Civil partnerships: the right decision on equality and public services
We’re glad to see the Court of Appeal today uphold an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling that a council registrar could not refuse to conduct same-sex civil partnerships for religious reasons.
Lillian Ladele had taken the case to the court after controversial rulings at the original Employment Tribunal and first appeal. In dismissing the appeal, Lord Neuberger said:
“It appears to me that, however much sympathy one may have with someone such as Ms Ladele, who is faced with choosing between giving up a post she plainly appreciates or officiating at events which she considers to be contrary to her religious beliefs, the legislature has decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy, such as the United Kingdom, include outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of sexual orientation, subject only to very limited exceptions.”
This ruling is very good news for everyone who believes in equality. Lesbian and gay people are entitled to be treated as equals. No one is allowed to pick and choose whether to provide a service to someone because of their race or gender – so why should they be allowed to do so on the grounds of sexuality?
Had Ms Ladele won her case, it would have created the perverse position that the more prejudiced you are against lesbian and gay people because of your religion, the more the law permits you to discriminate against them.
We’re now hoping to see the existing religious exemptions from equality law tightened up and clarified in the Equality Bill going through the House of Lords at the moment.