In July 2008, a registrar who refused to register same-sex partnerships (under the UK’s Civil Partnership Act 2004) won her Employment Tribunal case against Islington Council who had taken disciplinary action against her. The July tribunal agreed with Lillian Ladele that the council had unlawfully discriminated against her because of her religious beliefs. But the Employment Appeal Tribunal has now overturned that decision, and said that the council had not discriminated against her: the reason for their disciplinary action was her conduct in refusing to register civil partnerships, not her religious beliefs. It said,
In our judgment, the Tribunal has fallen into the trap of confusing the council’s reasons for treating the claimant as they did with her reasons for acting as she did [but]… these are not the same thing at all.
As I understand it, the key point was that the council would have taken disciplinary action against any employee who refused to register civil partnerships – it would have made no difference whether the employee refused for religious reasons or not. So the reason for the council’s action wasn’t Ms Ladele’s religious beliefs, it was that she failed to do something she was reasonably asked to do by her employer. (You can read the full judgment in the pink news)
This decision is a relief for gay rights campaigners in the UK and has been welcomed by Stonewall.