Employment tribunal told civil partnerships not “God-ordained”

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Performing civil partnership ceremonies is a matter of religious conscience, a registrar claimed at an employment tribunal yesterday.

Lillian Ladele is claiming that Islington Council discriminated against her on the grounds of her Christian faith by asking her to perform civil partnership ceremonies.

“I hold the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that this is the God-ordained place for sexual relations,” she told an employment tribunal in London yesterday.

“It creates a problem for any Christian if they are expected to do or condone something that they see as sinful.

“I feel unable to facilitate directly the formation of a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God’s law.”

Ms Ledele, who has worked for the council for more than 16 years, initially 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.

Christian fundamentalist groups have claimed that this employment tribunal will set a precedent about where they can and cannot claim their religious beliefs should be taken into account at work.

The Christian Institute has mounted a string of unsuccessful court challenges to gay equality.

A spokesman told The Times that Ms Ladele’s case was about religious liberty.

“Other occupations allow conscientious objections,” he said.

“No homosexual couple is being denied their right to marriage, because other registrars are performing them.”

Ms Ladele claims she was shunned by colleagues and her superiors showed no respect for her religious beliefs.

The 2004 Civil Partnership Act allows gay couples to hold civil ceremonies which entitle them to the same rights as married couples.

The Equality Act also gives gay and lesbians the right to equal service in the provision of goods and services.

If Miss Ladele wins her case, it could set a precedent that will allow people with strong religious convictions to opt out of the provision of services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

“Doubtless there were those 40 years ago who claimed a moral objection to mixed marriages between those of different ethnic origin,” commented Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall.

The tribunal continues.