Tag Archives: civil partnerships

A New Lillian Ladele

Lillian Ladele may be defeated, but she was never alone. In fact it turns out she wasn’t even alone at Islington Council:

Theresa Davies, a registrar for Islington Council, has claimed she was forced out of her post as registrar because of her religious beliefs against civil partnerships.

Davies, who had worked for Islington Council for 18 years, said she had asked to opt out of performing civil partnerships in 2006.

While her request was being considered, Davies took four months off work due to stress. On her return she was told that she would either be demoted or dismissed.

Instead of leaving the council, Davies chose to take on the offered position of receptionist, which she described as “humiliating”.

Last July, she was put back on the general rota. However, in January this year she failed to turn up to a ceremony she was supposed to be overseeing. Consequently, she was told that unless she presided over civil partnerships she would be demoted from her position.

“I know of other councils that have allowed Christian registrars to carry on by ensuring that colleagues are given civil partnerships,” said Davies. “But I was told this was not Islington’s policy.”

No, we know that Islington Council’s policy was, in the case of Lillian Ladele, to offer different work for the same pay, when she decided that she wanted to breach their policy of providing an equal service for all members of the community, rather than ones that she wanted to pick and choose. Davies may not have liked the ‘humiliating’ new work, but this has already been established not to be discrimination on the grounds of religion. The devoutly religious do not have the right under the law to behave as though they are a special case in who they provide services for. I look forward to her grievance failing equally badly.

Lillian Ladele Loses Right to Appeal

You will no doubt remember the case of Lillian Ladele, the civil registrar in the London Borough of Islington who decided that her devout Christianity should preclude her in her secular role from conducting secular civil partnerships. You’ll remember that she was initially successful in her employment tribunal against the local council, which agreed with her that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of religion. Yet of course on appeal that ruling was quashed when more credible and wide-ranging evidence proved the council was guilty of a lack of consultation perhaps, but not much more. She and her sponsors, the evangelical Christian Institute vowed to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

Again as expected the Court of Appeal has thrown the case out:

Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who refused to conduct same-sex Civil Partnerships on religious grounds, has been refused leave to appeal against the decision of an Employment Tribunal that she did not suffer religious discrimination at work. She has also been ordered to pay costs.

This really needs to stop now. Theists of every background need to realise that religious discrimination laws really cannot be used to legitimise discrimination against minorities they believe their religion doesn’t approve of. In a post-religious society, governed by the rule of law, it’s a relief that the right institutions are making the right decisions when rights are perceived as coming into conflict with one another.

(via Owenblacker)

Lillian Ladele Loses!

As expected, Civil Registrar Lillian Ladele’s victory against Islington Council for religious discrimination was overturned on appeal. And the full ruling makes for very interesting reading. She felt her devout Christianity precluded her from officiating over civil partnerships, and that the law should protect her in this, despite civil partnerships being conducted by the state, not the Church, and them being a secular rather than a religious institution. But far from being as intransigent as she wanted to make the council out to be, they initially did make efforts for her to do different work for the same pay:

6. There were two other registrars who at this time also objected to carrying out these
duties. One accepted an offer of different employment on the same pay, which removed the
dilemma. Another, a Muslim woman who also raised similar objections, left the Council’s
service. These were apparently deputy registrars and as such were employees of the Council
rather than independent office holders.

7. The council were in discussions with the Registrar General’s office about the matter.

Following advice from that quarter, Ms Ladele was offered the opportunity to undertake only
civil partnership ceremonies confined to the simple signing process. This involves no more than
obtaining certain information from the civil partners. There is another form which involves the
couple concerned undertaking a ceremony which she would not have been required to do. A
Muslim with religious objections of a similar nature working in another borough had found this
an acceptable compromise.

There’s plenty of evidence that the council behaved badly towards her on occasion during this process, but the appeal tribunal quite rightly acknowledged the fundamental difference between behaviour which might have been inconsiderate, rude or inappropriate and behaviour which was discriminatory on grounds of her religion. The initial tribunal didn’t take this fundamental difference into account, and I don’t believe for a second that the Court of Appeal will overturn this ruling. After her victory in July Ladele said:

“It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine.

“Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs,” she said.

Yet gay rights weren’t used to bully or harass anyone over their religious beliefs. Time and again she was offered compromises which were acceptable to other people with devout religious beliefs. In other occasions other, deputy registrars chose to leave the council’s employ. What’s clear from the appeal tribunal is that despite some errors in consultation with her, the council merely attempted to enforce its own equal opportunities and diversity policies, but that Ladele believed she was a special case. It’s a relief that the appeal tribunal has confirmed that in such instances neither she nor the rest of the devoutly religious can claim such rights under the law.

Married Elton John Not For Gay Marriage

Sigh. Elton John has spoken out against gay marriage:

“We’re not married. Let’s get that right. We have a civil partnership. What is wrong with Proposition 8 is that they went for marriage. Marriage is going to put a lot of people off, the word marriage.”

“I don’t want to be married. I’m very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership,” John says. “The word ‘marriage,’ I think, puts a lot of people off.

Let me make a correction. He and David are married, and if marriage were uniformally available in the UK to straight and gay people alike, I don’t believe for a moment he’d have rejected one. After all he partook of a straight marriage (bizarre as it was) for years. There’s no doubt in my mind that much of his stance is based on a generational perspective on gay rights, but with Prop 8 he’s on the wrong side of history, particularly with this election having been so steeped in civil rights issues.

I’m also not sure what he means that ‘they went for marriage’. It was the Californian Supreme Court which legalised same-sex marriage, and it was the No on Prop 8 campaign which merely sought to retain the rights which the highest court in the state had already conferred on gay couples.

You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships.”

Separate but equal was very much the gay rights perspective of the sixties and seventies, but the current generation simply wants to normalise their lives – ‘tolerance’ simply isn’t enough.

Answer the Big Gay Sex Survey

So the Observer has uncovered significant minorities in the UK against same-sex marriage, against gay adoption and against an equal age of consent. It comes at a time when the head of the Islamic Medical Association in Britain has said:

“There is punishment and fine if you throw rubbish or filth on the streets, the gays are worse than the ordinary careless citizen, they are causing the spread of illness and they are the root cause of many sexually-transmitted diseases.

“They need neither sympathy nor help, what they need is the stick of law to put them on the right path.”

So answer me, Britain (and the world if you like). What are your thoughts on homosexuality and gay people?

Please reply to this quick, anonymous survey, and add a comment if you feel so inclined. Also if you think there is a problem with the poll or if the questions need refining (or rewriting) please let me know.

Continue reading

Islington Council Doesn’t Take it Lying Down

In a move which will reassure many on both sides of the divide, Islington Council has announced it will appeal the ruling by the employment tribunal which supported Lillian Ladele’s claim that forcing her to abide by her job description as civil registrar to conduct civil partnerships, when she was a Christian literalist, amounted to religious discrimination.

Councillor John Gilbert said: “We believe an important question is at stake and the law must be clarified.

“Islington Council, like all councils and employers, needs to know whether we can expect employees to provide services to all sections of the community, regardless of who they are.”

And this is why the ruling was so preposterous – it flew in the face of both legislation and common sense. As a blogger more eloquent than I wrote yesterday:

I was under the impression we were living in a secular society. Beliefs are beliefs, they should be respected in as far as they don’t try to limit other people’s freedoms – this is hardly a new concept and it’s ironic that I’d have to reiterate it in a country that considers itself a democracy.

What’s even more ironic is that Lillian Ladele had a child out of wedlock, which when you look at the evidence presented to the tribunal makes it even more of a farce.

The tribunal’s judgement read:

“Ms Ladele is a Christian. Her unchallenged evidence was that she holds 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 marriage is the God-ordained place for sexual relations.

“She could not reconcile her faith with taking an active part in enabling same-sex unions to be formed.

“She told us that she believed this to be contrary to God’s instructions that sexual relations belong exclusively between a man and a woman within marriage.”

And in her interview with the Daily HateMail she admitted:

“I would not be able to conduct civil partnerships because it states in the Bible that marriage occurs between a man and a woman, not people of the same sex, and, as a Christian, I try to follow what the Bible teaches.

“I’m not homophobic. I’ve never had a problem with gay people or their lifestyle.

“My issue was purely that I did not want to be the one to facilitate same-sex civil partnerships because I do not agree with them.”

Lillian Ladele is indeed a pawn in this. She has been manipulated by the Christian Institute into achieving a result which isn’t even consistent with her own beliefs or practice. The result has to be overturned for the sake of sorting out the muddle of equality legislation in this matter, and because the vast majority of Christian and non-Christians alike don’t want this precedent to be set.

Of course the problem would not likely have arisen if Bishop Gene Robinson’s recommendation (which will be in a blog post I’m still working on) were adopted. He considers it strange that an established  Church (ie. a Church that by definition is of the state ) should be allowed to discriminate at all, and that at the very least ‘civil rights’ need to be split from ‘religious rites’ – marriage should be a fully civil matter, which could afterwards be celebrated religiously or not. Any changes which would make the Christian Institute’s extremist position clear as a bell would have to be a good step forward.

Christianity is Not at War With Homosexuality

As you might imagine, my last two posts about Lillian Ladele, civil registrar and religious zealot, would not be my last word on the subject. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society says:

People are rightly protected from being discriminated against because of their religion, but the spirit of this law should not be perverted to allow religious people license to discriminate against others on the basis of their religious belief. Equality legislation is already undermined by numerous exemptions, practically all of them concessions to the religious. Every one of their privileges has a victim. After all, these exemptions are given to the very people most likely to discriminate.

We should be aware that the people behind this push to religionise our society are not the regular church-goers who generally wouldn’t dream of behaving in this bigoted way. It is a small group of determined zealots who will not stop until we’re all subject to their version of “religious freedom” (which seems to mean freedom for them, and restrictions for others). Often behind these apparently vulnerable individuals there stands a highly organised and well-funded pressure group.

The first sentence really is the most important here. Of course it would be wrong to have discriminated against Lillian Ladele on the grounds of her having a religion – any religion. And it’s worth remembering that we are in a period where the Church of England is breaking into subgroups because the main body of Anglicanism doesn’t support bigotry; women are considered equal, gay people are increasingly considered equal, and worthy of equal treatment and participation in the Church at all levels. Attitudes have shifted, and perhaps then it’s timely that the same argument should be paralleled in civil society, given that many of us assumed that equality before the law was a given.

The question in both spheres boils down to whether or not equality legislation means that freedom to believe should mean the freedom to discriminate. If it does how do you arbitrate the inevitable clash when zealots like Ladele and her friends in the Christian Institute decide to prove the point; if it doesn’t how is the line then drawn to curtail the limitations of belief within the law without infringing on the right to believe? As Sanderson points out there are already enough concessions in equality legislation (many from late-stage-Blair) to the religious, to make the answer murky, at least in the civil sphere. Merely placing the freedom to be irrational – to believe – alongside the freedom  from ir rational hatred is always going to create problems. In this instance it legitimised the abuse of legislation which didn’t logically apply to the circumstances and allowing that to occur was just plain stupid (not unheard of in the era of New Labour). The Church however has got a much bigger problem.

The Daily Mail in its homophobic editorial was quite basically wrong. The majority of Church adherers (for most Christians now don’t actually go to Church) in this country are fundamentally tolerant, by which I mean more likely to take people for who they are, rather than what some crusty idiot who interprets words written two thousand years ago says they are. Of course women and out gay people can become priests, of course gay ceremonies should get the Church’s approval. But the literalist wings won’t stand for all this, because for them social change (which the CofE is quite good at) is something they can’t abide. Mad preachers interpret scripture to mean the Bible doesn’t account for it (when it probably does – Jesus Christ being somewhat of a rebel if I recall), therefore the equality of the sexes and sexual orientations can’t possibly be tolerated. As Simon Jenkins points out in a world where social change is happening in differing ways and faster than ever before in more places than ever, to pander to the social luddites is a waste of everyone’s time. Organisations which resist change die – the change has already happened and it’s time to move on.

All of this shows just how muddlesome the Lillian Ladele affair really is. Ladele and the Christian Institute clearly aren’t speaking on behalf of the majority of Christians in this country, who are increasingly good at minding their own business. They’re rather pleased gay people are getting married and are increasingly finding they work with, live with or are related to people who are. The point of civil partnership legislation in the first place was to enshrine in law the reality that gay people want exactly the same things out of relationships as straight people. That the law also has allowed the hyper-religious to discriminate against that reality based on belief alone is a mistake, as was the interpretation of the law which the employment tribunal went with. Were Lillian Ladele required to conduct a religious ceremony she may have had a point, if only for the sake of balance, but she remains a civil registrar – an area of civil society not yet ‘religionised’ in the post-9/11, post-late-stage-Blair days. It must stay that way for the health of society in general. 

And as far as the Church of England goes:

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, told The Sunday Telegraph that practising homosexuals should not be barred from becoming bishops.

He accused conservative Anglicans of being “exclusive” and narrow-minded in their opposition to gay clerics.

They’re moving on. Lillian Ladele’s victory needs to be reversed, merely to be consistent with where the Church itself is going. And the Church’s mainstream stance isn’t that far removed from civil society at all:

The Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, from Hackney, east London, said: ‘Why am I repugnant to the word of God? What is it about women clergy that scares people? We don’t have leprosy. It is not about the Bible, it is about hanging on to a male power base and keeping women out.’

There is no need to infringe on the right to believe. I’d hate to think of a society which was incapable of belief, where all irrational behaviour were somehow prevented, but gay rights also aren’t in contradiction with religious rights, either in the civil or religious spheres, in theory or in practice. The mainstream of both of them are continuing headlong in the direction of diversity, liberalism and equality. Sanderson is right – whilst it’s a problem that equality legislation is muddled, with some contradictory intentions and unexpected outcomes, it’s neither that nor Christianity itself which is the problem – it’s pressure groups like the Christian Institute, which encourage like-minded zealots and the easily manipulated to go for special rights on top of the equality before the law which is already there.

My Response to the Daily HateMail

A Victory for Britain’s Quiet Majority

Britain’s acceptance of those from different racial, social or religious backgrounds has long been an attractive aspect of our national character.

But this culture of tolerance has come under pressure from politicians and the courts, who have put the often stridently expressed demands of minorities ahead of the rights of the majority.

No case has so clearly illustrated this as that of Lillian Ladele, the registrar whose Christian beliefs – beliefs incidentally that in the broader sense shaped the DNA of this country – led her to refuse to perform same-sex civil partnerships.

The Mail supports the right to undertake civil partnerships, but not to force others to participate in ceremonies with which they may profoundly disagree.

But Miss Ladele’s bosses at Islington council, always ready to leap to the defence of the gay community, concluded that she was prejudiced, and insisted that she change her mind.

So she took them to an employment tribunal and – to the amazement of all those who have given up on the ability of our legal system to stand up for ordinary Britons – she won.

The tribunal concluded that Miss Ladele had been discriminated against, that the council had allowed the rights of homosexuals to trump her religious beliefs, and that it was utterly wrong.

The battle is far from over. Islington may appeal against the judgment. And we should never underestimate the sheer zeal of the commissars of political correctness to get their way.

I remember the Daily HateMail in the 80s, stirring up hate against ‘loonies’ and the ‘left’, as though standing up for, promoting and funding equality was only something which those with diseased minds would do. This paper has never accepted difference. They have railed incessantly against gay people, asylum seekers, foreigners and others, and in addition to their Nazi-supporting past have run appalling, personal campaigns against politicians such as Ken Livingstone who have had the temerity to stand up to them.

Their claim that the case against Lillian Ladele was a demand by a ‘strident’ minority against the ‘rights’ of the majority is an outright deceit. Noone has suggested for a moment that gay rights should trump those of straight people or even the religious – that would be ridiculous because they are not fundamentally in opposition to one another. However the stridently religious believe that gay people are not equal – Lillian Ladele said she couldn’t fulfil her job description for gay people because of her ‘religious beliefs’. To allow belief as an excuse for enforcing in equality would be as dangerous as it is monstrous. In effect she demanded an opt out from the social norms which we are all now bound by, but against which the Daily HateMail continues to campaign. Her religion is not fundamentally opposed to gay people or homosexuality, whatever hysterical theists like Iris Robinson would have you believe, and to enshrine such an opt out under the law would be to misrepresent even her religion.

The HateMail suggests that this is ‘political correctness’, as if a local council standing up for equality before the law (and Ladele’s job description was bound by at least two laws) were something undesirable. It makes no difference whether or not the council could fulfil its remit to provide civil partnerships without her – the argument was whether or not the stridently religious could get special treatment in employment, treatment which allowed them to discriminate in the world of work, based merely on belief and not on the law which is supposed to apply to the rational majority. That Lillian Ladele has (for now) succeeded is a slap in the face for the real majority, who are not in any way connected to the bigoted, small-minded, xenophobic and hateful DNA of the country which the HateMail thinks it appeals to.

Bigotry is not a ‘right’ held by the majority, whatever else the tabloid would have you believe; Iris Robinson didn’t have this right, nor does Lillian Ladele. Thankfully our thoughts can’t (yet) be controlled, but we do not have the ‘right’ to impose our darker thoughts on those different to us, or those whom we dislike or disapprove of, at least not in the world of work. The law has, in this instance, said that belief trumps the rule of law, that Islington Council was wrong, despite having equality policies which Lillian Ladele was bound by, and laws governing the conduct of her job, to enforce her job description for all, not just some. It’s an outrageous decision, based on a flawed interpretation of the law, and it must be challenged for all our sakes.

Religious Homophobia: Triumphant!

It’s scarcely fathomable, but Lillian Ladele has won. You may remember her – the Islington civil registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships, despite it being a secular function of a secular job under a secular employer, who in turn was bound by the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004. The tribunal ruled:

“Islington Council rightly considered the importance of the right of the gay community not to be discriminated against, but did not consider the right of Miss Ladele as a member of a religious group.”

Absolute nonsense. As I put on my previous post on this subject, the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 do allow her employer the right to discriminate indirectly against her religion, on the condition that they can justify it. The legislation governing the non-discriminatory provision of good and services to gay people, as well as the Civil Partnership Act provide just such justification, and it’s ridiculous that the employment tribunal should rule otherwise. It’s irrelevant that the function of providing registrars for civil partnerships has been unaffected by her trying to opt out – the point surely must be that even when there is a clash of human rights such as this, an individual employed in a secular job, with a secular employer, whose job description is secular and bound by anti-discrimination laws and policies must not then be allowed to pick and choose what they will and won’t do on the grounds of belief. Ladele said in response to the ruling:

“It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine.

“Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs,” she said.

What she means of course is that religious rights should instead be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their sexual orientation. It is a victory which allows the freedom (for there is no such ‘right’) to discriminate freely on the grounds of belief, the dangers of which should be clear to anyone who engages with the world in a rational manner. Peter Tatchell added:

“If this judgment stands, it will pave the way for religious people to have the legal entitlement to discriminate on conscientious grounds against people of other faiths, unmarried parents and many others who they condemn as immoral.

“We could soon find religious police officers, solicitors, fire fighters and doctors refusing to serve members of the public who they find morally objectionable – and being allowed to do so by the law.

“Lillian Ladele claims she was won a victory for religious liberty. No, she has not.

“She has won a victory for the right to discriminate. The denial of equal treatment is not a human right. It is a violation of human rights.

“Public servants like registrars have a duty to serve all members of the public without fear or favour. Once society lets some people opt out of upholding the law, where will it end?”

Mike Judge from the anti-gay Christian Institute responded:

“This important ruling confirms that gay rights should not be treated as trumping religious rights.”

“If we really believe in equality before the law, that means respecting people who have sincerely held religious beliefs on sexual ethics.

“The witch hunt against those who disagree with homosexual practice has to stop.”

That is quite mendacious and self-serving. There is no human right codified anywhere which allows discrimination, nor has anyone suggested that gay rights supersede religious rights, particularly because they are not fundamentally in conflict with one another. However, as has been shown many times recently even on this blog, there are theists who believe they are entitled to abuse the law which allows them rights against discrimination for their belief, to themselves discriminate. They are wrong. Islington Council has said it is considering an appeal. For the sake of our civil society, which is governed by equality and the rule of law, rather than by belief, superstition and scripture, I hope they do.

Spouses for Life

The world is changing. We have just marriage on equal terms in California, we have an equality bill in the UK (although it must surely only represent a start, given that 70% of businesses in the economy won’t be covered by it), and even Ireland is instituting a civil partnership bill. It’s a relief that legislatures, executives and judiciaries everywhere are acknowledging the benefits of diversity, and that actually enforcing equality benefits us all – just look at Sweden.

Unlike Britain’s proposal, Sweden has mainstreamed specifically gender equality into all policy making since 1994, rather than instituting just pockets of equal rights legislation. And Norway’s Gender Equality Act requires:

…that all publicly appointed committees, including the cabinet, should be made up of at least 40 per cent men and at least 40 per cent women. This rule was extended in 2004 to state-owned companies. Then in 2006, the government legislated to impose an extraordinary ultimatum on Norway’s public limited companies – either have a minimum of 40 per cent of women on the company board by 1 January 2008, or be closed down. Despite the dire prophecies of economic catastrophe, the law has come into force without driving out any major company.

That’s not to say that the UK couldn’t go down that route, particularly looking at the two year gap between public and private implementation in Norway – we can only hope. What is already proposed however puts Boris Johnson’s behaviour as Mayor of London to shame. His Director of Policy, Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries Munira Mirza, when justifying the removal of the Rise festival’s anti-racism remit, said in justifying her strategy:

Although the event was supposed to be inclusive and attract people from ethnic minorities, the GLA’s own research (conducted while Ken was mayor) shows that 65%-70% of attendees in the last two years were white. That is disproportionately whiter than the population of London. It seems reasonable to conclude that the political baggage and relentless sloganeering was actually putting people off. And no doubt many individuals and families who did come on the day were there primarily for the music or a nice day out.

Except that’s patronising rubbish. Surely the entire point of an anti-racist festival is not just an inherently political one, but an educational tool too, one which would disproportionately target white people. I suspect Daniel Martin is right when he says:

Emphasising “cultural diversity” over overt anti-racism probably fits in more with the narrative Johnson wants to put across – one that implies that racism in London, and so in Britain, is not such a problem anymore. But that view, of course, is wrong.

Indeed it is. Mainstreaming anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-gender discrimination works, it doesn’t put people off and it is successful with authorities who have the guts to try it. Failing to do so only emboldens the haters like BNP GLA member Richard Barnbrook:

Labour Party supporters and various other anti-British elements were given a timely reminder today that the days of public money being used to prop up their Marxist ideology have gone.

Curious that he and Mirza should both complain about a ‘political element’ neither of them likes, and alarming how Mirza & Johnson’s laid back approach – hoping that the mere existence of anti-discrimination legislation is enough (Johnson himself was quite open about this in his appearance at the Stonewall ‘gay hustings’ before his election) – plays into his hands. Good for Harriet Harman for at least pushing a normally timid government, afraid to make radical decisions, down at least the slip road leading to the road of mainstreaming equality. Hopefully Johnson and Mirza will realise the failure of their strategy before it does real damage, particularly with it being at odds with the direction of national policy

more about “Spouses for Life“, posted with vodpod