Telegraph columnist: Protect registrars who refuse to marry gay couples

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The former editor of The Catholic Herald, Cristina Odone, has suggested the state should protect Christian registrars who refuse to marry gay couples.

Writing in her Telegraph blog, the journalist said: “Sexual preference and gender equality are taken seriously: laws and a host of employment regulations protect these rights with a convert’s fervour. A schoolboy who calls another one ‘gay’ as a term of abuse faces arrest; a woman can sue the pants off her boss if she can prove his sexual discrimination

“But people’s beliefs are of no account. The conscientious objector who cannot marry a gay couple because to do so would run counter to her religious beliefs will lose her job; the pharmacist who won’t sell the morning-after pill because he thinks abortion is a sin will lose his.”

She added: “The state will not protect belief – and in some countries it will actively quash it: as the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination on Christians in Europe found two years ago, the EU has introduced more than 50 laws that discriminate against Christians.”

Odone linked the plight of British Christians who oppose homosexuality with the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians in northern Iraq. Whilst it was “not on a par” she added “the West should stop pretending outrage at the bigots it has spawned.

“With stealthy determination its governments have demoted religious freedom from a crucial right to a secondary consideration.”

The Equality Act 2010 states that it’s illegal to refuse to provide goods and services based upon a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

In January 2013, Lillian Ladele, a former civil registrar from Islington, north London, lost a case at the European Court of Human Rights.

Ms Ladele had unsuccessfully argued that she should be permitted to opt out of performing civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples because of her Christian beliefs.

She lost her final appeal at the court in May 2013.

In July last year, Cristina Odone criticised former Education Secretary Michael Gove for stating that it’s wrong to use the word “gay” as an insult and suggested it would be like censoring the word “chav”.

Odone announced her support for equal marriage earlier this year, stating Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “homophobia” had helped change her views.

In February 2011, she said allowing same-sex couples to marry in churches “would upset large numbers of believers” and resembled a “pantomime”.