An Islington registrar who refused to carry out civil partnerships for gay couples has lost her appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled today that Lillian Ladele had not been discriminated against. She had said she could not hold the ceremonies because of her Christian beliefs.
Lord Neuberger expressed some sympathy for her position but said that in a “modern liberal democracy”, only “very limited exceptions” could be made.
The Christian Institute, which is supporting Ladele, has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
The ruling was welcomed by Stonewall.
Director of public affairs Derek Munn said: “Stonewall are pleased that the Court of Appeal has upheld the right of lesbian and gay people to receive public services from public servants. We are glad that Islington council have seen this through for the sake of their lesbian and gay council tax payers.
“You can’t refuse a service to a person based on their gender, race or disability and you can’t on the basis of their sexual orientation either.”
Ladele argued in 2007 that her Christian beliefs meant she could not officiate the ceremonies and was disciplined.
An employment tribunal in 2008 had ruled in her favour but Islington council successfully appealed the decision at the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
A spokesman from the Christian Institute told PinkNews.co.uk that Ladele would contest the ruling.
Mike Judge said: “We are disappointed but we do plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. This is an important case for both sides and given that employment issues are at stake, it is right that the Supreme Court should hear the case.”
He added that other councils had allowed long-standing employees to avoid carrying out civil partnerships if they conflicted with their beliefs.
The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) said that Ladele’s beliefs should have been tolerated.
CLC director Andrea Minichello Williams told PinkNews.co.uk: “This is a very sad day for 21st century democracy when a lady such as Lillian Ladele, who has been a brilliant worker for Islington council, cannot be reasonably accommodated.
“Civil partnerships were not being discriminated against, they were able to be performed by other registrars. Lilian Ladele has been discriminated against because of her Christian convictions.
“In a tolerant and civil society, we should be able to accommodate different groups.
“There will be serious consequences for religious freedom, conscience, acts and speech if we can’t learn to accommodate different groups.”
She added that the case could lead to religious bars on employment.
The CLC is currently supporting a similar case for another Islington registrar. Theresa Davies, a friend of Ladele, claims she was forced out of her post as registrar because of her religious beliefs against civil partnerships.
Last month, a Christian relationship counsellor who refused to work with gay couples lost his appeal for unfair dismissal.
Gary McFarlane, from Bristol, was sacked by Relate last year after saying he would not “encourage sin” in gay and lesbian couples.
At an employment tribunal last year, Relate admitted wrongful dismissal but the tribunal rejected his claims of unfair dismissal and religious discrimination.
McFarlane appealed but the latest tribunal rejected the claim for unfair dismissal.