Christian registrar says no to gay marriages, wins case

July 11th, 2008 - 1:52 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 11 (IANS) Britain’s fledgling religious discrimination law has come under a severe test with an employment tribunal ruling in favour of a Christian marriage registrar who refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies. The tribunal Thursday found that the Islington Council in north London discriminated against registrar Lillian Ladele by harassing and threatening to sack her because she thought such marriages were “sinful”. She can now expect a huge monetary payout from the council, The Telegraph said.

Ladele, described as a ‘practicing Christian’, had tried to avoid presiding over same-sex ceremonies by swapping shifts with colleagues when they were due to take place. But in December, 2007 marriages and civil partnerships came under direct control of local authorities and Ladele was told she had to conduct all ceremonies or lose her job.

She said her life was made a misery; she was picked on, shunned and accused of being homophobic for refusing to carry out civil partnerships. The tribunal ruled that Ladele was harassed and discriminated against on grounds of religious beliefs.

The Telegraph quoted Ladele as saying after the verdict: “I am delighted at this decision. It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine. Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Public servants like registrars have a duty to serve all members of the public without fear or favour. Once society lets some people opt out of upholding the law, where will it end?”

John Gilbert, Islington’s executive member for human resource, said: “On first reading, the tribunal seems to have based its findings primarily on the fact that we could have continued to provide civil partnerships without Ladele. The wider issue of whether councils should be able to expect employees to carry out civil partnerships doesn’t seem to have been fully addressed.”

The Islington council is considering an appeal against the ruling.

Over 600 gay couples have had same sex ceremonies in Islington since the Civil Partnership Act came into force in December 2005, making it Britain’s third-most popular borough for the service.

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