ISLINGTON council in London has won its appeal against a ruling that it discriminated against a Christian registrar who refused to conduct same-sex civil partnerships.
Lillian Ladele said she could not carry out same-sex ceremonies “as a matter of religious conscience”.
An Employment Tribunal found in July that Islington Council, in north London, had unlawfully discriminated against her.
But, according to the BBC today, an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has now upheld the authority’s appeal.
Ms Ladele claims she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her stance and said she had been harassed and discriminated against by the council.
The EAT ruled the earlier tribunal had “erred in law” and there was no basis for concluding that any “discrimination had been established”.
But it also said there were “unsatisfactory features” about the way the council had handled the matter.
The council were not taking disciplinary action against Ms Ladele for holding her religious beliefs. They did so because she was refusing to carry out civil partnership ceremonies and this involved discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
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.
However, the judgment added not all of the council management team treated Ms Ladele’s beliefs sensitively.
In a statement outside the court, Ms Ladele’s solicitor Mark Jones said she would now take her case to the Court of Appeal.
She wants to make it clear that, whatever other commentators may have said, this case has never been an attempt to undermine the rights of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities.
The evidence showed that Lillian performed all of her duties to the same high standard for the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities, as she did for everyone.
This case has been about the shortfall between the principle of equal dignity and respect for different lifestyles and world views, and Islington Council’s treatment of Lillian Ladele – conduct which the tribunal felt moved to describe as extraordinary and unreasonable.
Islington councillor John Gilbert said:
The council is extremely pleased with this decision which it believes to be the right one.