Forty-seven-year-old Lillian Ladele, a civil registrar, has refused to tie the knot for same-sex couples because it's "sinful" and against her religion.
She's now brought a legal case against Islington Council in north London, accusing it of religious discrimination and victimisation "because it asked her to perform the ceremonies as part of her £31,000-a-year job", says The Times. "More than 18,000 same-sex ceremonies are performed each year under the Civil Partnership Act, which came into force in December 2005." The Times's story continues:
Ms Ladele said that Islington council was forcing her to choose between her beliefs and keeping her job by requiring her to undertake civil partnership duties. Giving evidence yesterday, she told the employment tribunal in Central London: “I hold 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 this is the God-ordained place for sexual relations. It creates a problem for any Christian if they are expected to do or condone something that they see as sinful. I feel unable to facilitate directly the formation of a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God’s law.”
Ladele has worked for the council for 16 years. She alleged that she was accused of being homophobic by gay colleagues and was shunned by staff after she refused to carry out civil partnerships. She also said she was “ridiculed” by her boss, the superintendent registrar Helen Mendez-Childs, when she raised her concerns about the new ceremonies in August 2004.
"Ms Ladele said that her superior had told her that her stance was akin to a registrar refusing to marry a black person," the story continues.
Ladele was in the job before the new legislation came into force. Does that have a bearing on her case? For 15 months she's been swapping shifts with colleagues in order to avoid doing gay weddings, and eventually there were complaints. The council has in effect said do the job or you'll be fired for gross misconduct.
Until December last year, she, along with other registrars, was effectively freelance and could opt out of ceremonies. Now, though, the job has been brought under town halls' control. One assumes she could see it coming, and knew she would have to make a choice, even if you have some sympathy with her (and I suspect few reading this will) because she's been doing a job whose requirements have suddenly changed.
But, then, many jobs change and people have to retrain or maybe even move home. All kinds of new obligations are brought about in a changing world. Many employees just have to shape up or ship out.
Stonewall, the gay lobby group, says public servants are paid to uphold the law and shouldn't discriminate. But Mike Judge of the rabidly homophobic Christian Institute says it's an important case for religious liberty.
The case, when it's decided, is expected to lead to a landmark ruling over whether employees can be required to act against their consciences.