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2008 National LGBT Conference
14 November 2008

This conference notes with regret the decision of the Employment Tribunal in the case of Ms L Ladele v London Borough of Islington (2203694/2007 July 2008).

Ms Ladele, a Registrar in Islington, refused to officiate at Civil Partnership ceremonies on the grounds of her expressed Christian belief. The Tribunal found that she could not reconcile her faith with taking an active part in enabling same sex unions to be formed.

1Directly discriminated against on the grounds of religion or belief;

2Indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of religion or belief because of Islington’s decision that all Registrars should carry out civil partnership ceremonies and registration duties;

3Harassed contrary to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Conference notes with concern that the Tribunal held that one of the acts of harassment was a formal complaint made by two lesbian and gay UNISON members that her refusal to carry out civil partnerships was “homophobic”. Their manager, another UNISON member, was criticised for acting upon this complaint and the tribunal concluded that this too amounted to harassment as “these acts disregarded and displayed no respect for Ms Ladele’s genuinely held religious beliefs”

Conference notes that whilst an Employment Tribunal cannot set a legal precedent, this judgement has created an atmosphere where some public sector workers may feel more confident in attempting to use their religion or belief as a reason for discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) service users, and furthermore that employers may feel unable to challenge such behaviour. Conference therefore welcomes Islington Council’s decision to appeal the judgement.

Conference re-iterates its belief (expressed last year in motion 2: Rights at Work) that there is still a need to increase awareness that the Religion or Belief Regulations do not provide a justification for homophobic or biphobic conduct in the workplace or in the delivery of services to the community.

Conference further believes that freedoms sometimes have to be subject to limitations “for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. Human Rights must work in a framework where there is a balance of rights for individuals, for different groups and for society as a whole. Conference is concerned that this judgement does not comply with this requirement.

Conference therefore instructs the National LGBT Committee to continue to:

A. Widely publicise and promote the existing legal provisions in relation to equality for LGBT service users and workers, including the limitation in the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights (article 9-2) that the freedom to “manifest one’s religion or belief” is subject to “the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”,

B.Continue to work with the service groups and regions to promote awareness of employers’ responsibilities relating to service users and staff.

Conference further instructs the National LGBT Committee, should this case not be reversed on appeal, to work with the national Executive council, Labour Link, Trades Union Congress, LGBT Labour and other appropriate bodies to lobby and campaign to clarify, and, if necessary, amend the law to guard the public against discrimination and prejudice by public servants in future.