National Secular Society concerned as anti-gay marriage registrar reinstated

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The National Secular Society has expressed concern at a decision by Central Bedfordshire Council to reinstate a Christian registrar who was previously dismissed after refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.

Margaret Jones, a senior deputy registrar at Bedford register office, was sacked by her employers after confirming that she would be unwilling to conduct same-sex weddings on the basis of her Christian beliefs.

However, Ms Jones was offered her job back after an internal appeal hearing last month found her employer had not taken a “balanced view” of her beliefs.

The tribunal overturned the decision by Central Bedfordshire Council, noting Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance “[encourages] employers and employees to find reasonable solutions to religion or belief issues at work”.

The National Secular Society has now written to Central Bedfordshire Council asking it to clarify its position regarding the accommodation of employees’ requests to opt out of part of their job requirements.

Stephen Evans, National Secular Society campaigns manager, said: “As public servants performing statutory duties on behalf of the state, it is not unreasonable to expect registrars to carry out their responsibilities without discrimination.

“Because of the way in which it undermines the dignity of those discriminated against, local authorities should not be accommodating refusals to provide services to same-sex couples.

“Discriminatory acts have a moral significance beyond the deprivation of the relevant service and the fact that other registrars could conduct the ceremonies is irrelevant.”