Court rules Islington Council’s action over Christian registrar who refused to marry gay couples was right

Lillian Ladele Pic: Johnny Green/PA

Lillian Ladele Pic: Johnny Green/PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

One of the highest courts in Europe has ruled a Christian registrar who refused to conduct gay civil partnerships was correctly disciplined.

Lillian Ladele resigned in 2009 after telling Islington Council she couldn’t oversee same-sex unions “as a matter of religious conscience”.

She claimed to have been effectively forced out of her job and that she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her beliefs – an accusation upheld by an employment tribunal in 2008.

But a subsequent appeal overturned that decision, and last week judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) voted by a majority of five to two that the town hall’s action was “legitimate”.

This could be an end to the long running saga, although Miss Ladele now has three months to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

Bob Green, chief executive of Stonewall Housing, in Essex Road, Islington, which helps house gay and lesbian people find homes, said: “We absolutely support both the original action by the council and the decision by the court.

“Public bodies have a duty under the equality act to make sure everyone is treated fairly and no one should be able to refuse a service to anyone – that’s why these acts are in place.

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“We all pay council tax and other types of tax and we demand access to services.”

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, said: “The judgement rightly confirms that it’s completely unacceptable in 2013 for public servants to pick and choose who they want to serve on the basis of sexual orientation.“

Meanwhile the Christian Institute, who footed Miss Ladele’s legal bill, remained bullish.

Mike Judge, spokesman for the group, said: “Obviously, we are disappointed to have lost. But we are encouraged that two judges thought we should have won.

“What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold. If the Government steamrollers ahead with its plans to redefine marriage, then hundreds of thousands of people could be thrown out of their jobs unless they agree to endorse gay marriage.”