Highest European court rules Islington Council was right to discipline Christian registrar who refused to marry gay couples
PUBLISHED: 12:27 30 May 2013
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The long-running saga of a Christian registrar disciplined for refusing to conduct gay civil partnerships could now be over.
European judges this week told Lillian Ladele, who resigned in 2009 after telling Islington Council she couldn’t oversee same-sex unions, that she can take her case no further.
Miss Ladele, who refused to perform gay ceremonies “as a matter of religious conscience”, wanted to take the matter to the Grand Chamber of the Court after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected her case earlier this year.
She claimed to have been all but 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.
A subsequent appeal overturned that decision, and in their latest ruling judges said that disciplinary proceedings against her were justified and the council was bound by duties not to discriminate against their clients and could not support staff who refused to work with homosexual couples.
Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive councillor for finance and performance, said: “The council welcomes this decision. No public servant has the right to discriminate against people while performing their duties, and the council’s position on this matter was previously upheld by the British courts.”
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “Fortunately, Europe’s highest court has now wisely followed numerous lower courts and rejected the applicant’s attempts for religious conscience to trump equality law.
“The UK has the world’s most comprehensive equality laws which already include strong protection for religious believers and they would have been fatally compromised, particularly for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual] people, had the Grand Chamber overturned any of these judgments.
“We hope that this will now draw a line under the attempts by a small coterie of Christian activists to obtain special privileges for themselves which would invariably come at the expense of other people’s rights.
“The principle of equality for all, including for religious believers, is now established and they should stop wasting the time of the courts with these vexatious cases.”