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.