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Tribunal rules in favour of marriage registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships

(218 Posts)
melpomene Thu 10-Jul-08 23:04:43


The registrar claims that she was 'harassed' by being called homophobic. IMO she clearly was homophobic in refusing to carry out the duties of her job by supporting same-sex couples making commitments to each other. I agree with Peter Tatchell's comment: "Lillian Ladele claims she has won a victory for religious liberty. No, she has not. She has won a victory for the right to discriminate."

Carmenere Thu 10-Jul-08 23:07:12

I think that this is a very worry ruling. What about the couple who ran a guest house who refused to allow same sex couples stay for religious reasons? Can they now appeal? Will bigots be lining up to exercise their right to discriminate?

edam Thu 10-Jul-08 23:08:38

Not sure how I feel, tbh. I'm with the campaigner on the news who said public officials cannot pick and choose which members of the public they serve (or private companies, for that matter- e.g. Disability Discrimination Act). But at the same time I can see the attractions of a pragmatic 'Doreen doesn't do civil partnerships so Brenda will cover her shift on Wednesday' approach.

policywonk Thu 10-Jul-08 23:09:50

Yes, crappy decision. Hope they appeal.

Carmenere Thu 10-Jul-08 23:11:47

Yes but you can't legislate for pragmatism, it would be nice if it worked like that but what if there were more people in the office who wouldn't than would?

FAQ Thu 10-Jul-08 23:14:11

but is forcing her to either quit her job, or go against her religious beliefs not also discrimination?

IMO a difficult one to call. When she started her job the duties of her job didn't include having to marry same-sex couples.

LadyMuck Thu 10-Jul-08 23:15:46

Would that matter provided that a same-sex couple could still enter into a civil partnership? Why is it essential that every single registrar must be prepared to do so?
If she was the only registrar in Islington then I could see that there clearly is an issue.

melpomene Thu 10-Jul-08 23:16:20

Carrying out civil partnerships and marriages for anyone who is legally entitled to participate should be part of the registrar's job description. What if there was a Catholic registrar who wanted to refuse to officiate at marriages for people who had previously been divorced? Or what if a registrar was opposed to mixed-race partnerships, or partnerships between couples with a large age gap? Where should it end?

They should be obliged to carry out their job providing a public service - or resign.

LadyMuck Thu 10-Jul-08 23:18:10

Isn't there still an opt out for abortion though? Doctors are not legally required to perform abortions if it is against their religious beliefs.

FAQ Thu 10-Jul-08 23:22:37

but surely forcing them to resign because of their religious beliefs is also discrimnating against them?

Carmenere Thu 10-Jul-08 23:22:42

I think that perhaps there is a case for not having to do it IF you started your job before it was made legal.

ravenAK Thu 10-Jul-08 23:24:23

Maybe newly recruited registrars should be clearly contracted to carry out both heterosexual marriages & civil partnerships, & dinosaurs those who struggle with the idea should be allowed to continue in post until retirement - yes, this woman's a bigot, but as LadyMuck said, the couple could readily have found another registrar...

I think I would prefer not to be married by someone with her views.

nancy75 Thu 10-Jul-08 23:25:09

agree with melpomene, i think this was only ok because its a gay issueangry had she said she wouldnt officiate at marriages because of somebodys colour/religion ect she would have been sacked

policywonk Thu 10-Jul-08 23:27:16

FAQ, I think using 'discrimination' in that sense makes the whole concept a bit meaningless. As melpomene said, a racist bigot could refuse to marry a couple from different ethnic backgrounds. Are we discriminating against racist bigots by insisting that registrars deal with people regardless of their ethnicity? Not in any meaningful sense, no.

Civil partnerships are the law of the land. This woman is a public servant. It's not acceptable for her to choose which bits of the law she feels like supporting. (I think that the abortion opt-out is wrong for the same reasons.)

FAQ Thu 10-Jul-08 23:27:32

so she would be sacked for refusing on the grounds of someones relgion, and should therefore be sacked because of her own religion??

edam Thu 10-Jul-08 23:28:17

But that's an opt out from the law. Would we allow a beauty salon to refuse to serve a disabled girl because the DDA wasn't enacted when she opened the business? (Thinking of a story on the local news last night.)

melpomene Thu 10-Jul-08 23:30:36

and somewhat ironically, IIRC the religious discrimination laws only came into effect quite recently so she herself was relying on a recent change in the law to bring her case.

ravenAK Thu 10-Jul-08 23:30:46

If her religion conflicts with the job she signed up to do, then I think it's incumbent on her to choose between them.

The grey area comes in it not having been part of the job when she signed up to do it...

policywonk Thu 10-Jul-08 23:30:58

She wouldn't be sacked because of her religion, she would be sacked because of her refusal. I know it might seem like hair-splitting but it's an important distinction.

LadyMuck Thu 10-Jul-08 23:31:52

Policywonk - even if the doctor is question hasn't trained in the area of abortion? Do you honestly believe that any doctor should have to perform an abortion regardless of their personal beliefs?

Uriel Thu 10-Jul-08 23:32:19

Isn't there an opt out for pharmacists who don't want to supply the MAP, if it's against their principles?

LadyMuck Thu 10-Jul-08 23:33:23

And did any gay couple actually suffer any discrimination as a result of this woman's actions?

nancy75 Thu 10-Jul-08 23:33:55

the abortion thing is not about doctors refusing to perform them, its gps that wont consent to you having an abortion

Carmenere Thu 10-Jul-08 23:34:17

The doctor thing is irrelevant imo. A doctor who trains to carry out abortions presumably does not have a religious objection to them. Undertaking the training is an option. You can be a doctor without ever performing an abortion.

policywonk Thu 10-Jul-08 23:34:31

LadyMuck - well I don't think that dentists should perform abortions, no. But the opt-out situation seems to me to encourage the view that abortion is a morally dubious enterprise, and one that the state feels ambiguous about. Whereas IMO, it's the law of the land (and a crucial right for women), and the state should support it unambiguously. If a medical student doesn't like the idea, s/he shouldn't train in gynae/obs (or whatever the relevant field is).

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