member for Equalities, said: "This is very welcome news. The judgement is the right one as it confirms all public sector employees must carry out their duties without discrimination and Islington was right to insist this of all our staff. We are delighted it provides much-needed clarity for employers across the country."
Since the legislature has also decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy include the right of a woman to terminate the baby within her womb (which is a 'facility' or a 'service' provided by the NHS), Cranmer awaits the day when Christian doctors and nurses will have their exemption on the grounds of religious conscience removed