Britain’s leading gay equality organisation has expressed delight at the employment appeals tribunal’s ruling in the case of a Christian public servant who refused to deal with gay couples.

Lillian Ladele previously won a tribunal case against Islington Council, claiming religious discrimination after she refused to carry out civil partnerships as part of her duties as a registrar.

The council decided to go to the EAT, a decision supported by Stonewall and human rights group LIBERTY.

In the judgement, published today on the Christian Institute website, the EAT ruled:

“The allegations were that there had been direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and harassment.

“The indirect discrimination argument was based on the fact that the council had chosen to designate the claimant as someone suitable to do civil partnership work notwithstanding that they knew that she had genuine and strong religious reasons for not wanting to do it.

“The EAT held that the Tribunal had erred in law and that on the evidence adduced before the Tribunal there was no proper basis for a tribunal concluding that any of these forms of discrimination had been established.”

The appeal was upheld and the EAT substituted a ruling that there was no discrimination.

“We are absolutely delighted that our prayers have been answered,” said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall.

“It was unthinkable that we should get into a position where people offering any kind of public service can pick and choose between service users on the basis of their own individual prejudices.

“We have liaised with Islington Council over the past three months and we are very pleased that they have taken such a robust position on behalf of all their taxpayers.”

The Christian Institute, a fundamentalist group that often intervenes to try to stop gay people being treated equally, had financially backed Ms Ladele.

“Gay rights are not the only rights,” said director Colin Hart.

“If this decision is allowed to stand it will help squeeze out Christians from the public sphere because of their religious beliefs on ethical issues.”