Two leading gay Christian organisations have said that an employment tribunal victory for London registrar Lillian Ladele is “disappointing.”
The tribunal ruled that Ms Ladele had been discriminated against by employer. Islington Council, because of her refusal to carry out civil partnerships for LGBT couples on the grounds of her orthodox Christian beliefs.
Ms Ledele originally swapped with colleagues to avoid performing gay and lesbian ceremonies after civil partnerships became legal in 2005.
After formal complaints were made against her, an internal disciplinary investigation began.
Brenda Harrison, spokesperson for the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians, has commented on the situation.
She told PinkNews.co.uk:
“This is a disappointing outcome, which runs counter to the intention of other recent legislation.
“It will give encouragement to others to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds.
“However Miss Ladele is entitled to her views.
“I certainly wouldn’t want her in bad grace to be overseeing [my civil partnership ceremony], but for her colleagues to bully her for her religious views is unacceptable.
“I have experienced discrimination from LGBT people because I am a Christian; full inclusion works both ways.”
Jeremy Marks, founder and director of gay Christian organisation Courage, expressed his conflicting reactions to the Ladele case.
He told PinkNews.co.uk: “The story of Lillian Ladele is a difficult and sad one.
“I feel she should have the freedom to express her own feelings and convictions without prejudice, even if her convictions are based on prejudice.
“This must remain a free society or else we‘ll all be in trouble.
“The sad thing is that, as a gay man brought up as a conservative Christian myself, I have personally experienced the awful damage the traditional approach can do.
“Worse still, because I came from that background, I was complicit in upholding that prejudice for years in the company of many other gay Christians.
“Between 1988 when I began the Courage ministry and the year 2000 we completely changed our stance and affirmed same-sex partnerships.
“That shook the evangelical Christian world; from then on we were deemed to be heretics.
“So naturally it always saddens me to see someone feeling they need to take a public stand on something like this, claiming it is because of their Christian convictions that they cannot, in this case, perform civil partnerships.
“Those convictions are based on a view that is ignorant of the truth and prejudiced.
“But if Lillian goes to a church that teaches these things, she would find it extremely difficult to go against her own conscience and that must be respected too.
“If I wanted to arrange to have a civil partnership ceremony with my partner, then I would much prefer to have a registrar conducting the ceremony who can do so from a supportive and enthusiastic stance, not someone who does not want to do it.
“That would be like receiving a curse on the relationship from the outset.”
On Tuesday it emerged that Ms Ladele had borne a son out of wedlock when she was 20.
In the light of this revelation, Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall, questioned whether the tribunal did not adequately examine Ms Ladele’s religious beliefs.
Islington Council is to appeal against the employment tribunal decision.