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Registrar religious beliefs must not undermine gay partnership law

July 16, 2008 8:17 PM

In a move that arouses interest across the EU in the interpretation of EU anti-discrimination law, Islington Council has decided to appeal against a tribunal judgment that they discriminated against registrar Lillian Ladele by requiring her to officiate at gay civil partnerships despite her Christian beliefs.

London MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford, the Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman and former Islington councillor, has welcomed the decision to appeal. Ms Ladele brought her case under UK regulations implementing the EU directive of 2000 banning discrimination against employees on grounds of, inter alia, religion.

Sarah Ludford, a member of the European Parliament's civil liberties and human rights committees and of the gay and lesbian rights intergroup of MEPs, said:

"The case raises important issues about how second-class treatment of gay people as customers can be avoided if a services employee invokes a religious reason for displaying prejudice. If the staff 'conscience clause' endorsed by this tribunal ruling stands, a coach and horses will be driven through the existing UK and planned EU bans on discrimination."

Sarah added:

"When I was married in the very place - Finsbury Town Hall - of Ms Ladele's later employment, I would not have wanted someone with her narrow views to preside. People today getting married should be able to invoke their own 'conscience clause' and refuse to be married by a prejudiced registrar."

Note to editors

Sarah Ludford and her ALDE (Liberal) group MEP colleagues have fought a successful battle for a draft EU Directive, recently proposed by the European Commission, to outlaw discrimination against customers on the grounds of, inter alia, sexual orientation. In the UK such law already exists for equality for gay people, in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.