Secular and libertarian groups have welcomed the Court of Appeal ruling that a council did not discriminate against a Christian registrar who refused to perform civil partnerships.
Lillian Ladele claimed that she could not officiate the ceremonies
for gay couples because of her strict Christian beliefs.
She argued that Islington council's disciplinary action was discriminatory but the Court of Appeal ruled against her in the latest round of the case.
Gay organisation Stonewall said
it was pleased the court had upheld the right of lesbian and gay people to receive public services from public servants .
Civil rights group Liberty had supported council in the case and described it as a common sense judgement .
Corinna Ferguson, Liberty's legal officer who specialises in religious freedom cases, said: Freedom of conscience is incredibly precious but other people have rights and freedoms too. Employers can't be expected to promote equal treatment under the
law if they must also accommodate discrimination on the part of their employees.
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said the ruling was important and definitive . He said: It establishes, we hope
definitively, that because a person has strong religious views, it does not give them the right to discriminate against and deny services to others of whom they disapprove.
Parliament has decided that gay people are entitled to civil
partnerships and that their right to such a service be protected in law, so there should therefore be no opt-outs on any grounds, religious or otherwise, for public servants from performing these ceremonies. Christian conscience should not be a blanket
licence to discriminate against others.
Ladele and the Christian Institute, which is supporting her, were refused leave to appeal at the Supreme Court. However, they plan to go to the Supreme Court directly to attempt to overturn the ruling.
Update: Appeal Refused
12th March. See
Lillian Ladele's situation does not raise legal points of general public importance , according to the highest court in the land.
She is now
considering whether to try to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights, as she believes it shows that the right to religious conscience has been trampled by the rights of homosexuals.