Queer Voices

British Christian Lilian Ladele Loses Case; Court Rules Religious Beliefs Do Not Justify LGBT Discrimination

The European Court of Human Rights said on Tuesday that British Christians may not use their religion as a basis for LGBT discrimination.

The court, located in France, ruled on several cases of religious freedoms, including the appeal of Lilian Ladele, an employee of the Borough of Islington in London who was fired after she refused to register gay couples seeking civil partnerships, reports Bloomberg.

Ladele and three other claimants alleged in lawsuits that they were disciplined unfairly, in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights protections regarding "freedom of thought, conscience and religion," reports the BBC. The court said on Jan. 15 that Ladele's claim lacked merit.

The court also ruled against Gary McFarlane, a Bristol-based marriage counselor fired after refusing to work with same-sex couples. McFarlane also claimed religious discrimination. But as with Ladele's suit, the Court sided against McFarlane when it said same-sex couples' rights were protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, and that religious belief was not a strong enough reason to infringe on those rights, according to Think Progress' report on the ruling. Therefore, the court concluded that there had been no religious discrimination in McFarlane's case.

Ladele, McFarlane and the two other claimants, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, had moved their cases individually to the European Court of Human Rights after losing in the British judicial system, according to CNN. The European Court of Human Rights decided to hear their cases together.

Eweida and Chaplin based their cases on religious discrimination unrelated to the issue of LGBT rights. Both women claimed they had been disciplined by their employers after wearing religious cross necklaces in the workplace. The court ruled in favor of Eweida and against Chaplin.

Ladele, McFarlane and Chaplin can appeal the Jan. 15 ruling, which has implications across 47 countries on the European continent but is not binding in the U.K.

The Christian Institute, which supported Ladele through her appeals process, told the BBC that it was "disappointed" by the ruling, and worried that Christians not in favor of same-sex marriage were "at risk of being left out in the cold."

Michael Cashman co-president of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, heralded the ruling in a statement issued by the group.

“British law rightly protect LGBT people from discrimination, and there is no exemption for religious believers," Cashman said. "Religion and belief are deeply private and personal, and should never be used to diminish the rights of others.”