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Christian registrar loses battle not to perform civil partnerships

15 December 2009

Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar who refused to perform civil partnership ceremonies, has lost her battle with Islington Council at the Court of Appeal.

The court unanimously ruled that Ladele was not a victim of direct or indirect religious discrimination, as found by an employment tribunal.

Mr Justice Elias overturned the tribunal’s finding at the EAT earlier this year (see solicitorsjournal.com, 20 January 2008).

Giving judgment on behalf of the court in Ladele v London Borough of Islington [2009] EWCA Civ 1357, Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, said that under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 it was “simply unlawful” for Ladele to refuse to perform civil partnerships.

He said that however much sympathy one might have with Ladele, “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”.

However, Lord Neuberger said that if the council had not designated Ladele, along with all other registrars, as a civil partnership registrar, she would have had cause to refuse to perform the ceremonies and the problem of discrimination would not have arisen.

“Accordingly, I doubt whether a decision by Islington that she would not be designated a civil partnership registrar, at her request because of her religious problems with officiating at civil partnerships, would fall foul of the 2007 regulations.

“However, the fact that some registration authorities have (as I understand to be the case) decided not to designate registrars who shared Ms Ladele’s beliefs as civil partnership registrars, and the fact that such decisions may well be lawful, certainly do not undermine the conclusions reached by the EAT (with which I agree) that Ms Ladele was neither directly nor indirectly discriminated against, nor harassed.”

Lord Neuberger dismissed Ladele’s appeal. Lord Justice Dyson and Lady Justice Smith agreed.

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Police & Prisons Contracts & Rights Discrimination Local government