Christian Who Won't Marry Gay Couples Loses Her Legal Fight

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Byline: Steve Doughty Social Affairs Correspondent

A REGISTRAR who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies because they were against her Christian beliefs broke the law, Appeal Court judges ruled yesterday.

The right to express a strong Christian faith must take second place to the rights of homosexuals under Labour's equality laws, they said.

Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, said the rules meant Lillian Ladele had to stifle her religious principles to perform what she regarded as gay marriage - or give up her job.

However, the appeal judges said many people would 'sympathise' with Miss Ladele's predicament. They also ruled that she had suffered unfair treatment at the hands of her employer, Islington council in North London.

The landmark case was the most important legal test yet in the struggle between Christians and the gay rights lobby. Lord Neuberger, sitting with two other senior judges, said Labour's 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations - which make it illegal to refuse to serve someone on grounds of their sexual orientation - trump the rights of religious believers. 'The prohibition of discrimination by the 2007 Regulations takes precedence over any right which a person would otherwise have by virtue of his or her religious belief or faith, to practice discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation,' he said.

'It is simply unlawful for Miss Ladele to refuse to perform civil partnerships.' The Master of the Rolls said human rights law also puts the rights of homosexuals before the rights of Christians to hold to their beliefs.

The hearing ends a four-year battle that began when the Civil Partnership Act - which allowed homosexuals to establish partnerships with all the legal rights of married couples - came into force in December 2005. …